Here are the ingredients for a true,
only-in-Jamaica story: abandoned dogs, a Jamaican tour operator
with a vision, a sled-dog championship in Scotland, Jimmy Buffett,
Chris Blackwell and an international film festival.
The story began
last year, when Danny Melville, founder and chairman of Chukka
Caribbean Adventures in Ocho Rios, Jamaica, was in Edmonton,
Alberta, on a scouting expedition for custom-made dune buggies to
use in one of his firms new tours.
He spotted an
odd-looking dogsled -- and a light bulb went on.
It turns out that
the sled was designed for dry-land racing, said Melville. I was
told that in Scotland they used the sleds for tourists, and I felt
that if they could do it in Scotland, we could do it in
stop: Scotlands Loch Ness region, where he met with Alan Stewart,
chairman of the Cairngorm Sled-Dog Adventure Co.
I watched him
give rides to tourists, Melville said. I knew then and there that a
dogsled team not only would be a great soft adventure attraction
for Chukka but also a catalyst for Brand Jamaica, much in the way
Jamaicas bobsled team has been.
With that, the
Jamaica Dogsled Team was born. Devon Anderson, Chukkas director of
operations, went to Scotland last June for an intensive training
period to learn how to become a musher, or driver; how to run a
dogsled team; and how to care for and train sled dogs.
around the Chukka operation as Dr. Doolittle or the Horse
Whisperer, was selected because of his unique abilities and
connections with animals, especially horses and dogs, said
For his part,
Stewart -- who last August traveled to Jamaica with his son and a
musher from the U.S., to teach the Jamaicans the art
of dogsledding -- recommended that Jamaica take the bold next step
of sending Anderson to the Siberian Husky Club of Great Britains
Sled Dog Rally in Aviemore, Scotland, the biggest dogsled event in
This turned out
to be much more than just an opportunity to offer a dynamic new
tour at Chukka Caribbean, said Melville. It was a chance for
Jamaica to once again command the attention of the world in a sport
that is traditionally a winter sport, referring to the Jamaican
bobsled team that competed in the 1988 Winter Olympic Games in
Enter singer and
entrepreneur Jimmy Buffett and Island Records founder Chris
Blackwell, who stepped in as team sponsors. Blackwell praised the
team concept as a terrific idea and wonderful publicity for
Buffett said he
had missed out on the bobsled years, and I dont intend to miss out
on this one. I cant wait to yell, Mush, mon! in support of our
Andersons ragtag team of mongrel strays, rescued by the Jamaican
Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, could not
accompany him to Scotland because of U.K. quarantine regulations,
the 42-year-old Jamaican, who had never before seen snow, traveled
to the Scottish highlands in January to compete against 220 other
teams and 1,000 huskies on a rain-soaked 4.5-mile course around
Anderson and his
borrowed four-husky dog team came in 27th out of a field of 40
entrants in his class. He finished in 45 minutes, 52 seconds,
despite having to stop for five minutes to take a tired dog off the
reins and calm another dog that had been frightened by spectators
on the track.
No problem, mon.
Anderson returned to Jamaica as a hero, already looking toward more
competitions that could possibly lead to the Winter Olympics in
also is CEO of Palm Pictures, acquired the rights to Sun Dogs, a
documentary film that chronicles the story of the dogsled teams
struggles and adventures, following the canine crew from Jamaica to
the competition in Scotland. The film will premiere at the Toronto
Film Festival on Sept. 7.
We saw the
footage and thought it was an incredible story that has a lot of
humor, Blackwell said.
Its the ultimate
underdog story, with a fierce Jamaican attitude, a mix of Cool
Runnings [the 1993 film inspired by the Jamaican bobsled team], The
Bad News Bears and Dr. Doolittle.
director Andrea Stewart said that Sun Dogs will document the unique
dual spirit of Jamaica, a cool place with a hard edge. Despite
chronic struggle, its character shines through its vibrant culture.
Its humor and confidence fascinate us, as Jamaicans take on
challenges from bobsled to dogsled.
The true stars of
the film, of course, are the Sun Dogs themselves. Theres Jimmy,
named after Jimmy Buffett, who runs alongside Smiley as one of the
lead dogs; Bruno and Marbles, who are brother and sister; and
Chukka, Rusty, Tallowa, Isabella and Big Ears.
The dogs now live
in comfort at Chukka Cove Farm in Ocho Rios and soon will be joined
by more four-legged team members.
A limited number
of dogsled tours will be available at Chukka later this year for
visitors and will showcase the teams abilities and the Jamaican
about the Jamaica Dogsled Team, visit www.jamaicadogsled.com; for Chukka Caribbean
Adventures, visit www.chukkacaribbean.com.
reporter Gay Nagle Myers, send e-mail to [email protected].