Veterans

Mighty Malamutes: The 'Big Teddy Bears' At The Help For Heroes Winter Games

It may have been the first time the dogs set foot on the Catterick pitch, but they were not there for football...

The annual Help for Heroes Winter Games have got underway in Catterick for the very first time, with the help of some furry friends.

It may have been the first time Alaskan Malamutes set foot on the Catterick pitch, but they were not there for football.

Teams of wounded injured and sick serving personnel and veterans travelled from recovery centres all over the country to take part in events such as ‘snow tubbing’, stand-up paddle board polo and the highlight of the games - dogsled racing. 

The large freighting dogs are from an ancient breed.

Events are held throughout this week with teams competing from Plymouth, Tedworth, Colchester, Catterick, and, for the first time this year, Wales.

No matter the injuries of participants, all of the events can be adapted and everything is possible.

A plethora of events is still to come before the winner is announced on Friday.

A Welsh team entered for the first time.

John Binding is from the Alaskan Malamute Working Association.

"They are Alaskan Malamutes, which is the largest of Nordic breeds.

"They are actually a freighting dog, which means unlike the more common Siberian Huskies, these can run quickly but they will go for hours on end at a steady eight, nine mile-an-hour pace.

It may have been the first time Alaskan Malamutes set foot on the Catterick pitch, but they were not there for football.

"They are an ancient breed, their ancestry can be traced back 4,000 years. They have only been in this country approximately 60 years, no one is totally certain of when they first came in so they are a new breed really to the country.

"You are very much at the hands of the dog, hopefully they will stay focused."

"There is lots of activity here for them to hopefully follow the chute and go down to the finish line."

Paul Stocker and Brian Kilgannon are part of Team Plymouth. They decided to do the sled race in tandem, and said they were very happy with their experience.

They mentioned "camaraderie" as being key to their participation.

There are a number of events still to come before the winner is announced on Friday.

Jim Whitworth of Team Wales has a lot of love for the pooches: "Being around all these dogs, it is just taken to a different place.

"It is really good for the mind and soul if you like. We have had really good fun, and the dogs are so welcoming.

"They are just like big teddy bears, it is great, it is lovely."