Have you ever pushed yourself past the impossible just to get home?
It was early in December when I heard an interview on CBC Radio with a man originally from Saint John, New Brunswick who was planning on a routed trip never done before in recorded history.
Justin Allen has been living in Churchill, Manitoba for a number of years. While he was there he fell in love with the land and with the dogs that helped him explore it. Justin loves his dogs. He is always promoting and showcasing the loving relationships that should exist between a musher and their dogs, in an age where there have been a number of exposed cases of abuse in the business of dog sledding and racing.
The time had come for Justin and his partner Danielle to move back to his home province of New Brunswick. To ship his dogs, it would have cost thousands of dollars. There are no permanent roads in and out of Churchill, just a rail track and a seasonal ice road. Justin’s solution? He would do the 3000 km trek by dogs and sled. This has not been done in generations. But home calls, and his dogs are family, and this is the adventure that Justin feels he was born to do.
After I heard about his plans, I touched base with him to see if we could make a film about his adventure. He was excited to know that Hemmings House Pictures was from Saint John, and that we were keen to follow his story. I pitched the concept to CBC television and on Christmas Eve and we got the green light to start producing our latest TV documentary called ‘12 Dog’s Drive’.
The film will follow Justin as he and his dogs take 10 weeks to make the journey. Despite some sections being multiple weeks long without any connection with the outside world, Danielle will follow the route in a support vehicle and meet with Justin and our filmmaker Caleb at different First Nation’s and communities on the way. Justin will connect with elders and learn about the critical role dogs have (past and present) in the culture of the North. In a reflective way, this journey will be Justin’s own exploration into Truth and Reconciliation as he shares stories with the people who have been surviving the lands with dog and slay for so long.
Why is this a story Hemmings House is so excited to share?
- There is a dark side to the dog sled ‘industry’, there is no denying that some business people have been cruel to their animals, which of course reflects very poorly on the whole practice & lifestyle. This story shows the other-side. The side where a musher’s dogs are respected and treated as precious family members. This is a way of life for Justin, and we want to understand this better and share a story that will inspire further work towards the respect of animals, and build a tighter connection between us humans, our land, animals, and our heritage.
- Justin is a hometown boy. Hemmings House is passionate about telling impact stories that are from New Brunswick or involve New Brunswickers. The journey will end in downtown Saint John, my city. This is a story that is hard NOT to tell.
- I have been filming in the arctic a fair bit over the past 10 years. Every-time I go, I speak to elders about the history of their dogs. The emotion that arises when time and time again I hear about the mass culling of sled dogs by our very own RCMP is heavy and sad. I have always wanted to produce a documentary about that side of the story. When Justin’s story showed up, I saw this as the beginning of the telling of a much bigger story down the road. A story that would in a way be MY exploration into Truth and Reconciliation with our First Peoples.
Coming back home is the goal of all hero’s in the hero’s journey. It is a magical experience for Hemmings House to be able to help a hero share his story as he makes his long run home.