Sled dogs compete under summer sun

If you’re a sled dog, summer can be a bit of a drag. Once the white stuff disappears, there’s not much for the hounds to do except lay…

If you’re a sled dog, summer can be a bit of a drag.

Once the white stuff disappears, there’s not much for the hounds to do except lay around.

Too hot to run — that seems to be the common wisdom around here.

But with the proper precautions, dog-sports enthusiasts can run with their dogs year round.

Jonathan Lucas, who started the Copper Haul Twister race series last year, is hoping to bring those winter mushers onto the dirt trails around the southern Yukon with a monthly summer racing series, which started with an exhibition run at Marsh Lake last weekend.

Lucas pointed to Europe — where dry land is the norm and snow is a rarity.

“In lands where long-lasting snow doesn’t occur, and temperatures rarely drop below freezing even in winter, dog sports are thriving,” said Lucas. “This is dryland racing, and it’s high time it made an appearance here.”

“The Twister was such a pleasant success,” said Lucas. “The interest is there. Some people want to take the summer off, and some get bored.”

Those with an itch to run have a chance to test their teams against others, in a friendly competitive way, at the first official Hot Hounds dryland race on July 28 at Drag n’ Fly Kennel on the Old Alaska Highway.

Overheating and dehydration are concerns for the dogs, but Lucas said most dryland mushing is done on bikes, scooters or chariots — the driver is contributing a fair amount of the power.

Also, there are no Yukon Quest-style distances to wear out the dogs — the longest race in the schedule is 4.5 miles, or 7.2 kilometres.

“If the dogs start panting, just stop,” he added.

As a general guideline, if the sky is clear blue and sunny, it will be considered too hot to race — ideal conditions are overcast and rainy.

Extra stops during the race are acceptable and expected.

Safety for the driver is an issue as well.

Without the natural crash pad that snow provides, helmets are mandatory.

Lucas also recommends mountain-bike armour for those who ride with abandon. He cracked his own shin pad last weekend.

As with the Copper Haul Twister, sponsors Yukon Gardens, Philippe’s Bike Repair, Icy Waters Ltd. and Yukon Brewing are donating prizes for racers and volunteers. A potluck barbecue will follow the races.

The final race is October 20th, which leads directly into the first race of the Copper Haul Twister in November.

“If you want to, you can race from July to April,” said Lucas.

Race schedule

July 28th — Drag n’ Fly Kennel, Kilometre 1.1, Old Alaska Highway — registration at 6:30 p.m.

August 25th — Marsh Lake Community Centre — registration at 6:30 p.m.

September 22nd — Icy Waters Ltd, Whitehorse — registration at 5 p.m.

October 20th — Fast Dogs Kennel, Haines Junction — registration at 2 p.m.

*Each race day will have three events: (distances are subject to change)

Race 1 — Single pet dog, 3.2 kilometres

Race 2 — Single husky, 3.2 kilometres

Race 3 — Two huskies, 5.6 – 7.2 kilometres

Check out www.copperhaultwister.blogspot.com for more information, race updates, photos and more.

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