Rancho Luna Lobos is a home for rescued dogs who find a second life as part of a sled team

Maybe you can teach an old dog new tricks. Or, as you will soon see, maybe it’s better to say you can teach old dog(s) new tricks. This is my takeaway after visiting Rancho Luna Lobos in Peoa, located in Summit County.

The ranch is about a 15-minute drive from Park City. Although somewhat remote, you can easily get there by using Google Maps. It’s owned and operated by the married team of Fernando and Dana Ramirez. Their spread sits upon 55 isolated, scenic acres. Over just a handful of years, the two have created a home for their family of seven and also groomed an impressive network of trails for dog sledding.

After all, the real stars of this story are the Luna Lobos dogs. All 57 of them. While not all are sledders, most share something in common. They are orphans. Some 85% of Luna Lobos dogs are rescues. The way Fernando explains it, he wanted to be a dog sledder at an early age. But his mom told him if he was going to race, he had to take care of the rescues, too. So, this is what he and Dana do. They feed, train and love dogs who have been deserted by their previous owners.

Fernando and Dana Ramirez with their Luna Lobos dogs

This may be why, as part of the sledding experience, visitors are first introduced to the rescues. The cacophony of dozens of barking dogs living side-by-side can be a little deafening, but also kind of cute. Going kennel to kennel, one thing quickly becomes clear: These dogs are much loved and greatly valued members of the Rancho Luna Lobos family. In fact, some pooches even live in very impressive doghouses. These deluxe dog digs actually have heating and air conditioning. Plus, Netflix. Yup. You read right. Netflix. Dana says the dogs really like musicals, especially Glee. Apparently, it is music to their pointy ears.

Some of these rescues have not been treated well in the past. That’s why one of the most sacred rules at the ranch is that dogs are never to be hit or treated roughly. Instead, they are disciplined only through repeated commands and always with affection. And while some canines may still be skittish because of their prior treatment, other older dogs are clearly learning a new, more peaceful way of life.

On Labor Day, a small group of us were treated to a training session with their husky racing team. Basically, this involved the dogs sauntering up and down the ranch trails. Fernando and the rest of us followed behind in a jeep. While the sledding teams are a mix of females and males, the lead dog is almost always a female. Fernando tells me they are more trustworthy.

As we navigated the dusty trails, the bond between sledder and his pack became obvious. With short commands, the female lead dog on our team (Foxy) responded instantly to Fernando’s directions. The one time Foxy seemed confused by a new trail option, Fernando and Dana patiently (and without touching) showed Foxy the proper way forward. Even though Fernando refers to his sled dogs as athletes, I can tell they are family, too.

The winter sledding price is $140 for adults and $125 for children 9 and under for a 1 to 1-1⁄2 hour ride. Bookings fill up quickly. The ranch also offers doggie daycare and boarding. There is even a summer camp for kids and a children’s book written about one of their dogs called Humberto the Blind Sled Dog. Humberto still lives at the ranch and, I can personally assure you, he is a very good boy.

Finally, as for another old dog learning new tricks, I came to the ranch expecting to write a simple, straightforward story about dog sledding. But what I found instead was more complex and more nuanced. Turns out, this is actually a hound heaven on earth, a sanctuary where Dana and Fernando promise their pack will be, “dogs first and sled dogs second.”

Thus, the moral of this tale (or tail) may be: Don’t focus just on how fast their four paws move. You should really pay attention to how much heart they have, both the dogs and the humans they watch Glee with.

Luna Lobos Dog Sledding
at Rancho Luna Lobos
4733 Browns Canyon Road