When we pulled up to Chukka Caribbean, an adventure outfitter in Jamaica, I admit to being a little bit skeptical. Though I love adventure activities, I always feel a little put off by companies that offer a menu of offerings that are fun but don’t do much to actually showcase an authentic destination. I love an afternoon of zip lining, white water rafting and ropes courses, but what do we learn from them? So many of these companies could be picked up and placed anywhere else on the planet and nothing would change.
That was my fear with Chukka, which actually operates in a number of different Caribbean locations. How did this company differ from anything else that had a colorful marketing brochure at the hotel concierge?
We were at Chukka to go dogsledding. If you’re anything like me, you probably think this is another wacky activity to add to the list. But here’s the kicker: This is the real thing. Just as Jamaica is known for its bobsled team, this Caribbean nation is also home to a dogsled team.
Though that’s pretty cool in and of itself, here’s the part that really made me a believer: The dogs used for the team are rescued from the Jamaica Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. These dogs are from the pound, and many of them were just days away from being put down when they were rescued by Chukka to be trained for the dogsled team.
Right now the company has 30 dogs. They are adopted as adults and must go through many stages of training before they are able to be a part of the team. The JSPCA often calls Chukka if there are dogs that may be a good fit for the company, and even if there isn’t room at the moment for a particular dog on the team, Chukka will rescue the dog and begin the training process anyway. At the very least, the company has helped to save another life.
All of the dogs are mixed breed, or “purebred Jamaican mutts.” One of them is blind. All of them are very approachable and excited to make contact with humans and be a part of the team. Once a dog is retired from the dogsled team, Chukka makes sure that it is adopted into a loving family.
Though the dogsled ride itself was a lot of fun, the real treat for me was petting the dogs and being given the opportunity to help harness them for the ride. Rescued animals have a way of showing how grateful and thankful they are for the new lives that they lead. It always excites me to see organizations commit to positive social change. Chukka’s desire to save these dogs from the shelter and provide them with a better life is one I fully endorse.