Monday, January 31, 2011

"Someone has to do it"

And the gold medal for Awkward Silence goes to...
That headline is the last line in this blog post and may have been the motto of one Robert Fawcett. A dog musher in Whistler, B.C. gone horribly wrong. He is now living a nightmare.

Many readers will say the nightmare is deserved because there are 100 dogs who suffered a horrible, bloody death by bullets and knives instead of humane adoption or euthanasia. Why would someone ever think of exacting such pain on another creature?

Nearly a year after the horrific death of Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili on the opening day of the 2010 Winter Olympics, the world was horrified on Jan. 31 to learn of the slaughter in April 2010. The Olympic tourists had all gone home and the lucrative winter tourism season was over.

We now know that Canmore, Alta.-based Howling Dog Sled Tours sold 50 percent of a Whistler company with the same name to Fawcett in 2004. According to an online forum for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder sufferers, Fawcett is 38.
Outdoor Adventures Whistler had a financial stake in the company, but claims it did not order the dogs killed.

A WorkSafeBC compensation claim was filed by a PTSD sufferer. The company claims the employee and employer report was filed by the same person and that it continues to support the person.

On Dec. 27, 2010 -- two days after Christmas -- Fawcett posted these messages:



"I too feel worthless and like a piece of shit. i push away my family, friends, everyone.... you are not alone."

"I am pretty hooped in the head, don't think I will ever be the same. I'm actually just hoping I can learn a little and help motivate others who can make it!

"I'm glad to hear it. I spend a lot of time alone and being bummed. Well not bummed maybe, just wondering why I bother. I have 2 kids, great wife, and all I want to do is be alone. Friends who are trying to help, I just can't do it, can't even tell anyone why I am the way I am. Lots of people know, but things went so wrong. I honestly have to pound myself senseless to have any feelings. Alcohol doesn't even do it so much anymore...."



Fawcett was listed as a vice-president of the Kenai, Alaska-based organization Providing Responsible Information on a Dog's Environment. In the spring 2009 Mushing with PRIDE newsletter, he wrote the following.

So, You Want to Start a Tour Business?
“Whistler Bob” Fawcett, Experienced Tour Operator, Whistler Dogsledding

“Hey, Honey. I got a great idea. Let’s start a touring business with the dogs. I never thought I’d get laid off, time to put the dogs to work I guess.” Are you finding that you are saying such things? Better think long and hard about getting into the touring business before you sink too much more money into your hobby to make it a profession! For some people the transition to tour works. You can make a few bucks taking out the local 4H club or a school party. Or even head to the local ski hill a few times a year for a weekend of tours. For those of us that make a living doing tours full time, it is a tough, relentless way to pay the bills. OK, you’re not scared yet.

Here are some tips and thoughts for you to ponder.

You got into dogs to be with animals. They are the best co-workers on the planet, right? Low wages, always happy, always glad to see you. The recreational side of mushing and racing is a super way to spend time with loved ones and your troop of canine friends. You go out, do a run, have some fun. If you race, you train hard, do some races, maybe win a little money or a door prize. All in all it is a lot of fun.
Touring can also be fun, but it’s a lot different.

Tourists have expectations and they don’t know what they are most of the time. This is the hard part. You have to guess what they want, you have to guess how to make them happy. Generally, our guests are some of the most interesting and fun-loving folks you’ll find. They ask crazy questions, over and over and over and over, oh sorry. They fall off the sleds. They are Iditarod champs after 4 miles, and they are cloud nine at the end of the run having been able to put themselves in your shoes for 2 whole hours.

The tough part of touring is that you never really get to do what you want to do. You can’t train that new leader because what if he turns around and tangles up the team? You can’t go more than 8-10 miles/hour, because the sled is heavy. You have to watch your best leader dip for snow every 30 feet cause he knows your not going to do anything about it in front of the guests. You are up at the crack of dawn, plowing the road to get to the tours, grooming the trail so it is easy for the guests, “If I have to run behind the sled any more I’m not paying......” You get to feed the dogs, clean up, hope like hell your staff show up.... Sober...... You stress when the economy goes down, you stress when the snow comes late, you stress when your staff fill up your diesel with unleaded.

The Guests arrive. They are horrified at how small and skinny the dogs are. Easy enough, I go over with my Carharts and explain to them the make up of the breed. They are now horrified with me and my smell. OK, Gore-tex and a shower. You explain to them the ancient way of driving a dog team. They yell at your leaders (encouragement, but the whole tour????) the whole way and the tour slows to a crawl. You want to put the one guy in wheel, he looks like a good wheeler. And you notice that lady has open toed shoes...... How did the reservations people let that slip by? They lose their teams, they pass when you tell them not to, and they absolutely love it. Now, don’t get me wrong. After over 40,000 guests have gone out on a sled with us, I wouldn’t trade my life for anything. But, there is still something to be said about mixing business with pleasure.

I got into touring as a way to spend a winter away from flying. I gained a hobby I will enjoy for my life. Many say, “ but you get to be paid to do your passion” You do get paid - when the stars line up and there is enough snow, and enough people at your resort, and the staff show up. You get paid to fix all the chewed harnesses, pay the bills, plow the road, fix the dog box (again), pay the insurance, photocopy more waivers, pay the ad bills, hire more staff, fire more staff, drive a shuttle, and maybe mush a sled now and then. There are few that can make the necessary brain switch to be able to separate the work and pleasure. And that is the hard part. Giving up what you want to do and doing what you have to do. Once you can find that fine line, you will truly have it made. But mind me, it’s a tough find.

So before you cash in the severance check, or max out the line of credit, think long and hard. Would you want to share your family with strangers day in and day out? Do you want to open yourself up for everyone to see? Do you keep your little pleasure to yourself, your one escape, the one place where no one but you judges you and your performance? OR, can you make it all work and have a little of everything like my family has found? It’s a tough road, but as they say. “SOMEONE HAS TO DO IT!”


The last word goes to the WorkSafeBC claim review. A warning: this describes the slaughter in graphic detail. It indicates that the worker had previously suffered PTSD for euthanizing dogs. One can only wonder why he did it again, in even greater numbers.

WorkSafeBC claim review, Jan. 25, 2011

No comments:

Blog Archive