Estherville Daily News from Estherville, Iowa on February 10, 1972 · Page 11
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Estherville Daily News from Estherville, Iowa · Page 11

Estherville, Iowa
Issue Date:
Thursday, February 10, 1972
Page 11
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Is Entered Here ESTHERVILLE DAILY NEWS, THURS., FEB. 10,1972 Page 10 Woman is Top Sled Dog Racer EDITOR'S NOTE: The following story appeared in the Des Moines Sunday Register this ,week. It should be noted that Art Allen was the person who made the initial contact with Estherville to host the first All-Iowa Sled Dog Championships. The Aliens have registered as participants in the races here Saturday and Sunday. FROM THE DES MOINES SUNDAY REGISTER BY LARRY STONE SWISHER, la. - When Art Allen's family moved from a southern Manitoba farm to the rugged north country around The Pas, Manitoba, about 25 years ago, the youth was so lonely for animals that he began to catch stray dogs and train them for companionship. He taught the dogs to pull a sled, which he used to run his trapline and to enter local dog team races. Art now lives on a 30-acre farm near Swisher, but he still hasn't lost his affection for dogs — or for dog sled racing. Art and his wife Judy own nearly 50 sled dogs, and one— or both— Aliens race teams nearly every winter weekend. In mid-January, Judy and her seven-dog team captured the 10- mile Class B title at the All- American ChampionshipSledDog Races at Ely, Minn. Judy won over a field of about 30 competitors — most of them men. She plans to race her dogs in at least seven different events in Minnesota, Iowa, Michigan, and Wisconsin. When the Aliens aren't on the road with their dogs, Art operates a service station at a busy intersection on the south side of Cedar Rapids. He frequently must work until 6 p.m. during the winter — further complicating the busy schedule necessary to care for the dogs, take them on practice runs, and get ready for races. Judy maintains a grooming and obedience training service for lc^' 1 cal show dog owners, as well as handling many of the chores involved with caring for the Allen's huskies. Art and Judy usually try to give the dogs a practice run at least once a week. But they try to make the dogs feel like the "practice" is just as important as the race itself. "When you take them out," said Judy, "you're always geared to racing." The Aliens start training in earnest for the winter races as soon in the fall as the temperature drops low enough— about 50 degrees — to prevent the dogs from suffering from heat prostration. When there's no snow on the ground, the dogs pull a wheeled cart instead of a sled. Art began racing dogs when he was 10 years old and has kept it up ever since. He claims at least three "world championship" titles, including one at The Pas and two at Laconia, N.H. Although Art didn't convince Judy to try racing them until about 10 years ago, she now bubbles with enthusiasm about her dog racing. Even bitterly cold weather doesn'i dampen her spirit — at the Ely, Minn., races the nighttime temperature dropped to nearly 50 degrees below zero. While Judy admits that 50 below is pretty cold, she says the dogs run better if the weather is cold — about zero is ideal. Exceptionally cold weather can cause the dogs to frostbite their lungs, though, so most drivers avoid running their dogs at 40 or 50 below, she said. The temperature can affect the sleds, as well as the dogs, so the Aliens have sleds with both steel and plastic lined runners. The steel-runnered sled pulls better in warmer weather, while the plastic runners go better when it's cold. The sleds are made of wood lashed together with rawhide and are custom-built to the Allen's own specifications. They're lightweight for racing, weighing less than 40 pounds. Even the harnesses are made to keep the weight at a minimum — Judy makes them herself of colorful nylon. To take even more weight off the dogs, the driver "pumps" or "pedals" with his foot as much as possible. There's more to it than just getting on and hanging on," Judy laughed. Judy credits some of the dogs with extraordinary intelligence. She claims that her lead dog— Red Rider — can follow the count down at the start of a race, counting backwards with the starter so he's poised to take off at full steam when the count reaches one. "A lead dog is a fantastic dog," she said. "They know it's a tremendous responsibility." Though the air rings with a chorus of howls, yelps, whines and impatient barks when the Aliens are hitching up their dog teams, the animals fall silent when they begin running. Contrary to the popular conception of a driver urging his dogs across the snow with cries of "Mush! " Art and Judy spur their dogs to action at the start of a race with a simple "OK" or "All right." And their only commands during the race are "Gee" or "Haw" to make the dogs go to the right or left. The Aliens admit that dog sled racing can become a rather ex­ pensive hobby. Their dogs eat 100 pounds of dog food and 50 pounds of meat a week, for instance, and a good lead dog can cost as much as $2,000. Add on the expense of hauling a truckload of dogs more than 1,000 miles to race, and the overhead mounts in a hurry. But the Aliens gain at least some satisfaction from their bulging trophy case, and their strong showing at races is good advertising for the dogs they raise to sell. Though the Allen's three children haven't begun racing yet, 11- year-old Dawn and 13-year-old Kurt sometimes drive a miniature sled with up to three dogs for practice. Four-year-old Michelle occasionally rides along in the small sled. Dog sledding as a sport doesn't even compare with snowmobiling as far as sheer numbers are con­ cerned, but the "purists" who prefer animal power to machine power apparently are a dedicated band. "Once you're out with a team, it's utter silence— a feeling like you've never had before," said Judy. "You can't say that behind a roaring snowmobile." 1 1 ' yyt Dashing Toward Estherville's Husky Races (Photo Courtesy of Des Moines Register) Mrs. Judy Allen stands on sledas she zips across the frozen earth near the Coralville Reservoir for competition in the First All Iowa Sled Dog Championships at Esthervllle Saturday andSunday north of Iowa City while training a team of husky dogs owned by her and her husband, Art, The Aliens, who live at Swisher, own about 50 sled dogs, most of them Alaskan or Siberian huskies." Don't Speak of Sled Dog as Plain Husky A good sled dog doesn't have to be a husky, as will be attested by numerous entries at the First All Iowa Sled Dog Championships in Estherville Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 12 and 13. Today, many drivers are preferring cross-breeds of the Husky and Hound. Some drivers are driving all hound dogs but any dog that can stand the rugged trails can be used as a sled dog in racing teams. Many of the dogs, especially lead dogs, are also pets in private life, love petting and accept this as a reward for work well done. Often the female is found to be more eager and de­ pendable than the male although most teams contain both. Some of the dogs found in the teams this weekend will likely be the Malamute, the Alaskan Husky, the Samoyed, the Siberian Husky, the Indian Dog, and the Crossbreds, although often Labradors and similar dogs are often found in the teams. THE MALAMUTE is the only pure bred Artie sled dog which originated in North America. Primarily a freight dog rather than a racing dog, the Malamute influence on racing is still great., Being much larger and heavier than any of the Husky strains he does not have great speed. He does, however, have great stamina for hauling heavy loads for a long distance. Naturally gentle and affectionate, the Malamute can be distinguished from other huskies by its heavier build, blunter muzzle and wider ear set. It ranges in weight from 75 to 125 pounds. THE ALASKAN HUSKY is like a fine cigar, a blending of many Arctic breeds to create a superior racing and working dog, dating back to the Alaskan gold rush days of 1880. It is difficult to categorize this breeds appearance because each dog will reflect the most prominent part of his ancestry. In most part, the Alaskan Husky is a tall, long, light of body and leg, appear in all husky colors, generally gray and white with distinctive facial markings. Eyes are either light blue or brown, temperament is alert and friendly showing great love and intelligence. In more recent years Alaskan Huskies have become popular pets for the general public. Weighing between 40 and 60 pounds, in harness the Alaskan Husky is hard to beat and is rapidly establishing itself as a top racing contender. •.IT tf THE SAMOYED, of all modern breeds is the most nearly akin to the primative dog. Originating somewhere in Asia hundreds of years ago, this ancient, fluffy white dog served his nomadic masters as a herder of reindeer and beast of burden. Later, the Samoyed's dense, warm coat, plus his prowess as a freighter, made him a favorite sled dog of such Artie and Antartic explorers as Shackleton, Nansen and Scott. Today, the Samoyed is a valued companion and pet exhibiting the same loving temperament that has endeared all Arctic breeds to their owners around the world. And while the 'Sammy' has never been widely used as a racer, he is a popular pleasure worker. The Samoyed is a medium sized dog, uniformly white, very long coated with brown eyes. Their weight ranges from 40 to 70 pounds. THE SIBERIAN HUSKY is a pure bred dog and is the most popular and most successful registered racing breed. They are the smallest of the Huskie and are probably the gentlest, most affectionate pure bred in the world today. A native of Northeastern Siberia, the dogs served as a beast of burden and as a guardian and companion for the children of the country. Today the Siberian is rapidly growing in popularity as a pet and companion the world over. They are extremely alert and intelligent and can be trained for most any kind of work. Unlike other dense coated breeds, the Siberian is extremely free of body odor, can adapt to all kinds of living conditions, city or country, warm or cold climates. Their coat can be grey, black, white or piebald with either brown or blue eyes. Siberians were brought to Alas- Two Types of Teams in Previous Race ka for the first time in 1909 specifically for sled dog racing. Their great speed and stamina quickly established them as a top racing contende r. Siberian strains are found in almost every racing dog today, with their weight ranging from 40 to 60 pounds. THE INDIAN DOG is about the most confusing of all breeds for a person to tell apart and understand. There are all types of Indian Dogs, all running fools, looking like almost anything in all sizes, shapes, and colors. They originated from many involved and surprising crosses of the Huskies with domestic stock brought in during and after the gold rush. As a representative of the generations of natural and human selection, his speed, endurance and toughness is astonishing. As a sled dog he unsurpassed, demonstrated by the fact that these rugged dogs have comprised more than 90 per cent of all first place winners in major Alaskan races in the past several years. They usually range in weight from 40 to 60 pounds. THERE ARE many crosses being tried, using coursing hounds, bird dogs, hunting dogs, etc. These dogs are called Targhee hounds, racing hounds, Aurora Huskies and Crossbreeds. The result of this cross breeding has produced some greyhound like dogs with a tremendous ability for racing. Many of these teams have been consistent money winners in past races. So with these few facts to bear in mind, take a good look at the dogs this weekend, pick your favorite, and cheer the team on. It only makes the dogs prouder and will likely produce better racing for spectators plus provide a small amount of reward for the dogs and drivers.

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