We brought you on an adventure in the BWCA with Points Unknown a few months ago. While there, we met Siri, a pregnant Hedlund Husky dog who was due to give birth at the end of July. Right on schedule, on July 30th, Siri had five beautiful Hedlund Husky puppies. During our initial visit with Linda, the owner of Points Unknown, we learned a little bit about this unique breed of dog that had almost gone extinct. We decided to go back after the puppies were born to meet them and learn more about Hedlund Huskies and Linda’s breeding program to help bring back this breed that almost went extinct.

Alaskan Origins

The Hedlund Husky breed is named after Nels and Rose Hedlund. This Alaskan couple started the breed in the mid-20th century. The dogs were specifically bred as cold-weather trapline dogs to work with the Hedlunds in their sustainable lifestyle. The dogs would go out with Rose and Nels to set traplines in the cold Alaskan wilderness. Since they aren’t racing dogs, these huskies needed to have an on/off switch. Most are bred to run and race and go, go, go! But the Hedlund Huskies were bred to be able to stop and be patient on the trail.

Breeding for temperament sets the Hedlund Huskies apart from other Huskies. For many years, the Hedlund’s worked to breed a line of dogs that would work for their lifestyle. And then, they almost disappeared.

Bringing Back the Breed

Many years later, Linda Newman was on a mission to find the perfect breed of dogs for her dog sled business. Since she wasn’t running a racing kennel, she needed dogs with calmer temperaments than what you will find in most sled dog breeds. Through this journey, she met Kim Fitzgerald, an Alaskan woman who was working to bring back the Hedlund Husky breed from near extinction. Starting with a couple of dogs she rescued, Kim began working with Rose Hedlund to ensure the breed standards were continuing to be met. That is how Linda found herself venturing into the Alaskan wilderness to find the dog breed she’d been looking for.

On a warm fall afternoon, we went up to Points Unknown on the Arrowhead Trail near Hovland to meet back up with Linda. And, of course, to meet Siri’s five puppies. The puppies had just turned 9 weeks old and two were about to meet their new families and head to their new homes. On that day we had the honor to meet five adorable, healthy puppies.

That was in the 90s. Now, some 30 years later, Points Unknown has the largest concentration of Hedlund Huskies in the world. Linda owns and cares for about 25 out of the 100 dogs currently in existence today. The goal of the Hedlund Husky Preservation Project is to not overbreed the dogs and create a situation where rescues would be needed. Instead, this small collection of breeders and pet homes has come together to rebuild the breed in a healthy and sustainable way. The website lists just a little over 20 kennels and homes that currently care for Hedlund Huskies. With the largest concentration currently living right in Minnesota.

Points Unknown Hedlund Husky Puppies

Like most breeders, Linda names her litters with themes. She also uses English words as well as the Anishinaabemowin names. This litter was named after natural plant medicines. We got to meet Birch/Wiigwaas, who was later renamed Dovah by her new owner. Dovah went home to a new breeder in Central Minnesota. Then there was Joe Pye/Bagizowin whose new owners drove all the way out from Montana to pick him up that day. They decided to rename him Bart, as his new owner’s name just so happened to be Joe, too. He returned to Montana and joined two other Hedlund Huskies his owners had adopted from Linda many years prior.

Then there were the three that Linda decided to keep at her kennel. Or, rather, as Linda likes to say, they are the puppies that chose her. Two male puppies White Pine/Zhingwaak and Yarrow/Waabanooganzh along with their sister Tamarack/Mashkiigwaatig will call Points Unknown their forever home.

Meet Zhingwaak, Waabanooganzh, and Miashkiigwaatig Yourself!

Like many others, we followed along with the puppies’ antics on the Points Unknown Facebook Page for weeks before finally getting to meet the puppies. But, luckily, virtually anyone can have the opportunity to meet them in person.

The temperature around the North Shore finally dipped below 50 degrees Fahrenheit in early October. The magic number where this breed of cold-weather dogs can comfortably start working again. For the three pups remaining at Points Unknown, that meant time to start training. This breed of dog is a working breed and they love the work. At Points Unknown, their job is primarily tourism-related.

They will be trained to take visitors on dog sleds to explore the Northwoods of Minnesota. This makes it easy for anyone willing to brave the cold and venture up to Points Unknown to meet the puppies in person. And to experience a dog sled adventure with them! Linda encourages close encounters and interactions with her dogs. They are well-behaved and so much fun to be around, which is exactly what they were bred for. You can watch the puppies work, then enjoy puppy cuddles afterward. All a part of the Points Unknown experience.

So book your experience today and get the chance to see these adorable Hedlund Husky puppies while they are still little puppies. Because as anyone who has had a puppy knows, this stage of life doesn’t last long.

Listen In

Listen to Jaye and Martha’s encounters with the Points Unknown Hedlund Husky puppies on episode 48 of Exploring the North Shore Podcast.