Meet Tenley Meara

When Tenley Meara is behind a dog or dogs, she’s either cruising at least 10 mph, or standing still. It depends on the season. If it’s the winter months, her booted feet are firmly planted on a sled pulled by a team of eager Alaskan huskies. If it’s fall, she may be poised to shoot game birds behind the frozen point of a German shorthaired pointer.

If you visit the Meara house, a remodeled country cape outside of Topsfield, Maine, it’s a guarantee you’ll see plenty of animals. Two horses cool off and relax from a morning trail ride. Two bird dogs, a German Shorthaired Pointer and an English Pointer, hang out in the house.

Maine guide Tenley Meara and her dogs.

Behind the horse barn is a well kept “dog yard” housing 12 Alaskan huskies. Meara, a registered Maine guide, specializes in taking clients on either winter sled dog tours or fall bird hunts.

But it wasn’t always this way. Once upon a time, Tenley and her daughter Miranda, lived sans dogs.

The Duke
It all started with a childhood dog named Duke, a possible Boxer/German Shepherd combination. Duke, Tenley recalled, went everywhere with a pack of neighborhood kids as they grew up in Harpswell, Maine. Duke looked to be a big, tough dog, but in reality he was a pal along the lines of “The Little Rascal’s” dog.

One of Tenley’s favorite childhood memories involved a duck hunt. She’d been “grounded” until noon for an offense she doesn’t remember now. The punishment was effective, because it meant that the young huntress would miss a morning of duck hunting with her father and grandfather. But at noon, she headed in their direction, reasoning that it would be low tide and she could walk to where they were hunting.

On the way there, she flushed and shot a black duck. Her arrival in the duck blind was triumphant. And she was only 12 years old!

She met her husband John Meara, who is from Massachusetts, when he came to Maine to attend her sister’s wedding. In the days before the wedding, the friend of the groom’s, and the sister of the bride worked hard to pull together all the details of the day. By the time the wedding was over, and John’s return to Massachusetts loomed uncomfortably close, they knew they wanted to keep in touch.

“We met at the end of the summer and kept visiting, and John moved to Maine about a year later,” Tenley recalled. “As a single mom at the time, I didn’t have any animals.

“He fished and hunted, so we had that immediate connection with the outdoors,” she continued. “We never seemed to run out of things to talk about.”

Bird-Hunting Honeymoon
Tenley and John honeymooned at a place called Bulldog Camps on Enchanted Pond. They went bird hunting, and enjoyed talking with the people who owned the dogs. What would this be like, they wondered, if they had their own dog?

So they got their first bird dog, a German Shorthaired Pointer, the breed that has remained their favorite. They got involved with the North American Versatile Hunting Dog Association (NAVDA). One fateful weekend, on their way to a NAVDA training clinic for bird dogs, they drove past their future house.

“There was this house, with a “For Sale” sign and the grass grown high,” Tenley said. “We got to the clinic, and we started talking about the house.”

Once they bought the house, they began to really enjoy staying home. Soon, they added another bird dog. And then came the horses.

“I’d always wanted a horse, and we converted an old chicken barn into a stable,” Tenley said. “I can remember John putting up the fencing in the pouring rain — that’s when you know your husband supports you!”

At the time, John was not an equestrian, nor did he want to be.

“I got a horse, and then my daughter got a horse,” Tenley said. “We’d beg John to get on the horse, and soon he began learning, a little bit at a time.”

John now has his own horse, a Palomino, and he and Tenley even competed in team penning for a while. But that sport was put on hold as more dog opportunities appeared.

Meet The Mushers
The Meara’s are friends with Blaine and Patty Carter, from Brunswick, Maine, who also trained bird dogs. Soon, Patty Carter would make a decision that would affect all their lives — she would swap out some work dog training for a dog sled.

“Then one day, there we are, a group of four ladies who have German shorthairs, and we come up with the idea to combine our dogs and have a dog team,” Tenley Meara said. “We’d get together three times a week, sometimes on my lunch break from work, and we’d have our dogs pull tires.”

“We didn’t have a clue,” she added. “Patty and I took turns on the sled, and we took turns running Team Shorthair every weekend in sled dog races.”

Tenley loved racing sled dogs. By the second year in the sport, she knew she no longer wanted to share the dog team.

“So, I either needed more shorthairs or huskies, and I knew a houseful of German Shorthairs wouldn’t work,” she said. “I ended up running a team of three short hairs and three huskies.”

With that mixed team, she competed in a dog race called the Can-Am, which is 30 miles. She finished 17th out of 38 teams. Through dog sledding she also met a musher named Paul Theriault, who is from Oxford, Maine. Tenley knew she preferred distance races to sprints — Team Shorthair was limited to sprint racing — and Theriault helped her build her team of Alaskan huskies.

Taking care of all their animals makes for a busy day. Often, one of them handles the morning feeding while the other handles the night chores. Both are professional people — John is a heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) technician, and Tenley is a business process manager who oversees the accounting activities and meal plans for the dining department at Bowdoin College.

Top-Notch Guides
Tenley’s guide service, “As the Crow Flies,” includes upland bird hunting, preserve hunts, dog sledding, canoe trips, fishing and hiking. Often, her weekends are devoted to taking clients on those activities. The dog sled trips are probably most popular, because the client actually gets to drive the sled. Meara allows this to happen by connecting her sled and the sled the client is driving, giving them both safety and a feeling of freedom.

“I found that the dog mushing community is really friendly, and what I’ve since realized is that it’s because it’s a lifestyle,” she said. “If you have a dog team, that means you are devoted to them and accept the amount of work involved — it means that when you meet you already know you are like-minded people.”

The Mearas love the outdoors. And they love dogs. Combine those two loves, and you get a rewarding experience.

“I’m a pretty easy going person, I like dogs and I respect them, and I can really relate to them,” Meara said. “They are tractable, honest and eager to have fun — and those are the qualities I also value in people.”

To contact the Meara’s guide service, phone 207-725-2738, or visit

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