top of page


20 Plus Years of NorSled – The Beginning

Cathy Sparks, Past President and current  Advisor on NorSled’s Board, on the founding of NorSled

Long, long ago there was a Burger King.  In that Burger King parking lot was a sweet grey and white woolly dog with blue eyes.  I picked her up, took her home, fed her, loved her.  I took her out to the local shelter to have her checked for a microchip and she had none. So, I put ad in the newspaper – hoping to find her owner, but no one called. So I gave her a name, Summit.

I met with a weekly running group who were fine with me bringing Summit.  She loved to run, especially if it included pulling me toward the cows!  A fellow runner, Lori, told me she saw a notice in local paper that a husky rescue group was going to be at the Vacaville Petco. 

At the time I didn’t know Summit was a husky, just that she was sweet and beautiful.  I went to the husky rescue event and met the volunteers there. They were part of Siberian Husky Rescue Referral of California (SHRRCA), which was founded by Marilyn Lassagne, an important figure in Husky rescue for over 45 years here in CA. They explained husky rescue to me, and that they were trying to set up their own rescue that would include not just purebreds, but mixes of the husky, malamute and Samoyed breeds. Meanwhile, SHRRCA was letting them work under SHRRCA’s 501c3 non-profit status. (NorSled has maintained close ties with SHRRCA throughout the years.)

At adoption fairs we would talk about Northern California Sled Dog Rescue, aka “NorSled” and how we could get our own 501c3.  We continued to rescue dogs and place them under the SHRRCA contract.   Little by little created a logo, new forms and started fundraising.   Finally, I just had to go and break my leg. Literally, I fell 500 feet down the side of Mt. Hood. 

For six weeks I sat at home with my leg in a cast, read up on how to create a nonprofit, and began doing the paperwork.  We filed our Articles of Incorporation and the rest of the paperwork required by the state and IRS.  We also established our mission – Rescuing, Rehabilitating, fostering and finding homes for unwanted, abandoned and abused Northern breed dogs: Siberian Huskies, Alaskan Malamutes, Samoyeds, and mixes of these breeds

As we waited to be approved, we continued rescuing dogs and building our membership.  It was an awesome day when we received the approval for our 501c3 and our EIN number!


NorSled Grows Up

NorSled continued to rescue and place about 20 dogs a year.  Then in 2002, we were faced with an incredible challenge – The Woodland 12.  A homeowner with 14 huskies was being evicted; she could not continue to make her mortgage. While the owner could keep the two oldest dogs, 12 needed a new home or foster home, within 2 weeks.  Yes, 12 dogs in 2 weeks. All of the dogs needed to be vetted. In addition, the dogs had not been socialized beyond their siblings and owners.

Cathy Sparks lead the NorSled charge, reaching out to the community through newspapers and radio, even getting coverage on Fox TV news. Hearing the story on the news, Chris Drake from Woodland joined NorSled and did the majority of the vet trips will the dogs. Several members drove from Walnut Creek, Oakland and other east bay cities to Woodland almost daily to meet with potential adopters and do introductions. There were hundreds of phone calls and emails from people who wanted to help. NorSled members worked diligently to respond to perspective adopters, and many interviews and home inspections were done. 

We did it, all 12 had a home to go to in two weeks.

NorSled must not ever forget these wonderful dogs, or the amazing work of our volunteers.  Or what the Woodland 12 taught us – that we can do a lot more than we thought! From that time on, we have expanded the number of dogs we care for, the counties we cover, the fundraising we do. We save more dogs.

NorSled Today

As NorSled has grown and our membership has changed, our passion has remained on the northern mixes. However, now we also work with Nordic dogs with health issues.  We are who the shelters call for the dog with a broken leg, severe demodex, hit by a car, chemical burns, gunshots, and other injuries – dogs they cannot make available for adoption due to the medical issues.

For the last 8 years, we have placed on average 150-200 dogs a year. To date, NorSled has placed around 3,000 huskies, malamutes, Samoyeds, and mixes of these breeds. 

None would have been saved without the NorSled volunteers. NorSled is a 100% volunteer organization.  Each person who has been part of NorSled over the past 20 years has contributed so much to the care and placement of these wonderful dogs.  Our volunteers are our lifeblood, each has something of themselves they contribute.

So NorSledders – hold your heads (and paws) up with pride! And if you are not yet a NorSled member, we are always looking for new volunteers to join our incredible journey in helping us and the dogs we rescue. 




Judy McGriff


Gail de Rita

Rescue/Adoption Coordinator

2024 Board

Maria Dhindsa


Randee McQueen


Cathy Sparks


bottom of page