It’s Family Day, and a much-needed long weekend! Our winter carnival is on, and we have had some great weather (for February in Northwestern Ontario). I watched two sled dogs taking people for rides, and I was impressed when I got up close enough to see them – because the dogs weren’t nearly as big as I had expected. They all looked about average size – I guess maybe 50-60 pounds. As they approached the loading area and were called to a stop, each musher threw a great big hook down into the snow and stomped it in. The sled stopped and the passengers started getting out. And the dogs lay down quietly and took a rest.

NOT! In fact, not even close. When the sled stopped, the lines stayed tight as the dogs jumped, yipped, barked and tugged on their harnesses. One of them was doing a sort of wheelie with his front paws up in the air and his back legs digging as if he was trying to unstick the sled. Another kept yanking forward, which sort of tossed him up in the air a bit, and I thought he was going to get completely fouled in his lines. Nope. And the musher didn’t pay the dogs’ behaviour any attention.

When the new passengers were loaded, the lead musher signaled, the hooks were pulled up, and off rocketed the two teams and their passengers. And the jumping, yipping, barking stopped. Within seconds, the dogs were doing a fast trot which looked both energetic and relaxed at the same time. Comfortable. They seemed totally content. These dogs were made to pull sleds, and they appeared to be completely loving it. I am, of course, making an assumption here, but I have taken our grand-dog for walks (he is about 85 pounds, and LOVES to pull).

Even though this is (IMHO) a cool story, a few elements also apply to us. For starters, it’s easier to put our weight into something when we are passionate about it. It may be anthropomorphic to call a dog passionate, but I would swear those dogs were passionate about pulling their respective sleds. They also worked as a team. Sorry, Internet – I’ve never heard of a team of cats doing anything

Clearly, there had been training and preparation for the dogs to be able to complete this task. Training, preparation, discipline, instruction, guidance, coaching, hardship – these all play a part in performance training. It is precisely with these factors that we as humans often struggle. I have said it before, but discipline is almost never enjoyable. In fact, it is sometimes painful. However, accepting and even embracing discipline enables us improve across many facets of our lives. One of the key areas of improvement is our actual performance; discipline teaches to us perform better. I would challenge all of us to think about what we can learn from sled dogs. They seem to thrive when they are harnessed in and working as a team to pull their sled.

In our February challenge, I hope we can be inspired by inspiring examples wherever we see them. Whatever you are tackling to boost your wellness, tackle it like a sled dog: work with others, pull hard, listen to your trainer, allow yourself to get restless (once in a while), and take tremendous pride in what you accomplish!