A New Brunswick man fought Depression for many years have found joy in dog skiing.
Doug Stoakley from Havelock, NB, seems carefree around his 16 dogs, but often has a heavy heart.
“Without these dogs, I honestly believe I would be six feet shorter,” Stoakley said while walking his dogs on the sled.
“They just have a way of making you live in the moment and realize what’s important.”
Like many people struggling with mental illness, his depression became worse when the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
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Stoakley says giving his dog a sled – and sledding through the wilderness with his pack – gives him a new sense of pure joy; it gave him his life back.
“The only time I felt normal and happy was when I was in the woods with my dogs,” he said.
“Depression is about to go away.”
Stoakley and his team of six dogs are currently training for the biggest race of their lives.
At the age of 52, the blacksmith found the courage to enter his first official sled dog race, which took place in March in Fort Kent, Maine.
“It’s in the Appalachian Mountains, so yeah, I’m definitely the weakest link,” Stoakley joked, patting his stomach.
The real fatigue race will be a test for his body and mind. But for Stoakley, it’s not a win.
“I don’t care where I put it, as long as the dog is happy, I’m happy,” he said.
Training and caring about his team, he says, is what gives him a sense of purpose and peace.
“There are worse ways to spend the afternoon,” he said with a smile.
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