Mushers, skijorers lend a hand to help novices learn the ropes

Posted: Tuesday, January 13, 2004

Mushing and skijoring are fascinating sports, but for those not already in the know, they can be difficult to learn about.

Once the snow flies, many people involved in these sports are out running their dogs and unavailable to help newcomers. That's where the Peninsula Sled Dog and Racing Association can help.

This past Sunday, PSDRA held its annual new musher and skijoring day at the head of its trail system that runs through the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge in Soldotna.

Several PSDRA members fielded questions from a small crowd of people extremely interested, yet unfamiliar, with the ins and outs of dog-powered sports.

"Our goal is to get people interested in mushing to come out and see what goes on in a friendly and noncompetitive atmosphere," said PSDRA member Mindee Morning.

"Mushers can't talk when they're at races. They're just too busy. But here mushers can take time to talk and answer questions," Morning said. "We hope to raise an awareness of the sport and to teach people about what goes on, dogs, gear and etiquette."

That's right etiquette. Like any other sport, mushing and skijoring have several unspoken rules, and few things are more taboo in dog circles than leaving behind poop.

"We teach people to pick up after themselves. All dog waste should be picked up and taken home. Food should be fed in bowls, not on the ground, and if they feed out of a can, they should take the cans with them too," Morning said.

She added PSDRA is lucky to have its spot for recreating with members' canine cohorts.

"The city of Soldotna has supported us," she said, and PSDRA members intend to keep things clean.

The crowd that had come to listen and learn spent time petting dogs, talking one-on-one with mushers and watching demonstrations. Most said they gained a lot from the experience.

"I've been interested in mushing for a long time, but know nothing about how to get involved, so I came to learn more about it," said Robert Holland of Nikiski.

"I wouldn't mind getting into it, not for racing, just for the fun of the sport," he added.

Dan Beaten of Nikiski was there with his family and said he thought the event was worth attending.

"We've gone to a couple of races and the start of the Iditarod and it's fascinating, but it's like a frenzy with all the dogs and people," Beaten said.

"This is more fun. We can find out about the dogs and how to actually do the mushing. The atmosphere is laid back and the mushers here are really interested in sharing information."

For more information on upcoming PSDRA events, or to become a member, call Mindee Morning at 283-3954 or Mitch Michaud,the dog club's president at 262-4977.

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