Hitch a Ride With Dog Sled Express
By Brandi Barnett
Goin' to the DogsJanuary 2007
by Marty Sternberg
Training dogs to help us with tasks started a long time ago. Who knows for sure how early man started to tame them. But the bond between the two has been growing ever since. We use dogs to lead the blind, help the developmentally and physically challenged and to heal the ill. Dogs can make us feel better just by wagging their tails and quietly listening. But dogs are also a working breed. They herd sheep, round up cattle, work for search and rescue and pull sleds.
Dog sled rides are now available in the North State. The Dog Sled Express Company offers one and two hour rides in the shadow of Mt . Shasta. These beautiful, highly trained canine athletes take riders through the pristine forest for an unforgettable adventure. Just 30 minutes from Mt. Shasta City, on the same road as the ski park, the company is working in partnership with the USDA Forest Service under a special use permit. Their new location this year is making access easier for the public.
Musher Pat Campbell started out dog sled racing and has since found a way to combine his love of the outdoors and the dogs to make a living by following his passion. But training a team to run is no easy task. There is a science to the way they are bred, fed and trained, said Campbell.
“You’re building an athlete,” he said. “You’re not just letting them go out and run. They train like a sprinter and need to build up their muscles slowly.”
Today the dogs are smaller and leaner, not the big Siberians and Husky typical of the far north.
Dogs are bred for things like speed, distance and muscle recovery just like horses.Campbell spends over $500 a month just on dry kibble to feed his athletes. Then there are supplements like super fuel, vitamins and even an additive for their water. Training is necessary for racing or pulling passengers.
The Siskiyou 135 Sled Dog Races will be held January 12-14 at Deer Mountain/Chuck Best Snowmobile Park, Northeast of Weed.The race attracts both sprint racers and distance. Upwards of 30 teams will participate in the sprint races. Teams of four to eight dogs race between two and eight miles while the distance race runs 135miles through three national forests. All the dogs must go through a complete veterinarian check before the race begins and distance runners have aminimum break of four hours, halfway through the race.
This year the public is asked to park at the Veterans Living Memorial Sculpture Garden and ride the shuttle to the races. There will be musher demonstrations, puppy petting pens as well as dogs and sleds available for pictures. Campbell stressed the importance of leaving your own dogs at home. “These dogs are athletes,” he said, “so we need to keep their stress levels at a minimum so they can go out there and work hard for their musher.” And these animals love to work. The high-pitched level of excitement is obvious as the team is set up for a practice run. During the off season, the dogs are trained by pulling four wheeled all terrain vehicles.
First chosen is the leader who sets the tone. He or she stands perfectly still holding the others in check until the sled is ready to go.And this is not an easy task.As each dog is chosen and clipped into the sled, the noise level grows, becoming a chorus of barking and howling with the dogs all but shouting “Pick me! Pick me!” Muscles quivering with excitement and anticipation, the dogs leap and bound, straining to get the sled moving. Even new mothers want more than anything to help.You can see it in their eyes as they watch which way the handler is going. They love their job.�
For more information about Dog Sled Express call 530-467-3009,
530-340-DOGS (3647) or email [email protected]
One hour rides- 2 passengers $160; 1 passenger $100
Two hour rides- 2 passengers $245; 1 Passenger $ 165
For race information: www.siskiyousnowdogsports.net