Super Senior: Ed Blechner

Published: Mar. 2, 2023 at 4:21 PM EST
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ADDISON, Vt. (WCAX) - Just below Snake Mountain in Addison, Ed Blechner is ready to take his Alaskan huskie, Nanu, for a walk in the woods.

“You can see the whole Adirondacks, Marcy, everything,” Blechner observed.

These days, it’s just the two of them. The strolls also give Blechner time to reflect on his nearly 50-year sled dog career. “A lot of ways they kept me going, you know,” Blechner said. They’ve changed my life, obviously.”

This is a story about transition. Time stops for no one - more so for dogs, who age so much quicker than humans. Nanu will be turning 14 this year. “He’s slowing down, but compared to the other dogs, he’s in really good shape,” Blechner said.

He and his wife, Nettie Picher, are now down to just a handful of dogs, each one over 13 years old and with various ailments. “It would be easy to put the dogs down, but we don’t feel it’s the right time yet,” Blechner said.

The days of mushing with these dogs are over. Blechner -- who’s 75 -- and his wife have decided not to get a fresh batch of dogs for a new team. “It just wouldn’t be right, because if something happens to us... you know,” he said. It’s a tough decision because they’ve been what’s kept him going in darker times. “I think if I had been a suicidal person, I would have been dead a long time ago.”

Blechner says he has suffered from depression ever since high school. “There were some really rough times. There were times here, even in the early 90s where, you know, getting up in the morning would take me an hour and a half, two hours to put my boots on,” he said. But he knew he’d have to get up and feed the huskies. “The one thing about any kind of mental illness, particularly depression, that it’s extremely difficult on the people that love you because they want to help, but they don’t know what to do.”

Reporter Joe Carroll: How are you doing now?

Ed Blechner: Oh, I’m doing really well now.

He credits meeting Nettie, effective medications, and of course, the canines. To a degree, Nanu, Buddy, Moose, and Skuppy are like his kids. “The dog, I think, is different because there’s always going to be somebody responsible for them,” Blechner said. He says it’s like taking care of aging parents. “I think they deserve it, for all they’ve given us.”

How life has changed in just two years ago, as the once athletic team slips into its golden years.

Reporter Joe Carroll: What do you think when you see that?

Ed Blechner: Two things -- I’m glad we did it, you know. And the second thing is, it’s like...

Nettie Picher : End of an era.

Reporter Joe Carroll: What’s going to be that feeling like when the last dog leaves?

Ed Blechner: It’s going to be difficult.

Until then, the couple is content. “We feel they have something to give us and we have something to give to them,” Blechner said. “I look back and I feel like I’ve been pretty lucky.”