A New Brunswick man who has battled depression for years has found joy in dog sledding.
Doug Stoakley from Havelock, N.B., seems care-free when he’s around his 16 dogs, but there’s often a heaviness in his heart.
“If it wasn’t for these dogs, I honestly believe I’d probably be 6 feet under,” Stoakley said, while gearing up his dogs in a sledding trail.
“They just have a way of making you live in the moment and realize what is important.”
Like with many who struggle with mental illness, his depression became heavier when the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
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Dog sledding – and zooming through the wilderness with his pack — brought him a new sense of pure joy, Stoakley said; it gave him his life back.
“The only time I feel normal and happy in myself is when I am in the woods with my dogs,” he said.
“The depression just sort of melted away.”
Stoakley and his team of six dogs are now training for the biggest race of their life.
At 52, the musher has found the courage to take part in his first official dog sled race, coming up in March in Fort Kent, Maine.
“It is in the Appalachian Mountains, so yeah I am definitely the weakest link,” Stoakley joked, patting his belly.
The grueling race will indeed be a test for his body and mind. But for Stoakley, it’s not about winning.
“I don’t care where I place, as long as the dogs have fun, I have fun,” he said.
Training and caring for his team is what gives him a sense of purpose and peace, he said.
“There’s worse ways to spend the afternoon,” he said with a smile.
© 2023 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
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