Krabloonik dogs at Snowmass in good health

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Although some Krabloonik dogs have minor health issues, for the most part they are in good health, according to seven independent veterinarians who examined the canines in Snowmass Village Wednesday.

“I thought all the dogs looked pretty good,” said Benjamin Mackin, a veterinarian who owns Carbondale Animal Hospital. “I thought they seemed pretty happy. I didn’t see any that were drastically overweight or drastically underweight. You know, a couple have problems that … I think can be readily dealt with.”

“No one [dog] has come back with any major problems,” said Lee Ann Vold, organizer of the veterinary event and co-founder of the Committee to Give the Krabloonik Dogs a Voice.

Husky News
Heather Stevenson plays with a dog as veterinarian Erin Johnston listens to the heartbeatof a hound named Gordon Wednesday morning on the Krabloonik grounds inSnowmass Village. Musher Justin Layman helps keeps Gordon calm.

Paul Conrad/The Aspen Times

More than 20 volunteers — including veterinarians, several veterinary technicians and veterinary students — examined and charted the dogs’ health on Wednesday. Vold said she hoped the exercise would provide objective data as the Krabloonik Advisory Committee goes forward in its attempt to improve conditions for the dogs at Krabloonik.

The inspection came after public outcry about the Krabloonik operation, which provides dog-powered sled rides to an upscale Snowmass Village restaurant. Some residents have complained over the years that the Alaskan sled dogs are treated poorly. And earlier this year a group of local residents, led by Vold, banded together to address the issues of Krabloonik. The situation was even addressed by the Snowmass Town Council.

Dan MacEachen, owner of Krabloonik, was a willing participant at Wednesday’s event, helping examine the dogs and responding to concerns.

“It’s not something that would normally happen on my own,” he said, noting that local veterinarian Scott Dolginow visits regularly to give rabies shots and do an “overview” — otherwise, the dogs see a veterinarian when something is wrong.

But MacEachen said that he was glad a thorough examination had shown that the dogs are, generally speaking, pretty healthy.

“They did find some things that we were unaware of,” he acknowledged. “So that helps us take better care of the dogs.”

In groups of three, the volunteers methodically examined each dog, marking any concerns on a chart. According to veterinarian Mackin, the examination given was much like the one that would be provided at a veterinarian’s office, minus a few things better done in an office.

“I don’t think we need to try to hold all these guys and stick a thermometer in their butts,” he said.

MacEachen said that once he gets the formal findings, he’ll begin treating any dogs with newly found problems.

“We had a few dogs that were already being treated before this visit,” he said. “We have to see if there’s any more. I’m sure there are.”

“You take any population of dogs, I don’t care if you get sled dogs or house pets, if you get 250 of them, you’re going to have some issues,” said Aspen resident Ed Foran, a former Iditarod musher.

As of this week, Krabloonik’s dog population was 294.

Informally, several veterinarians said they saw several skin or eye problems, many of which might well be auto-immune deficiencies, not signs of neglect. Several dogs also had tumors or cysts. Dolginow explained that about half the problems he discovered were issues that an owner might notice and about half would only be discovered by a veterinarian.

Once the health of the dogs is established and addressed, said MacEachen, two immediate issues still remain on the table between the Krabloonik Advisory Committee and MacEachen: Creating a summertime exercise program for the dogs and agreeing on an ideal number of dogs.

Wednesday, the Aspen Animal Shelter agreed to take two older dogs and a surprise litter of four puppies, and attempt to adopt them out. Owner Seth Sachson said he might ultimately take up to 10 dogs off MacEachen’s hands this fall. The shelter has already taken and adopted out five or six retired dogs this year, said MacEachen.

The Krabloonik Advisory Committee and MacEachen are still in discussions about building a dog run to exercise the dogs in the summer, say members.

Despite evidence that conditions are generally good, “there is room for improvement [at Krabloonik],” noted Foran.

The full report on the dogs should be available soon. The veterinarians’ evaluation will be compiled in a report which MacEachen and the Krabloonik Advisory Committee will present to the Snowmass Town Council. MacEachen believed the group was scheduled to present on Nov. 3.

Meanwhile, at least one person wasn’t surprised about the bill of health: Krabloonik musher Justin Layman.

“I mean, I work here with the dogs every day. I know every one of them pretty well. They didn’t tell me anything I don’t already know,” he said. “It’s not everything the paper says, you know. It’s a good place, this business.”

Stacy Cannon, a former musher and Colorado Mountain College veterinary technician student, appeared impressed by the animals.

“From what I’ve seen in dog yards I’ve worked in for 10 years, yeah, they look good,” Cannon said. “They look like Alaskan huskies, honestly.”

Source: The Aspen Times

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