Arctic Expedition 2015

At the beginning of 2014 Malamute Matters’ Rescue Co-Ordinator Richard Horsfield  took part in an expedition to Alaska with Joe ” Malamute ” Henderson. As a result of him stepping up in this way  he was able to raise much-needed funds for Malamute Matters and also to draw attention to the work we do to help man’s best friend.

In 2015 Tessa Oliveros together with her husband Johan Kielbaey  will be going on the expedition for 10 days starting on April 8th 2015.

Here is what Tessa had to say about her expedition and also the reason(s) why she and her husband are under taking such a difficult task.

Tessa and Johan with their Mals  Atkka and Aluk

Tessa and Johan with their Mals Atkka and Igaluk

 What is the reason  Johan and you are doing the expedition?  Well, there are several reasons. This entire trip is a shared dream with my husband, Johan; I also want to give continuity to what Malamute Matters Christine and Richard have started, by showcasing the Alaskan Malamute breed in Belgium, and by letting people know about the problems created by puppy mills. And also the problems heavy work breed clubs and rescue organizations are facing.

There are too many dogs in rescue due to a myriad of reasons, but mainly because the dogs don’t turn out to be what owners expect (given these expectations are almost in all cases due to lack of knowledge on a given breed). People need to be aware of the need of the animals they are taking into their care, not only sled dogs, but all dogs in general. The work carried out by shelters, by breed clubs like the Alaskan Malamute Club of Belgium (AMCB), and organizations like Malamute Matters is important;.

It goes beyond just caring for dogs in shelters or getting funds to cover the expenses related to their care . It’s also about getting people to care. So this trip has become my little bit and contribute to the bigger picture.

 What are the dates for your expedition ? We’ll be on the trail from April 8 to 18, not the coldest period, -20°C to -40°C. We are still deciding whether we will stay over one or two days, but that will depend on our budget. We are covering the full expedition ourselves, so whatever funding we receive will be equally distributed between Malamute Matters and AMCB.

Johan and I work full-time to afford our living, so we have been doing some adjustments and savings for this trip: I’m a heavy coffee drinker, so I used to splurge on coffee from Starbucks to the point that the barista didn’t have to ask what I wanted, (yes, that bad is my coffee addiction, and it was not the whipped cream filled up syrups and toppings and stuff, but the real deal in big format); this is not the case since May 2014. I still drink coffee tho (but I don’t pay the price for the marketing).

We also decided to dig into our renovations budget to cover some of the expedition expenses (so no windows and insulation for few more years, but after this experience, we’ll feel the cold a bit less 😉 ).

Whether we can afford to stay a bit longer or not, the entire trip as it is will be totally worth it.

Have you or  Johan ever done anything like this before? Nope, but there is a first time for everything isn’t there?  🙂


What preparations /training are Johan and you under taking for your expedition ? All what we are able to do!We have been working in our house renovations for the last 4 years, so there is still quite some heavy lifting to do, lots of soil turning in the garden… We are owned by two Alaskan Malamutes (Atka and Igaluk), so they are our “training partners” and join us on long walks (so far we have managed about 17 km) mostly during weekends, we do power walks after work, we participate in the walks organized by AMCB and another organization called Canni-Ballade, where soon we’ll join for some camping events.

We are also members of Mushing Belgium, so now that the weather is getting colder, Johan goes out with the step bike pulled by Igaluk and I’m slowly starting to jog with Atka. (Atka is slowly being stabilized as she developed pancreatitis -thanks to her constant raids to the cat’s food- and I had a close encounter with the ground not so long ago, and I was asked to stop all activity for a while. Good I still have about 6 months to get in shape!).

If anybody is interested in having a good laugh, we are “documenting” how we are preparing for this journey (plus other bits about our experience so far living with Alaskan Malamutes) on a blog created for this expedition: Across the Alaskan Tundra

Describe what your expedition will involve? The expedition will involve a cross-country trek wearing skis or snow shoes – which we have never worn –, camping – which we have never done –, lots and lots of snow and Malamutes!

If you have read Christine’s post about her previous expedition, you get a pretty good idea of what you can expect.  Plenty of new experiences to learn from! (the only thing I’m hoping not to experience is to take part in a rescue mission, where I’m the one that requires being rescued!


What are you most excited about and looking forward to about doing the expedition?I’m ticking off several boxes from my bucket list: we’ll get to meet Joe and his team Malamute, to see Northern lights, we’ll get to be in the Arctic in an area almost untouched by people, we’ll get a chance to live for 10 days as close to a similar way as the first settlers of the region… The list goes on and on! 🙂

Name 3 things that you will take with you to help with the expedition We recently got a list of gear needed. Johan and I have some serious saving up ahead of us in order to get all things we are still missing! But 3 things that we’ll carry around for sure are: hand and feet warmers, battery chargers (which we still have to get), and lots of warm layers to keep toasty and fend from frostbite.

Something else we’ll carry around that will help us give back something to our backers is our photo cameras. We have some “chip in” packages prepared; depending on the amount provided, we’ll give something back in return involving a photo.

One of our chip in packages involves the backer setting a challenge for us; so far we have received 4 challenges, so we’ll be carrying small items linked to each of these challenges.

If anyone wishes to support us (individuals or companies looking being known into the BeNeLux market), we are available via


Who will you be raising money and awareness for by doing the expedition? There are so many organisations out there that need help, but we want to keep our focus with dogs. So we will try to help Malamute Matters and AMCB. AMCB is not broadly known and has no means to support rescues beyond spreading the word about cases that reach the club.

We want to help in changing this situation by strengthening the structure of AMCB in order to be able to provide support not only to the dogs being put up for adoption, but also in helping people facing issues with their dogs (or those that want to adopt, but have no idea about the breed).

For similar reasons I want to support Malamute Matters. The work to be done is never-ending, but it is worth it. Dogs give us so much in return without asking for much in return, and there are so many cases that would not have gotten a second chance if not for the support of the network within MM.





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