Ex-pound dog becomes mushing star

Posted: Monday, March 24, 2003

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- A young husky mix dog adopted from the Fairbanks North Star Borough's animal shelter has become a star on the junior sprint-mushing race circuit.

Tucker has pulled owner, 6-year-old Corey Probert-Sanford, into first place at the Junior North American and Tok's Junior Race of Champions. The 75-pound, 1 1/2-year-old, blue-eyed dog was adopted in January.

''I like him,'' Corey said. ''He got me a bunch of trophies.''

Initially, Tucker placed third and fourth his first few times on a race track, at the Fun Races at the Jeff Studdert Racegrounds in February. But the dog was a quick learner in the art of solo sled pulling.

Tucker's championship development has surprised and pleased his new owners as well as shelter manager Laura Hood and shelter volunteer Carol Kleckner, who tested Tucker's ability to mush and recommended him to the Probert-Sanford family.

Corey's mother, Jennifer Probert, adopted Tucker after deciding to get some sled dogs for her children. She first tried to find an unwanted husky from an established kennel. There were none.

''We didn't want to buy a $1,000 dog,'' Probert told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.

Training Tucker involved teaching him how to pull on his own and not as a member of a team. Then the family took him to the race track on a race day to get him used to the noise and commotion.

On the second day of the Fun Races, Tucker took third and fourth despite stopping once during one race and hesitating during another.

Probert knew then that Tucker could win races if only he wouldn't hesitate. The family prepared Tucker for the Junior North American races.

There, Corey ran with Tucker while his sister, second-grader Shae-lyn, raced with a borrowed dog from a reputable musher.

''The dog that probably costs 2,000 bucks places ninth and the dog from the pound got first,'' Probert said.

The family is currently training Tucker to compete in upcoming races in Mentasta.

''He's well behaved. The kids love him. Everything is going great,'' Probert said.

Meanwhile, Kleckner continues to evaluate shelter huskies. Her own dog yard is made up of once-unwanted dogs, and she has run about 40 shelter huskies since she began evaluating them this winter.

Kleckner offered her services after a local musher brought 14 sled dogs to the shelter in December, according to Hood.

''It's allowed animals to get adopted that would never have been adopted before,'' she said.

Kleckner said 17 huskies that she's evaluated have since found homes.

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