“Sled Dogs,” the Canadian movie that has angered Alaska dog mushers and sent a ripple through the world of Iditarod, has not one but two new trailers out to promote its scheduled premiere at the Whistler Film Festival in December.
The film questions the livestock-like treatment of sled dogs in both sled-dog businesses and racing.
Both trailers appear on the YouTube site for the “Documentary Channel” at CBC, or what used to be known as the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.
The focus this time is less on the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race and more on sled-dog tour companies, a significant business in Alaska and parts of the U.S. and Canadian Rocky Mountains.
The first trailer is a pretty straight-forward attack on those businesses, generally arguing they exist not for the dogs, but to make money. The second trailer appears an attempt by Toronto-based filmmaker Fern Levitt to counter the idea she is “anti-mushing.”
It is titled “Sled Dogs: Former Musher Seth Sachson,” but features former Krabloonik Kennel handler Sachson, who is still very much a musher of sorts.
“So I have all these guys I took eight years ago from Krabloonik,” he say as he plays with a pack of sled dogs. “They got to come home and live with me, and I love that we’ve ended up becoming this family. I get a high out of dog sledding with them.”
Video shows a smiling Sachon riding a sled behind a six-dog team roaring down a groomed, Colorado ski trail. After the run, Sachson lets the dogs invade his home. They’re on the sofa; they’re in the bed; they basically have the run of the house.
“I don’t love them just because they’re incredible athletes,” Sachson says. “They’re my buddies. These guys are awesome just as pets. I mean, they play so many more roles than sled dogs.”
Sachson’s comments stand in stark contrast to those of an unidentified woman at a tour business who says this in the other movie clip titled “Sled Dogs Official Trailer”:
“The biggest thing that I think we need to educate the public on is that there are sled dogs, and there are dogs.”
The comment is clearly a response to some sort of set-up question, though the question is not in the trailer, which has a clear point of view.
“The dog-sledding companies have done a very good job of convincing the tourists that these dogs live great lives, that they love what they do,” a narrator intones as it opens. “The tourists, the traveling public, has no idea what is going on in these outdoor warehouses where they are keeping these dogs.”
The trailer doesn’t run long before cutting away to Vancouver TV-news reporting “Canadian authorities are investigating a Whistler sled-dog operation for allegedly slaughtering up to 100 dogs after the 2010 winter Olympics.”
From there it journeys to Krabloonik Kennels in Snowmass, Colo., where Sachson used to work. Krabloonik owner Dan MacEachen, a six-time Iditarod finisher twice in the top-20, was in 2013 charged with eight counts of animal cruelty after he neglected dogs in his kennel.
MacEachen pleaded guilty to the charges in 2015. He was fined $5,000, ordered to 120 hours of community service, put on probation for 30 months with the condition he could not own a dog or be involved with dogs for that period. He died earlier this year at the age of 67. He is no longer around to defend himself.