Alberta dog sledding group welcomes pooches of all breeds and speeds

Alberta dog sledding group welcomes pooches of all breeds and speeds

Alberta is well-known for its wide variety of winter activities, and now there’s a growing group of dog sledders who are proving you don’t need traditional sled dogs to get mushing.

Tamara Harvey is a second-generation dog musher, learning the sport from her parents.

She now uses her wealth of expertise to help others get involved in the sport by organizing safe, sanctioned races in an inclusive environment that has grown in popularity over the years.

“We just grew it,” said Harvey. “Some people wanted to be a little more competitive, some people just want to be out with their dogs. The community itself accepts everybody and that’s what we were looking for. To build a community.”

If you come out to one of these race events, you will certainly see your staple dog-sledding breeds like Siberian and Alaskan Huskies, but don’t be surprised if you also see Border Collies, Bernese Mountain Dogs or even a Chihuahua.

Alberta dog sledding group welcomes pooches of all breeds and speeds(Courtesy: Dale-Lee Vezina)

Nancy Thornton typically competes in the four-dog sled category with her border collies and euro-hound. She also has an 11-month-old Jack Russell named Foxwillow Sixx who is currently in training to join the team.

“We’re never going fast, but they can have as good of an experience on that trail as Tamara can have with her racing dogs,” said Nancy Thornton.

These planned races take place across the province over the winter months, and then dryland races that use wheels instead of skis in the spring and fall.

There are several race categories for dog sledders of all experience levels along with a skijoring category as well.

“Over the last nine years, we have well over a hundred members that have come to the sport and I have mentored probably 200 or so people,” said Harvey.

One of her mentees is Dale-Lee Vezina who only recently got involved in the sport with her Siberian Huskies and now can’t get enough of it.

“If only I didn’t have to work and (could) do this full time,” said Vezina. “I love the community and the community spirit out here and I just love being out here with my dogs. It’s such a feeling of connection.”

Trish Ives also feels that connection when she’s out on the snow with her Australian shepherds. She said it’s a great workout whether you’re on two feet or four.

“I’m going to come back [from the race] and my face is going to be very red,” Ives laughed. “In the beginning, it’s very nerve-wracking. You’re nervous, you’re scared, you’re emotions are going crazy and then [the dogs] get running and everything falls into place.”

While setting a new time record is a plus, for most mushers, having some tired-out pooches at the end of the day is a reward in itself.

For those interested in learning more about dog sledding, safety measures and upcoming race events, Harvey encourages people to check out the Alberta Mushers group on Facebook.

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