It’s A Dog’s Life: Jamaica Dog Sledding

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Invited with my family to experience and enjoy the beautiful island of Jamaica and all the fun things to do besides the beach, I was certain my daughter and I were going on a bobsled adventure. Bobsled as in Cool Runnings, the story of the Jamaican Bobsled Team. Did they have a track? Was the bobsled on wheels? How on earth do they do a Jamaican bobsled adventure? Well, they don’t. Turns out, it’s the Jamaican Dogsled Adventure, run by Chukka Caribbean, a Jamaican-owned excursion company – the biggest in the Caribbean. And the Jamaican Dogsled Team is a real, competing dogsled team – the brainchild and the baby of Chukka founder Danny Melville.

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Inspired by a trip to Edmonton looking for off-road vehicles to add to Chukka’s current extensive roster of excursions, Danny got the idea for the Jamaican Dogsled Team when he saw the set-up used by dogsled trainers in the non-winter months. Now Chukka Caribbean Chukka Cove location near Ochos Rios offers the Jamaican Dogsled Experience and Encounter, which help support the team and rescues dogs slated to be put down at the Jamaican SPCA.

The Dogsled Experience is what we were scheduled to participate in. Most excursions and adventures in Jamaica require a minimum age of six, so it’s nice that children as young as four can participate. Greeted by a happy mutt, we’re off to learn about dogsledding, and meet the dogs.

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The kennels are spotless, and the pups are all kept shaded and cool with lots of water. My daughter is usually nervous around dogs, but surprisingly she was excited to meet them all (and rename them princess names!) and pet them. Some of the dogs are boisterous, and will jump up on you, so be sure to wear something you don’t mind getting dirty!

As soon as the Chukka staff started getting the dogs’ harnesses out, the noise level increased dramatically. These dogs love to run, and they don’t mind barking out their enthusiasm while waiting for their turn! First we watched them get ready, then we piled into the buggy, buckled up, and we were off!

The buggy goes surprisingly fast, and the ride is bumpy and very fun. You stop about mid-way to give the dogs a bit of a breather, and you can have a refreshment and check out beautiful Papillon Cove overlooking the Caribbean Sea. Once you’re back at Chukka Cove HQ, it’s time for a cold drink and you can get cleaned up in their spotless washrooms.

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We were very fortunate to have Newton Marshall as our driver. Newton is the main musher for the Jamaican Dogsled Team, and has competed in both the 2010 and 2011 Iditarods, as well as a number of other high profile dogsled races. In fact, he was leaving to train in Alaska the very next day! Newton’s story is inspiring. Hired as a teenager with little education, he is now an unofficial ambassador for Jamaica, travelling as far away as South Africa to share his stories. Danny Melville hires a neighbouring retired school principal to tutor the young Jamaicans working with the animals at Chukka Cove.

If you’re looking for an excursion to break up your stay at the beach, the Jamaican Dogsled Experience at Chukka Cove is a great one, with an underlying great cause as well.

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