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Mushing in the Mitten

Ann Nelson, of Howard City, talked about her life-long passion for mushing, the care of her 16 Siberian Huskies, the hand-crafted dog sleds that she and her husband, Ted, design and sell, and why the absence of typical Michigan winter is a huge disappointment this year.

Children from the Greenville Michigan Inclusive Connection for Home Learners visit with the dogs at Thunderfeet Kennel and Dog Sleds in Howard City.

Racers hindered by weather share dog sled passion with students 

By Sarah Read


Winter has been wacky this year. Unusual season temperatures and on-again, off-again snow has left most Michiganders puzzled. For those who dread The Mitten State in the cold months, it’s a relief from the bitter months of deep snow. For winter sport enthusiasts, however, it’s a crushing disappointment.

Such is the case for mushing devotees Ann and Ted Nelson, of Howard City. The Nelsons own Thunderfeet Kennel and Dogsleds, where they care for their 16 Siberian huskies and custom create dog sleds. For the Nelsons, dog sled racing is not just their passion, but their life. “Normally we have a race each weekend in January and February into March, but winter isn’t cooperating this year,” Ann explained to a group of homeschool families who enjoyed a field trip to Thunderfeet this month.

Ann has been a musher in Michigan for over 25 years. Caring for and feeding the dogs is an around-the-clock job. Nelson explained they get dog food shipped to their home by the ton, and also go through approximately ten pounds of raw meat a day divided between 16 dogs. Along with custom designing and hand crafting dog sleds, which they sell, the Nelsons also mentor others who are interested in taking up the sport. While the hobby is a big commitment, the community of mushers is welcoming and helpful, according to Ann. “[Mushing] is big in Michigan,” she said. “It’s hard work but it’s so rewarding, and there is a wonderful community [of mushers] who can help you get started.”

The field trip attendees from Greenville Michigan Inclusive Connection for Home Learners were excited and appreciative to visit and learn from Ann about what is a sport for some in Michigan and a main mode of transportation for others in the world. “I’m still glad we have cars,” one student mentioned, “but if that was our only way to get around it would be really fun!”

To learn more about Thunderfeet Kennel and Dogsleds, visit www.thunderfeetdogsleds.com. For more information on the Greenville home education group, which offers monthly field trips and other educational opportunities, visit www.greenvillemichiganhomeschoolers.webs.com 


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