Adopting Copernicus

Paws Along the Trail with Adoption

What happens to sled dogs when they are retired or when they just don’t have the heart for pulling? Mushers keep them or find new, loving homes for the dogs.

Copernicus smiling at me


For two summers at Iditarod Educator’s Camp, I loved seeing Copernicus in the dog yard. He appeared to be smiling whenever I approached. He was one of the “Scientists” litter of puppies, whose father was the farm’s pet Border Collie (oops) and mother was an Alaskan Husky. The litter produced Copernicus, Madam Curie, Hubble, Einstein, Tesla, Newton, and Kepler.  Soon after I arrived this past summer,  I learned he was to be adopted to a  family in the Lower 48.  A big shout out to Christine and her family for sharing their story!


I had seen musher Cindy Abbott, who I got to know through Summer Camp at Dream a Dream Dog Kennel, post retired sled dogs she had wanted to rehome on her Facebook page. These are dogs that had put their heart and soul into racing but were ready to just be someone’s pet. What I appreciated about Cindy was that she wouldn’t pick just anyone to adopt these dogs – it had to be the perfect fit. And I knew, with having two older dogs already, that our home might not be the best environment. Discouraged, I wondered if the dream of adopting a sled dog would ever come true.

Then, on the last day of school this past May, I noticed a post from Cindy. She was looking for a new home for Copernicus – a 3 year old Alaskan husky/border collie mix. I had remembered Copernicus, as well as the rest of his scientist-themed siblings, from my time at camp. Secretly, they were my favorites because they were so friendly and sweet!  This was not an ordinary rehoming – Copernicus was chosen due to the fact that he was not interested in pulling a sled! Cindy observed that Copernicus, while obedient and trusting, was not extremely enthusiastic about joining his friends on the gangline. This made him a candidate for adoption, and proof that mushers really do make an effort to care for the well-being of each and every dog!

In short, my husband and I discussed the addition of Copernicus as a positive change to our household, so I contacted Cindy about it. We spoke on the phone, emailed back and forth, booked his flight, and bought needed supplies. And within one month, he was on a plane heading for Ohio! Picking him up at the airport made me nervous- would he like us? Is it too hot here? What if he doesn’t get along with our older dogs? What if everything scares him? So many questions…

He has been with us for a few months now. While there was a short adjustment period (including fighting for his spot under the kitchen table), we have finally started to figure him out! For instance, we learned that he LOVES belly scratches, all foods, carpeted floors, swimming in the pond, and giving lots of hugs and kisses. He does NOT like basketballs, doors, bikes, humidity, stairs, or getting a bath.

Thank you, Cindy and Vern, for taking every care and precaution with raising Copernicus, and for trusting us to continue the journey! He is one happy house dog!

Included is a lesson plan for young readers based on this story about Copernicus.  Students can hear the story and pull out various elements. Teachers can use the printable story or the electronic Anyflip version.  There is also a worksheet for assessment of student understanding of beginning, middle, and end.  Enjoy using this with your pre-readers!

Adopting Copernicus Lesson Plan

Adopting Copernicus story

Adopting Copernicus Sheet

Electronic Flipbook Version

Other Iditarod Teacher News

Can you make it to our Virginia Iditarod Teacher Conference, October 14, 15? We would love for you to come and bring some colleagues. Come get re-energized with new teaching ideas and background knowledge to  motivate and engage your students as you incorporate Iditarod lessons into your curriculums!  Contact Iditarod EDU director, Diane Johnson, for more details: