Images by Al Magaw


By Al Magaw

There had been a bear breaking into the shed where I keep dog food. No matter how I tried to board the shed up, the bear kept breaking in and helping itself to the dog food. To top it off, the bear was walking right through the dog yard, through the centre of some of the dog’s picket circles. The dogs seldom barked at the bear when it came through the kennel, and the only real signal the dogs gave when the bear came was the peculiar rattle they made with the chains. One afternoon, I heard the nervous rattle of the chains that indicated the bear was back. When I heard a yipe from a dog, I grabbed my rifle and headed to the dog-yard. I wasn’t going to put up with my dogs being mauled – dog food was one thing, my dogs were something else and I was going to do what I could to protect them. The bear heard me coming, I guess, because it scattered long before I could even aim the rifle, but it was the reaction of the dogs to me that surprised me. When I came around the corner into sight of the dogs, they all dove into their houses, a far cry from their usual reaction to my arrival in the dog-yard. This time I was a hunter, a predator. This wasn’t the “dad” they knew, this was danger! Normally I’m greeted with great enthusiasm in the dog-yard, but this time I was greeted with fear. The dogs had never seen the gun before, so they couldn’t have understood what it was, it had to be the images I was sending that created that fear. When I realised what was happening, I forced myself to relax. It took a few moments after I relaxed for the dogs to start tentatively stepping out of their houses and a few more minutes before they were confident that I was “OK” before they resumed the normal behavior that they have around me.

It was early fall and we were into a full regular training schedule, 4 days a week, two days on, one day off, two days on, two days off. Rain or shine, mud or dry land, I felt the schedule had to be kept. The dogs were coming along well, enthusiastic to run and conditioning nicely. One morning when I left the house to travel the 300 feet to the dog yard, the dogs all hid in their houses. I wondered “what the heck???” then I stopped to “look” inside of myself, what I was feeling inside. It was then I realised I was in a bad mood, for whatever reason, I was feeling out of sorts. The dogs had felt that from 300 feet away. I decided it was not a good day for training and went back to the house. There is something very powerful in the ability of animals to feel, sense, or “see” what we feel, our moods, our faults, and who knows what else.

Do you have a remarkable story about one of your dogs? Contact us at We would love to hear from you.

Tags: Al Magaw | Robert Forto | Michele Forto | Iditarod | Team Ineka | Dog Training Denver | Dog Doctor Radio | Denver Dog Works | Mushing Radio | Duluth Dog Works | Minnesota Dog Works


Al Magaw is a musher from Salmo, BC. Al keeps a medium sized kennel of 20 – 45 alaskan huskies as well as several pet dogs of various breeds. Al has been training and racing for the last 33 years. Before becoming involved with sled dogs, Al, along with his family, kept and competed with horses for many years. Al can be reached through his website at Al is a guest blogger for Denver Dog Works and can be reached through our website at


2 Responses to “Images by Al Magaw”

  1. 1 Bryan Bearss May 23, 2010 at 8:12 pm

    Great observations Al. I’ve seen the same thing from the back of the dog sled (and 4wheeler). Our dogs are outstanding barometers for mood, and for that matter mirrors too. The more calm and relaxed I’ve allowed myself to be the higher quality the runs with the dogs have been. I’ve raced with calm manner with a team of misfits and rejects and won a race. I’ve also raced with high energy, excitement and anxiety with a team that finished 3rd in the Iditarod and took last place in a race. I fully attribute the success and the failure to my demeanor.

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