Thanks to the Oroville Mercury-Register for this news!
A California first: Dry-land dog sled racing at local park
By SARAH KINGSBURY – Staff Writer
Despite the unusually warm November weather, 50 teams of sled dogs and their humans came out to Wildwood Park in upper Bidwell Park on Saturday to help raise money for a nonprofit organization that supports K-9 search and rescue teams.
The Fourteen Angels Foundation was formed after the collapse of the World Trade Center when 14 search and rescue dogs were reported dead some of natural conditions and some of suspicious circumstances.
“Dogs don’t have breathing apparatuses or protective clothing,” said Eileen Burke-Trent, executive director of the foundation. “They’re exposed to all the toxic elements in a disaster site, and those are the sacrifices they make for our safety.”
After Hurricane Katrina, the foundation sent several thousand dollars to the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation to replenish supplies for the dogs, including lift harnesses, eye and ear wash, and special leashes.
“I was moved to help,” said Burke-Trent.
A top-rated Federal Emergency Management Agency search and rescue K-9 costs about $10,000 to train, she said.
The 2.2-mile run on Saturday hailed participants from all over the state to compete in one-, two-, three-, four-, five-, six- and eight-dog teams pulling scooters, carts and bikes. The times from Saturday’s races will be averaged with a second race today to determine the winners.
“It just comes naturally for them,” said April Wood, who co-owns Jaraw Kennel with her husband, John. “You don’t have to teach dogs to pull; it’s getting them to stop that’s the hard part.”
The Wood family owns about 30 purebred Siberian huskies. The race became a family event for the Woods with their three daughters helping to keep track of the 14 dogs they brought for the weekend.
“I love this,” said Kyra Wood, 17. “I was raised with the dogs so it seems like if I didn’t do this there would be something missing.”
Although it is the first of its kind in California, the dry-land sled dog racing this weekend spawned from the hugely popular sport in Europe.
Burke-Trent is currently working on a countywide track and trail system modeled after a similar system in Scotland.
“We want to develop this to be a premiere tourist event second-to-none in the country,” she said. “This is an introduction to a sport that will take off like wildfire in California.”
Rancy Reyes drove from Orange County with his two Siberian huskies to participate in the scooter class and to meet other dog mushers. Rather than buy his dogs from breeders as puppies, he adopts them after they have been abandoned at shelters.
“It makes more sense to get a dog that doesn’t have a home,” he said, rather than buying a costly purebred as a puppy.
The training and racing stimulates the dogs physically and intellectually, he explained.
“You develop a working bond with them,” he said. “They’re doing what they were bred to do.”
Mike Callahan, vice president of the Sierra Nevada Dog Drivers, added many dogs are “unemployed” in the sense they are often locked in cramped houses or backyards and don’t get the running time they were bred for.
“They’re bred to work and they need to work,” agreed Wood.