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Running through snow all day, every day, pulling a sled that can weigh hundreds if not thousands of pounds—that’s a sled dog’s job. Don’t you think they might deserve a little recognition? February 2nd is the official holiday of the sled dog that we can safely say man would not have managed very well at all without.

The History of National Sled Dog Day

Sled dogs are thought to have evolved in the mountainous regions of Northern Asia over 35,000 years ago, but are thought to have started actually pulling sleds for people about 3,000 years ago, when hunting and fishing communities were forced to move further up north to Siberia. From there, they made their way to Lapland, Alaska, Canada and even Greenland. Historical references to actual dog harnesses far outdate the first European contact with the native peoples of Alaska and Canada.

In fact, it was the Alaskan gold rush that really got the American population interested in the use of sled dogs as a form of transportation, as most gold camps were only accessible by dogsled in the winter months. In fact, for a long while, dogsleds were the only relatively dependable way of transporting anything in the harsh Alaska and Yukon weather conditions, until airplanes finally took over in the 1930s. Dogsleds were also used to patrol western Alaska as late as World War II. After that, mushing became largely recreational. One of sled dogs’ most impressive achievements was the 1925 serum run from Nome to Nenana. With a diptheria threatening the lives of people in Nome and the serum needed being 1,100 kilometers (700 miles) away in the town of Nenana, hundreds of people may have died if not for the 20 dogsled teams that worked together to relay the serum to Nome. In the end, the serum reached Nome in only 6 days, saving the lives of many. Also, the first Arctic explorers were men with sled dogs.

How to celebrate National Sled Dog Day

Sled dogs are also celebrated for their role in polar expeditions, and a number of famous dog races are organised each year. National Sled Dog Day is an opportunity to raise awareness of the animals’ dedication to the human race. It can also be a time to raise money for dog charities taking care of homeless, or sick dogs, and those that have been cruelly abandoned by their owners. There are also numerous opportunities to volunteer at your local animal shelter to spend time with some of the dogs living there, play with them, or take them out for walks.

Dogs are generally social, friendly creatures that love physical activity and playing games, so even the smallest gesture on your part to celebrate National Sled Dog Day will definitely be greatly appreciated by a dog that has nothing to do but sit in a cage or pen all day, every day.

Who knows, maybe you’ll become friends and you’ll decide to adopt the dog? That would be the ultimate gesture of respect towards the sled dogs that sacrificed their health and sometimes their lives, for the good of men.

Organizations like PETA take the opportunity to point out how many dogs are being abused and mistreated in the world and encourage people to take action if they happen to witness any kind of abuse being perpetrated on man’s best friend.

PETA is also strongly opposed to the runs that take place in Alaska every year, saying they exhaust the animals for no good reason, and implore of Alaskan tourists not to patronize the Iditarod annual commemorative race, or any tourist attractions that include dogsled rides.

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