Many of us judge not only books by their covers, but dogs by their barks. However, canines – and especially shelter dogs – are not always what they initially seem. When you see a dog that barks a lot and paces frantically in his shelter kennel may actually be a very quiet and well-mannered house pet, and today we’ll talk about how this works.
Animal shelters are often seen as an overwhelming environment with different smells and sounds that most dogs aren’t familiar with, which is one of the reasons for their behavior changes. Thankfully, there are people like sled dog musher Richie Camden who understand this and take the time to get to know the dog before passing judgment.
In this Theory of Pets podcast, Richie tells me a story about his pack of rescue sled dogs, which I sincerely hope will inspire you to shelter pets in a whole new light. He explains how his dogs – all 14 of them – aren’t just for work, and are part of his family. For more from Richie, follow his Breakaway Siberians sled dog team.
Listen to the episode in the video above and find the full podcast transcript below. For more, visit this episode’s post on the official Theory of Pets website.
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Why You Should Never Judge a Dog By His Bark
(raw podcast transcript)
* Scroll down below to read the interview.
Hey everyone, welcome back to Theory of Pets, my name is Samantha. This week I am speaking with Richie Camden who has a really interesting story, I wanted to talk with him a little bit about sled dogs because he raises sled dogs. But his story is so much more than that, Richie and his wife actually take in rescue dogs, and that’s what his sled teams are made of, they rescue huskies and then they give them kind of an outlet for their energy.
The husky is a very energetic breed so a lot of times Richie and his wife were finding that huskies would be turned in to shelters because they were being destructive or they were maybe not great with children, things like that, and it’s actually just because they are a working dog, they’re bred to work, they’re a very energetic dog so they’re getting turned back to shelters because they’re living in small homes or they’re not getting enough exercise and that pent-up energy is then being turned into different kinds of behaviors, maybe jumping on children or destroying your personal property.
So he was finding these huskies being turned in to shelters and he and his wife started to rescue huskies and he got into sled dog racing and it’s just a really cool, very unique story. So I wanted to talk to Richie and share his story with all of you.
I do have to apologize for the very beginning of the interview, Richie was not getting the greatest cell phone signal so it’s a little bit choppy just for the first minute or so, but it does clear up after that. But you’ll notice that in the beginning of the interview.
Interview with Richie Camden
Samantha: Thank you so much again for being here again and agreeing to the podcast. So can you just tell me a little bit about…you filled me in a little bit about, but just for our listeners, about what you’re doing with sled dogs.
Richie: Yeah. So we have…I guess we have 13 Siberian Huskies…together if you count our…the family. But yeah, so it turns out our first Siberian… we got him from a breeder and he just sort of changed my life, he was just so motivated to be a sled dog because the people at the…or the breeders said his dad was a weed dog. And so every time I take…out for like a run or exercise, as soon as we’d get back he’d come right back into our living room, climb up on the back of our coach and stare out the window like he wanted to go back outside. And his exercise and energy level was just like insane, off the charts, I think he was like kind of an abnormal husky with how much energy he had.
I decided to go back to school to be a doctor…to school to be a doctor, the partner required us to work in shelters and with rescue groups and stuff, so I was volunteering with a few rescue groups at times, doing assessments of a dog. It just got me to thinking like there are so many dogs that have…you know good dogs that lost their homes for various reasons and I kind of started researching on Pet finder…like taking a look at Siberian huskies who had kind of lost their homes and stuff. I mean if you just go on there there’s like 20 to 50 pages of dogs on there that have lost their…are being rehomed for whatever reason.
And that was just kind of like the final straw, it’s like man you know, like it’d be so cool to not only give their dogs a great home but also give them an outlet for their energy that they have because with huskies I mean that’s generally the reason why they get rehomed is they’re getting destructive, they’re running away, they’re not good with small kids, they jump and they… so I kind of start telling people like my family and friends and stuff. And no one really took me seriously simply because it’s okay you’re talking about…and what not.
So I started kind of reaching out to some rescue groups to see if we can adopt and we were …I got rejected at first because so many of them had such restrictions about like how far away you can live when they adopt out. And finally we were able to find a rescue group that made an exception for us. Indie Homes for Huskies was the first place we adopted from, and they made an exception to their rule. I think their rule is like you have to live within an hundred and 50 miles within Indianapolis, and obviously we are in St. Louis so we were quite a bit past the hundred and 50 miles.
But you know it ended up working out really well and we were able to adopt so we adopted two more times later, like years later and stuff, and now we’ve grown to the point where a lot of rescue groups will call me and they’ll be like “Hey you know like we have a dog like crazy high energy, super long legs, pulls on a leash like crazy, he loves a run, friendly with dogs, are you interested or can you add another one to your pack?”
And unfortunately right now you get to a point where there’s only so many you can afford financially to keep up the level of care of heart worm prevention and just regular shots and maintenance and what not with the dogs. So unfortunately as of like right now we’re at a financial limit, but it’s just been a really fun journey and it’s weird like with each one we adopt it’s always like okay…once we got to four it’s like “Okay this is probably all we’ll ever have,” and then after we kind of get settled in, it’s like “Okay we can probably afford another one.”
So then we’ll adopt another one and then let everything get settled in. Like one, you’re letting the dog get settled in and adjust to a new family like a new routine and stuff; and two, you’re also kind of financially like budgeting and stuff, and it just kind of continued to grow, and now we’re up to…we have 14 dogs in the family, 13 huskies and one Pomeranian. So yeah, that’s kind of how we got to where we’re at today.
Samantha: Wow! No I think it’s great that you mentioned the budgeting aspect because I think that’s something that people that either first time adopting an animal or even if they’ve adopted before and they’re just getting a second or a third they don’t really stop to think about how important that is, that it’s not just the adoption fee and the food and the collar and the leash but you have to think about heartworm prevention, flea and tick prevention, all the yearly shots that come up and all of that stuff, emergency vet care. So I think that’s really important to touch on that, you know budget does play a huge part of that.
Richie: Yeah exactly. And that’s one thing we’ve always tried to be aware of and like we also want to leave some wiggle room in case like, you know like you said an emergency did happen, you want to kind of have like a little cushion as a worse-case scenario in case you have a huge back bill you have to pay off and what not.
So that’s always our top priority is always just making sure that you’re providing a happy and healthy home for the dogs, and so unfortunately money plays a great part in keeping up their health and their care and stuff. But yeah so it’s always kind of how we’ve ran things to make sure that each dog can get the proper amount of care and stay up to date on shots and flea and tick and heartworm and all that. It’s not fun when the vet bill comes but it’s worth it, it’s definitely worth it.
Samantha: Of course. Yeah I know, we have three dogs, which is not anywhere close to 14, but definitely it does add up and it’s always heartbreaking on both sides when dogs have to be returned to shelters or rescues because it didn’t work out financially. It’s hard for the dog, it’s hard for the people, it’s just not a good situation, so that’s great. And Genelle mentioned too that all of your dogs live in the home with you, they’re all pets first and work dogs second I guess.
Richie: Yeah yeah they definitely yeah. They all do live in our home and it does…it sounds…I know it sounds crazy but oh my God, 14 dogs living in the house. But not only it’s 14 dogs, but like it’s 14 high-energy dogs. The only time it’s really like troublesome or like a little hectic or crazy is after sled dog season is over and the dog…you know like right around now it’s starting to get to a point where our season is almost done, the weather is warming up, it’s 70 degrees and getting warmer and what not, and once the season ends the dogs are all in…they’re in peak condition, they’re ready, they’re conditioned to run like 40 miles, they can do 40 miles.
So they’ve got all this energy and it’s too hot to take them for a run and all they have for their release is doggy day care, and even with a full day of doggy day care it’s still not the same as like running 40 miles and like working and stuff. So like when they come home during that one month we call it like a withdrawal period where they’re just like…they kind of revert back to like the naughtiness or like they’re getting destructive, they’re digging in the yard and chewing on their crates and chewing on our drywall and chewing on our door chair, and like all the bad things. But it’s very short-lived, usually it only lasts for about two weeks and then they kind of like understand like…and then it gets like just so hot where it’s like okay they start to mellow back out…
Samantha: Yeah, they adapt to it a little.
Richie: But for like, I’d say like 95% of the year it’s like shockingly normal like we come home from work and you know the dogs all have their own area throughout the house, you see them in the bedroom, you see them lay on the living room floor, some of them will lay on the coaches, others like to just go to their crates, and there’s a few that we have because we adopted them so late in their age with potty training issues we do just put them in their crate because they will… if they’re out free during the night they’ll go in the house, and so if they’re in their crate they’ll actually hold it during the night and stuff.
So, but yeah, no it’s actually for the most part, I mean surprisingly normal. I guess you just sort of have to be a little more aware of where you’re stepping at night to make sure you don’t like bump into a dog or anything cause we have a few more than most people do laying on their floor and so. But yeah, other than that I mean like we come home, they eat their food and go outside, they go to the bathroom and then they come back in and just…they mostly just sleep, so they’re…it’s just like a regular house pet, I mean you hardly…I mean we hardly even notice that they’re there some of the times, and it’s just so common for us. It sounds like really crazy but actually…when you’re there it’s not as crazy as it seems.
Samantha: Yeah, I mean we’re…I’m in Maine like I said and…