BILLINGS - For the first eight years of her life, Pixie the sled dog worked for the United States government.
The white Siberian-husky mix was a lead sled dog at Denali National Park in Alaska.
Officially retired from government service, the white dog lays quietly in her owners' home outside of Park City. What Pixie doesn't know is that she may be on the verge of stardom.
Harry and Lela Schlitz adopted Pixie and Sorrel, when they were retired from Denali in 2005. The adoption process is stringent and the Schlitzes are among an elite group to be allowed to adopt the animals, especially since they are seldom adopted outside of Alaska.
The dogs joined their Mountain Mushers Educational/Therapy team that works with children and adults to provide literacy-based education about dogs.
This year the Schlitzes self-published a book that Lela wrote about Pixie's days in Denali. "Pixie: Sled Dog of Snow Park" is the true story of Pixie saving the life of her musher and team while on an expedition in the park.
When the couple adopted Pixie, Lela Schlitz asked Denali Park Kennel Manager Karen Fortier if Pixie had done anything heroic as the lead dog. Fortier told the story that is featured in the book.
"It's been in there three years percolating," Schlitz said.
The story is of Fortier taking Pixie and a team on a trip to provide supplies to people studying animals in the park. As the name implies, the lead dog directs the gangline of dogs behind it.
Although Pixie's personality is unassuming, when she is in charge, Harry Schlitz said, she is the boss.
The story tells how during the trip Pixie realized the route her musher was taking would lead them over thin ice. Disobeying commands, Pixie pulled the sled to a safe route. The team included Sorrel, the strong wheel dog that pulled in front of the sled.
The book really encompasses the 16 years that the Schlitzes have been working with sled dogs, Harry Schlitz said.
The couple and the sled dogs have visited thousands of children and adults at schools and libraries across the country.