A MULLAGH man whose pack of Huskies have won nine All-Ireland titles in Dryland Mushing says that he doesn’t know if he would be alive today if he didn’t have dogs in his life.
Dave Finney (34) known as the Husky Whisperer was depressed, dependent on drugs and homeless before ‘The Royal Husky Pack’, his beloved canine companions that he has developed into one of the country’s most successful team of dog sledding competitors turned his life around.
“Before the dogs, I was in a very low and dark place and very depressed. A number of close friends had passed away in a very short period of time from drugs and suicide. I began mixing with the wrong people, became excessively dependent on drugs and was always on the wrong side of the law. There wasn’t much hope for me. I had nothing. Everything was just spiralling downhill and out of control and I thought there was nothing I could do to stop it.
“When I heard a farmer was going to shoot his dog for chasing sheep, I knew I had to step in. I remember the night I went to get him, it was the middle of a storm, the worst weather ever and when I pulled in and saw King, a Husky, I just fell in love with him. That’s where it all started. King gave me someone who I knew I needed to care for, who was dependent on me. I detached myself from the people I was mixing with and got myself a proper job and everything just got better from there on.”
Dave's 'Royal Huskies' have won 9 All - Ireland titles
The opportunity came up for Dave to get involved with Dryland Mushing, an activity in which a dog or team of dogs pull a human on a variety of things such as a skateboard, cart, bike or the most popular and practical being the dog scooter. The sport was originally adopted to train sled dogs in the summer months when the snow would melt but has since turned into a year-round and worldwide dog sport that is just starting to gain attention in Ireland.
Now his ‘Royal Husky Pack’ that includes King, Khya, Titan, Tazmin, Spirit, Koa, Eli and a Dutch Herder called Delta race all over Ireland and has clocked up an impressive number of titles.
“My friend had a litter and I ended up taking one of his pups and that pup had a litter a year or two later and I started to train them. The race distances are from 5k to 6km and take place mainly in Coillte Forrests. We race against all kinds of dogs, hounds, Dobermans, Labs, even Chihuahuas!
“We are out training every single night and I cover 8km with each dog, no matter whether it’s snowing or lashing rain we are out there.”
Dave started to rescue foster and rehabilitate dogs who badly needed a second chance in life just as he did at one time, as he explains.
“It was easy to help other dogs in dire need. I just felt like I was giving back what I could to these incredible beings that were in the same predicament I once was, staring at a dark lonely future and if I could change that for any of them I was going to try my best.
Dave in action Dryland Mushing
“The last foster we had was a Staffy that was used for dogfighting. It took me 18 months to rehabilitate her because she was so afraid of people, afraid of dogs, afraid of her own shadow. Just by doing little things she came out of it. It took that long for her to gain trust in new people. I can’t bear to see a dog suffer, it really gets to me.
“I often go up to Tyrone Husky Rescue, they have 50 or 60 dogs that are locked up every day. I go up there every couple of weeks and take a load of them out in my van and give them a run.”
The dog fanatic has been extremely successful in racing is a short period of time and is now setting his sights on a world title.
“We won six All Ireland titles last year that was the first year we really took part competitively and this year we won three. It’s a growing sport here but it’s huge in England and Scotland. We are hoping to go to the world championships in Belgium later this year and race two of our fastest dogs.
“I’d be afraid to think where I’d be today if I didn’t have the dogs, I might not be here at all.
“Everything I put into them they give it back to me tenfold and I could honestly never have the words to describe how much of a bond or how much love I share with each pack member and how much of a positive impact they have had and continue to hold in my life!”