BORN TO PULL
MORRIS – What do sled dogs do in summer, when there is no snow? Some do what many humans like to do – camp out in Pennsylvania’s beautiful Northern Tier.
Twin Streams Campground was the site for the annual Pennsylvania Sled Dog Club campout last weekend.
Amid organized activities for the campers, there also were things to keep the dogs busy and entertained, including sprint races called “dry land” sledding using sled dog bikes with wheels instead of sleds.
According to club President Ed Scheckner, of Kirkwood, the campout has been held at Twin Streams for the past five or six years.
Organizers also plan events for the year and discuss training methods during the two-day campout, Scheckner said.
“It’s a great way for people to get into this sport,” he said. “This year we had about 25 to 30 teams.”
Sled dog racing is not cheap. The dogs are expensive and the equipment can be pricey, too, with the bikes running about $2,600 and the sleds anywhere from $700 to $5,000.
The dogs mostly are Alaskan malamutes, Samoyed or Siberian huskies.
Liz Stanaitis, of Downingtown, travels with her seven dogs to be a part of the campout each year.
At home, she said, she and her husband have a nearly acre lot that the dogs exercise on year round, but winter is the dogs’ favorite time of year, when they get to pull sleds like they were bred to do.
Stanaitis said she started out with just a rescue dog, a Siberian husky she got as a pet, and then added two more from a rescue and eventually added more from a breeder.
Mary Holt, of Baltimore, Md., said this was her third year at the campout. Holt brought her Samoyeds – Daikon, 6 months; Chowder, 7 years; Sarah, 9 years; and Ambrosia, 4 years, in the back of her SUV, where they ride the entire way.
Her canines also work as therapy dogs at a local nursing home once a week.
Holt said she got into sled dogs after she obtained Chowder and started with dog “scootering,” in which the dogs pull a person standing on a scooter.
Last March, she and her dogs participated in “Mush for a Cure” in Minnesota to raise money for breast cancer research. She called it “the best challenge I’ve ever done for myself.”
Holt said she did the 35-mile run through the wilds of Minnesota three months out of a knee replacement.
“There is nothing like running with your dogs in the snow at 5 o’clock in the morning, ” the feisty retiree said.