There are four youth dog races: six dogs (ages 13-17), four dogs (ages 9-12), two dogs (ages 6-8) and one dog (ages five and under). I missed the four-dog race, but made it to the other three. I love watching the dogs run, mostly because of the silence and speed. It’s the sailing of snow-travel: no growling engine, no roaring and clattering, just the smooth slikkkk of the runners on the snow. I was pleased to see so many of my students, more girls than boys, racing six dogs. I hear them talk about it sometimes: “My dad always makes me race” or “you just have to try not to fall off” but you can see they’re proud to be doing what they’re doing and having a good time.One of these dogs, called Princess Peach, has the distinction of being half again as old as her musher. Their home was on the course, so to keep the dogs from running home, the young gal’s grandpa ran the course with them.
The one-dog race is hilarious: the bigger kids can stand on the runners and hang on, but the smaller kids just get tucked into the sled and sent on their way. The announcer and spectators call the dog (though these dogs hardly need calling: they clearly love to run) and someone chases down the sled when it crosses the finish line. Folks in the audience laughed about the old days when you’d just strap a baby into the sled and set it on its way, hoping for the best. There was one mishap when a skittish dog decided to run the wrong way. A quick-thinking spectator made a dive for the sled and dug in his heels, but, if he hadn’t, that dog could have hauled the child halfway to Big Lake before anyone caught him.