TRAVERSE CITY — Sarah Dobbrastine has three words for this winter: Keep it coming.
That’s because Dobbrastine is spending her first season giving sled dog rides with her dream team.
But Second Chance Mushers isn’t just any sled dog team. It’s made up of dogs Dobbrastine rescued or fosters: Siberian husky and Alaskan malamute mixes abandoned after being tied to trees or mailboxes, surrendered because of their high maintenance, or unwanted because of overcrowding.
And a life with Dobbrastine isn’t the life of just another sled dog.
“They’re more pets,” said Dobbrastine, 29, whose dogs lop on living room couches surrounded by doggie art, slurp from a steel pail of water in the kitchen and spend the night on her bed upstairs instead of being banished to outdoor kennels.
She started the dog sledding business a year ago as a way to pay for the care of dogs she increasingly found herself rescuing. She deposits a third of her salary as a registered nurse into a doggie account, but that doesn’t begin to cover the bills for their veterinary care or feed, which is automatically delivered to her house every few weeks in 45-pound boxes.
“She was working three jobs at one time,” said Dobbrastine’s sister, Lisa, who sometimes helps with the business. “She’d go some stretches at 36 hours. And the thing that drove her was that she could provide a good life for these dogs.”
Now the dogs help earn their keep by giving rides at places like the Grand Traverse Resort & Spa. Their presence also helps spread the word about Dobbrastine’s rescue work, which involves vaccinating, spaying or neutering, and microchipping every dog she fosters.
She has adopted out three of four foster dogs so far. One, named Demon, remains. Two more are waiting to be fostered after Dobbrastine recovers from an injury.