28 January 2008

Dog Mushing

I am a sucker for dog races and since I don't know if I'll be in Alaska to watch any of my favorite ones in person this year, I showed up at a little local race that happened this weekend in Colorado. I almost brought the Disreputable Dog and my skate skis, just in the off chance that we could register for the skijor races on race day, but since I wasn't sure I didn't. I had a blast. There were some great young mushers, 13-16 years old and one 5 year old who went off together with his older brother. It was entertaining talking to the people in the town who talked about the "great dog races"; the Yukon Quest (February) & the Iditarod (March). I heard them asking each other questions about the races and the mushers and since I've volunteered as a handler and know some of the mushers who run those races personally I stepped in to answer their questions. I love February and March, hearing the barking of dogs on my radio in the dark of morning and the mushing reports from the trail, trying to follow my favorite mushers, every year I choose a few to follow - sometimes it's ones I know, sometimes it's one's I just met because I handled for them, and sometimes it's because they come from another place that I have a connection to.

I love being at the starting line and watching the excitement of the dogs, every vocal noise you've ever heard come from a dog is pitched into the frosty air and excited dogs lunge in their harnesses like whales leaping through the spray, excited to get away and to run. When they finally get going their excitement and beauty is so much it almost makes tears come to your eyes. These Colorado races had one thing right, the whole community was involved. This seems to be tradition in the mushing sports that every community that either hosts races or has them pass through takes part in some way in making the race happen. Perhaps that is why I enjoy this sport so much.


  1. Oh, that's fun, I did a dogsled tour once in Alaska, the puppies theyre soo cute!

  2. "excited dogs lunge in their harnesses like whales leaping through the spray, excited to get away and to run."

    Oooooh, how I wish I could see this.

  3. that does look like fun. but cold. really really cold.

  4. That looks amazing.

    I had to go and look up skijoring, and man does that look like fun. I'm going to be on the lookout for any local opportunities now!

  5. now, that just MADE me smile!

  6. one question: are the mushers hot? do you have photos?

    whatever, two questions then!

  7. I know exactly what you mean about the excitement and beauty. Sometimes I like to go to the park and just watch dogs run. The sheer abandon...

    I wonder, has direputable ever been in a harness and pulled a sleigh.

    Anyhow, as to your question over my way, I have a button on my site called sitemeter, do you have one? It show where your visits are coming from, and you can see the word search.

  8. Wow - I have always wanted to attend one of these. Thanks for sharing - as always, your descriptions make me feel like I am there...

  9. I have always wanted to go mushing. I had a husky growing up.

    The Boy is very much a snow dog. I wonder if he would let me hook him up to a sled.

  10. Wayfarer, one of the reasons I read your blog is for your evocative descriptions of the world around you, which is so exotic to me. Thanks for this one!

  11. Selfless teamwork. Humans have so much to learn.

  12. duckie, they are adorable aren't they?

    hel, I'm sure your wolves would love it.

    slow panic, well, I suppose it is cold but it's all about the layers.

    cae, I will write a skijoring post soon!! And definately look it up - it's great fun!

    liv, yay!

    sciencegirl, well maybe someday for real but for now I'll have to simulate.

    jen, yes!!! Hot mushers!!! I do have somem photos but on this race my camera battery died :( But I'll be sure to keep you posted with the next race!

    maypole, feel better soon!

    crazy mumma, yes, the Disreputable dog has pulled sleds full of wood and sleds full of niecenephew and me on skis and many other friends (who are much better skiers then I) on skis. He loves a good skijor when his joints don't ache. And thanks for the advice, I do have sitemeter...but I've never really looked at it.

    qt, awww...thanks!

    seeking solace, any dog that likes to pull on leash is usually great in a harness!!

    parlance, no problem :)

    ms chica, yes, we do...hmmm...should post favorite mushing joke...

  13. I love the mushing culture too. This past weekend we watched the start of the local/regional John Beargrease mid-distance and marathon races. Just walking through the parking lot with all the trucks and howls is a blast.

  14. Oh, there is just nothing like the excitement and happiness of dogs. It brings tears to my eyes just reading about it. So willing to receive the gifts of pleasure and joy, dogs go straight to our hearts, don't they. Such good teachers.

    Thanks for this post.


  15. jocelyn, isn't the range of dog tones amazing?

    fireant, they do, straight to our hearts.

  16. Hi - first, I love your writing - I'm a former wildlife biologist turned science teacher and mother, and I know exactly what you're talking about when you write about your "ken for these long distant places, these remote isolated areas": one of my happiest trips was hitchiking alone through northern Norway to the Lofoten Islands north of the Arctic Circle - desolate mountains rising out of the sea, dotted with little fishing villages much like the one in Newfoundland pictured in your post.

    That's my introduction - now, to current stuff - my 7 yr old daughter's goal in life is to run the Iditarod. She's one of those people one has to take seriously, so your post has inspired me to Google dog races in Michigan, for it seems that what we need to do is go hang out for a day of races in one of these community events. Beyond that, any advice?

  17. abernier, welcome! And thanks for commenting. Please send me an email (you can use my profile name all run into one at gmail) so I can reply in depth.

    But for now some quick things: do you have any dogs? If you have one I would suggest you have her try to learn skijoring first and perhaps volunteer as a handler for some local mushers. Here is a good website for Michigan skijorers/mushers: http://www.shcgd.com/ If she volunteers for mushers to help feed their dogs or clean their kennels chances are they will let her come along on some of the training runs and then see how her interests develop.


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