Some time ago we got to know about an American musher who lives in the Czech Republic, whose name is Rodney Lovette.
With his colleagues he grows the sledge dogs, makes some carts or sledge tours, summer camps for children to learn English, teambuilding for anyone who wants it.
He also runs two e-shops and trains and prepares for what he hopes will be an exciting international racing schedule in central Europe and Scandinavia. Where does he live? In the village of Janov nad Nisou that is located in the Jizerské Mountains, in the north Bohemia, the Region of Liberec.
The first question probably comes to everyone who thinks about the weather in the Czech Republic and about the conditions the sledge dogs need to be able to pull a cart or a sledge – the temperature must be below 15 degrees:
Why did you choose the Czech Republic, concretely the Jizerské Mountains as a place where you become a musher? In the Alps or the High Tatras the winters and the cold weather are much longer; the snow layer is much higher...
Yes, you are right; the weather is much colder in the Alps or the High Tatras. But the place I live now is a good place for the sledge dogs, too. In winter we usually have about three metres of snow (there are exceptions, of course). The mushing season lasts usually from half of September to the end of May. Sometimes it is a bit shorter. So I cannot complain about the Jizerské Mountains weather conditions.
Why did I come to the Czech Republic? It is very easy – because of a woman. But she is no more a part of my life. I am single now, looking for another woman who would love me and my dogs, too.
Although our partnership has broken, I do not want to leave the place I live. I have been here for six years and really do like it here – the country, the people and my dogs.
How does it happen that someone becomes a musher?
It was a childhood dream and one day I woke up and said why not. During my life I have been a sailor, a retail manager, an emergency room tech, and a paramedic. I developed a love of traveling, and it peaked my interest in different cultures and raised in me a sense of adventure. This is what you also need to be able to be a musher.
We make an interview in English so I cannot hear how you have it with the Czech language. Do you need to speak Czech to be able to live here? Have you ever tried to learn Czech?
I am trying to learn to speak Czech. But I am not much successful yet. I am able to say the basic social sentences like hello, how are you, have a nice day and so on.
The most of the day I speak English, even my dogs speak English. So most of the time I do not need to speak Czech at all. But sometimes there come the moments when I need the Czech language quite urgently. E.g. when having some Czech visitors who do not speak English, when arranging anything at a public authority, when leading a summer camp for small children.
I have some colleagues who speak Czech and help me in those situations.
Being a musher cannot be easy. I would say it is more than a full time job…
You can see it right. My daily work with the dogs begins at about five in the morning. I have a break over the noon. Then I come back to my dogs and leave them at about ten p.m. During the noon brake I make other parts of my business – run our e-shops, prepare the summer camps, plan some musher activities.
Can you leave your dogs to go for a holiday ?
Not at all. The dogs are completely used to me. I am a part of them and they are a part of me. As soon as I am not with them, they even do not eat and are completely nervous.
But I do not want to leave for holidays. I love my work and live in a beautiful country. The only thing I miss is a loving woman who would like to live here with me and my dogs. But I know it is not easy because the dogs need a lot of my attention. So the woman would have to love the dogs as much as I do.
You offer the mushing tours. When I buy a cart or a sledge tour – what shall I expect ?
The first what I want to say is that I ask everyone to bring a bicycle helmet to use.
The tours include a presentation of equipment and how to use it, harnessing the dog team and a tour through the Jizera Mountains itself. The tour takes approximately one hour. Depending on the season and trail conditions we choose to ride either a cart or a sledge. The visitors can drive their own team of dogs.
After the tour we have time to visit with dogs and puppies. The visitors can have a question and answer session, and, of course, the photo opportunities.
What about the accommodation? Do you offer any ?
Lodging can be arranged at the nearest guesthouse and prices vary depending on the number of people. There is also an option for camping overnight near the dogyard, and we can provide the tents. There is also a firepit, and a charcoal grill available for cooking.
On your website you recommend the visitors to make a reservation, about 90 days ahead. Why so much ahead ?
Well, it is a recommendation. Sometimes it happens that too many visitors want to have a tour in the same term. The week has just two free days; most of the visitors want to come on Saturdays. Large part of the visitors is willing to come on Sundays, maybe Fridays.
Several days month it happens that I am free. So when You call one day to ask if you may come, sometimes I can tell you that I am free in two or three days or that I am free even the following day.
You make summer camps for two age groups of children – small children from the age of 6 to 10 with the basic English knowledge and for children from the age of 11 to 15 with intermediate English. How do the children react on you?
I am glad You ask this question. The reactions differ in the two age groups.
The older children already know that there is not only the Czech Republic in the world and that many people speak different than Czech. I am something special for them – I am the American. They are full of the American movies so I can be a part of the movies for children of this age. They make an experience that it is fine to be able to speak to a foreigner. It is a good motivation for them so usually when they come back to school in September they start to study English much harder.
The younger children … hmm, how to say it … I am a monster for them. I am someone who does not speak Czech. They usually have no experience with anyone speaking a different language than Czech. But this lasts just the first day. During the week I become their friend, they start to use some English words and like doing so. They use the words as a part of their language; they take them as some new Czech words. But the advance for them is that they have a contact with the English words and when they begin to learn English at school the new language is a bit more domestic for them.
Dou you think the summer camp would be ok for children who do not feel comfortable with the dogs (have respect from them or are even afraid of them) ?
I do not think so. The dogs are the contacting dogs. They still need hugs and kisses and want to touch everyone. So the summer camps are perfect for children who want to learn English and love dogs.
If you are interested, look at the http://www.verticallaunchraceteam.com where you find all the necessary information about Rodney´s activities and services. The e-shop link http://www.dogtrek.eu is available there, too.