I have been in love with dogs for as long as I can remember. I grew up with a black labrador retriever named Samantha. She was my best friend and the closest thing to Nana, the famous do-it-all dog from Peter Pan, that I have ever seen.
I learned about dog sledding one day when I was home sick from school. I must have been six or seven years old and my mother rented the movie, Iron Will. Ever since then, all I have wanted to do was be a dog musher. Growing up on the warm sandy beaches of Falmouth, Massachusetts, however, made this a somewhat difficult dream to pursue. Each Christmas and birthday I always asked for the same thing: a dog team.
When I was in the fourth grade, my aunt took me on an overnight dogsledding trip for Christmas. Although I had been obsessed with dog sledding for years beforehand, actually going solidified this obsession. I soon read every book on mushing I could get my hands on and under the hot heat of the summer sun, I pretended I was in the cool dark of Alaska, racing sled dogs.
In the 5th grade, I got bold. If my parents weren’t going to help me pursue my dream then I was determined to find someone who would. On my own, I emailed 4-time Iditarod Champion Susan Butcher asking her for dogs. She said that she thought 5 dogs would be perfect for me and had just the ones who would help me get started. I was all set to send her my life savings when my mom stumbled across the email messages and emailed Susan back: unfortunately, Sarah will not be getting any sled dogs.
Despite that minor setback, I continued to pursue my passion by consuming anything I could find related to dog sledding: books, videos, websites. Each year, I followed the Iditarod.
My junior year of college, I was able to final put the pieces of my life and class schedule together in such a way that I was able to leave after classes on Thursday and spend the following weekends volunteering at a sled dog kennel some 3+ hours away from my school in Maine. I loved it. I’d wake around 5am on me weekends to help feed the dogs, chop wood, and do chores around the kennel. I was hooked.
In the end, I pushed hard through my junior year, took extra classes, and graduated a semester early. That spring, instead of enjoying my final semester of college, I fully emersed myself in the world of dog sledding by volunteering full-time to work with a team of racing sled dogs.
The more I worked with dogs, the more I loved it.
That July, 4 days after my sister’s wedding, I packed all my belongings and moved to Alaska to start my life as a dog musher. I haven’t looked back since. In 2011, I met the love of my life, Travis Beals, and started helping him with his kennel. In 2012, we launched our tour business. We haven’t looked back since.
I ran my first Iditarod in 2016 and my second race in 2019. Although I would love to run the Iditarod again someday, for now, I am content working with our young dogs at a slower pace and helping Travis train his race dogs when needed.