As the temperatures drop and we wait for snow, a Treasure Valley woman proves you don't need snow to have a sled dog. Her business, Dryland Dogs, is introducing urban mushing to Idaho, and helping make the activity safer with a "Made in Idaho" product.
Mia Gussie is quick to admit, her dog Zeus has a lot of energy.
"He needed something to burn the energy off. It was creating anxiety in him. We tried walks, throwing balls and frisbees, dog parks, and all sorts of fun things with him, but nothing was able to consistently exercise him and give him a job," Gussie said.
Until she found urban mushing online.
"I just found some YouTube clips of it and I was intrigued. So I hooked Zeus up to a regular harness and my son's BMX bike and we went for our first ride down the street. It was amazing. I was hooked, he was hooked, we were both smiling and I started researching it a lot more," Gussie said.
She describes urban mushing as similar to traditional snow mushing, but in an urban setting generally on dry ground.
"We can do it all four seasons here in Idaho since we don't usually get a whole lot of snow down in the valley. It's any activity where a dog or team of dogs is pulling the owner on some type of apparatus, whether it be a scooter, a bicycle, a skateboard, roller blades, a cart, all sorts of good stuff," Gussie explained.
Zeus, the 3-year-old Lab-Great Dane mix, caught on. In January 2018, the Gussie family launched Dryland Dogs, a business to offer lessons and teach others about urban mushing.
"A lot of people are very skeptical. They think it's cool, but they're skeptical, until I get them on a scooter with their dog and it's an amazing experience," Gussie said.
Now Dryland Dogs sells its own piece of mushing equipment, an antenna pack. The antenna is a piece of PVC pipe that safely holds the dog's leash away from the bike or scooter's front wheel. The pack on top can hold a phone, keys, and gloves. It all straps on to the front of the bike or scooter in one piece. It's available in two different sizes and manufactured by Blacks Creek Guide Gear in Nampa.
Gussie says it was an eight month trial and error process designing the antenna pack.
"We tried four different antennas, and went through five different sizes and shapes of the pack before we finally got it right. We worked with the mushing community and got some feedback from dog owners and mushers here in the area. It involved a lot of testing to make sure it would hold up in extreme environments with the dogs pulling on it and in different weather," said Gussie.
While the activity may catch a lot of stares, Gussie and Zeus agree, it's a bonding and learning experience for both.
"It's good for people and dogs," Gussie said laughing.
"In my neighborhood when I started doing this I definitely got people standing outside or looking out their windows like 'what is this lady doing?' I posted on Nextdoor, which is our neighborhood group chat, 'Yes, I know I'm the crazy lady with the big black dog,' but it was amazing. Within about three months, I now have six of my neighbors who are also doing it in various different forms with their dogs, so seeing the idea catch on has been amazing," Gussie said.
Gussie says any dog can learn to do this. She recommends pet owners check with a veterinarian first, to make sure the dog is healthy. Dogs should also be over the age of one so they're fully grown, and weigh more than 35 pounds if they are pulling you.
"It truly is a blast. It's so much fun and an activity for pet owners to involve their dogs and their families in something they can do together," Gussie said.
Dryland Dogs will have a free clinic Saturday, November 10th at Kleiner Park in Meridian. Gussie says pet owners can stop by anytime from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. to learn more and try out urban mushing.