My name is Tim Muto, and I am a dog musher and a voluntaryist located in the mythical northern paradise of Alaska. I have been living up here since the fall of 2013, when I started as a dog handler for Karin Hendrickson and Blue on Black Kennels. I had no previous dog experience, I didn’t even know dog mushing was still a 'thing' until about a month before hand, and I showed up with a bit of a fear of big scary looking dogs that I was unfamiliar with. It took me about a week to realize that they were all barking at me because they demanded I come over and pet them.
Working at Karin's kennel was the hardest experience of my life up until that point; physically, emotionally, spiritually, all of it. Where do I sign up for more?! The truth is, as difficult as it was, it was even more rewarding. My experience with Blue on Black Kennels instilled within me an incredibly deep passion for sled dogs, and for life in Alaska, and I owe a great deal to Karin and to those dogs that will always be in my heart.
I then spent the next three years as a handler for Brent Sass and the dogs of Wild and Free Mushing. Brent's operation is very remote, completely off grid, about 150 miles outside of town. During my time at Wild and Free, I saw a lot of handlers come and go. Folks tend to show up with only the romance of a remote alaskan dream in their eye, and they get plowed into the ground by the intensity of operating a competitive kennel partnered with the complications and frustrations of living so remotely. The factors that seem to push some people away, are what kept me at Wild and Free for so long. That kennel, that homestead, those trails and those dogs mean so very much to me, and they have shaped me into the person I am today.
The person I am today, is actually very different than my past. I grew up in the northern suburbs of Chicago, I was never a very outdoorsy person, and I actually wanted to be a police officer my entire life. There is a long story associated with how my life path was altered, but I ended up studying Recreation, Park and Tourism Administration at Western Illinois University. I gained a lot from my college experience; I was the president of a social fraternity, I started a new student organization on campus (Young Americans for Liberty), I held a few different jobs and even volunteered for a number of different charities. I also fell in love with the outdoors, and upon graduating I moved to Norway for the summer to guide sea kayak trips in the northern fjords. This new found addiction to paddling led me back to the states for a few years, where I guided in the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore of Western Lake Superior.
All of these epic challenges that I have faced, the extreme environments and colossal obstacles, have left me with an almost infinite amount of confidence in my ability to accomplish whatever it is I desire. I can recall how a former version of myself might have approached certain problems with hesitation and uncertainty in my abilities, where now I can make eye contact with seemingly impossible tasks and say, “This has got to be accomplished, there is a way, now how can we get this done?”