Sled dog races are no place for the family pet

Posted: Tuesday, February 22, 2005

I recently had the privilege to serve as a volunteer at the Tustemena 200 Sled Dog Race the last weekend of January. Many volunteers worked hard and long hours all weekend long, but what I noticed was the alarming amount of spectators who brought their own pets to the starting line. I'm not sure if they wanted to show Fido what asled dog does or if they thought it would be entertaining to little Fifi.

Folks, this is not a dog show. These sled dogs are rip-roaring ready to go and they know that once they are hooked to their sled that in only moments they will be sailing down that snowy trail. Now, I really don't think your dog is having much fun when that many dogs are all barking and straining at their leashes all at one time. In fact, your dog is probably very nervous — and wisely so. Sled dogs for the most part are extremely nice dogs, but just as you would not walk up to someone else's dog to pet, don't expect them to pet your dog if they get loose!

Sled dogs are just as excited about the race as their owners and dog handlers and sometimes they don't always make the best-informed decisions if they happen to break away. My point is, if a sled dog happens to break away to play with your tiny pooch, your tiny pooch may not enjoy the experience. I have never seen this happen, but I just would like to ask that you leave your pets at home if you'd like to be a spectator. It just causes more tension, jumping and barking whensled dogs see you walk by with a dog. It causes your dog tension and stress to be barked at by hundreds of dogs all straining at the end of their ropes. Remember folks, this is not the Westminster Dog Show. This is a qualifier for the Iditarod and these mushers are here to do some hard work and I would hate to see their weekend marred because one of their dogs hurt your dog. Thanks for leaving them at home.

Janice A. Casey, Clam Gulch

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