Jonathan Nathaniel Hayes has spent more than two decades breeding, training and mushing Seppala Siberian Sleddogs from his home in Saint David, Maine. The dogs are uniquely special to Hayes because of their storied history as direct descendants of Togo, who was the lead dog that helped musher Leonhard Seppala deliver lifesaving medicine to a remote town in Alaska during a diphtheria outbreak in 1925.
“My dogs are true Arctic Spitz breed dogs, not the mix bred racing huskies,” Hayes explains, noting that their coats are thicker and their pads are tougher. “The colder it gets, the faster they run and the better they perform.”
As a trained wildlife biologist who focused on canids, Hayes says Nutrition is one of the three essentials to having a successful dogteam, with the other two being Genetics and Training. It was on a weeklong, 285-mile dogsled expedition across Maine’s remote Northwoods that Hayes realized he needed to find “better kibble” for his team — and landed on Native dog food.
“I was feeding my team another leading brand of kibble and supplementing with meat,” Hayes recalls of the expedition, of which a documentary called True North Legends of Dogs and Men is currently being produced. “After day two, my team refused to eat the kibble from that brand and would only eat meat. It was then that I knew I needed another, better kibble. I converted them to Native and the team has been thriving ever since.”
Hayes feeds his team Native 4 during the active winter season, and relies on Native 2 and Native 3 during the off-season. He saw results quickly that immediately impressed him.
“The team finds the food more palatable,” Hayes says. “And because of its dense nutrient concentration, they eat less, produce less stool and keep weight on easier.”
Hayes has written four books — including a children’s book about Togo that was published before Disney released its 2019 historical film about the sleddog and Seppala. Hayes has eight children who are all passionate about mushing and raising awareness for their heritage sleddog breed. He is helping to raise money to have a statue of Togo erected in Poland Spring, Maine, where the notorious sleddog died at the age of 16.
“For me it’s about honoring Togo and Seppala but also drawing attention to how special this breed is and how significant they are historically,” Hayes says.
He is proud of his role as a Native brand ambassador because he knows the ingredients are superior in many ways to brands that are specifically made for dogsled teams.
“I’ve seen the results first-hand,” Hayes says. “And Native does not need to be ordered from across the continent because you can pick it up at local Blue Seal feed stores, and often at a much more competitive price.”