Beaded sled dog blanket earns Chihuahua a big win at Yukon Rendezvous

·2 min read
Rikki and his winner's gift basket. (Submitted by Velma Olsen - image credit)
Rikki and his winner's gift basket. (Submitted by Velma Olsen - image credit)

A Chihuahua sporting a First Nations dog blanket captured hearts across Canada for his small stature and enormous sense of pride.

Now, seven-year-old Rikki can savour the glory of Internet stardom with treats and toys as one of five furry winners at this year's Yukon Rendezvous festival.

"I was excited that he was one of the winners," said his owner Velma Olsen, who beaded the dog blanket specifically for the contest.

The pet parade is one of the popular events organized as a part of the annual Whitehorse winter festival. Like many contests this year as a result of pandemic, it was held online.

"The great thing about going virtual is that we got entries that we normally probably couldn't have seen such as a little hedgehog and a snake," said festival executive director Saskrita Shresthra.

"It was a really great way to make it inclusive of all animals, and considering the response we got on all of those posts, it was very successful. Everybody did a phenomenal job, and it was a great activity to do in the winter during these times. It brought a lot of smiles to a lot of people's faces."

Olsen, who is Northern Tutchone and a member of the First Nation of Na-Cho Nyak Dun, said she's been overwhelmed with joy to the reaction Rikki and the dog blanket received online.

"Quite a few people were feeling inspired to make dog blankets now. There's someone locally here who made one for her Chihuahua, too, so it was quite nice to be an inspiration," said Olsen.

Rikki, a seven-year-old Chihuahua, compared to one of the sleds used in the annual Yukon Quest dog sled race.
Rikki, a seven-year-old Chihuahua, compared to one of the sleds used in the annual Yukon Quest dog sled race. (Submitted by Velma Olsen)

Dog blankets are embellished fabric that drapes over a sled dog's back and are a longstanding tradition among First Nations across the Yukon and Northwest Territories.

"It makes me feel all warm inside because it's a part of our history and to have it be responded to like that with Rikki's dog blanket it was heartwarming," said Olsen.

As for next year's festival, Olsen said she's ready to sign Rikki up for another pet parade.

"I've got to come up with something bigger and better next year," she said.