SANTA'S LI'L HELPERS: Rylan Sorrell (back), Rachael Harratt and Caleb Sorrell with Letty, Tryst and Giz.
SANTA'S LI'L HELPERS: Rylan Sorrell (back), Rachael Harratt and Caleb Sorrell with Letty, Tryst and Giz. LEEROY TODD

No reindeer? No problem for sled dog owner

SANTA gave the reindeer the night off last week for his annual visit to the Cooinda Aged Care facility.

Instead, a team of malamutes had that honour.

The three dogs, five-year-old Giz, three-year-old Letty and 12-month-old Tryst are all members of the Wolfwisel Alaskan Malamute Sled Dog Team and this isn't the first time they've pulled Santa's sleigh.

"Last year, we had two puppies come along to the Cooinda Christmas Party and I was excited to hear how many of the residents remembered the baby from last year and recognised her as an adult,” owner Rachael Harratt said.

In addition to being a mild-mannered senior property manager at Century 21 By The Bay she also breeds, shows and races Alaskan malamutes and, at the Sled Dog Nationals in NSW recently, was awarded first place for the fastest Alaskan malamute team against competitors from all over Australia including Perth.

But more than that, she loves to show her dogs off.

Rachael Harratt, Caleb and Rylan Sorrell running free with Wolfwisel Alasken Malamutes (from left) Tryst, Letty and Giz.
Rachael Harratt, Caleb and Rylan Sorrell running free with Wolfwisel Alasken Malamutes (from left) Tryst, Letty and Giz. LEEROY TODD

"I had approached Cooinda last year and asked if they would be interested in using the dogs to bring in Santa and his presents for the residents.

"I wanted to be able to share the joy the dogs bring me with the community. Last year, we were lucky enough to help at the Goodstart Jones Hill Day Care Centre as well,” she said.

Cooinda CEO Robyn Kross said the residents and family Christmas party was a way of giving residents and families the opportunity to enjoy Christmas and time together in the residents' home.

"We are never too old to enjoy a visit from Santa and his helpers,” she said.

Ms Harratt said the residents loved getting up close with the dogs.

"The residents were able to pat the dogs and they enjoyed every minute of it, almost as much as the dogs did,” she said.

They were also interested on how Alaskan malamutes (a breed used in cold climates) cope with the summer heat.

"They've got a thick woolly undercoat,” she said. "It keeps them warm in winter and cool in summer.”

And because it is so good at regulating their temperature, Rachael says it isn't necessary to shave the dogs, as some people do, and it might actually be bad for them.

Taking the dogs to Cooinda was something Rachael said really made her feel good.

"I like sharing them with people.

"When I walk my dogs people stop and always want to pat them and it makes me feel good about having them.

"I feel proud of them when people see how well-behaved they are.

"You have to do that (behavioural training) with big dogs,” she said.

"I like that I can take the dogs to a place like Cooinda, where other people can appreciate them.”

While she doesn't spoil her dogs at Christmas, she does think it's a good idea to give them a treat.

"Give them meaty treats, like steak, but no cooked bones and definitely no chocolate,” she said.

Gympie Times


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