No snow, but they go

Dry­land dog races event grows to in­clude more classes this year

The Sun Times (Owen Sound) - - NEWS - FRANCES LEAR­MENT

Barks, yips and howls filled the air as dry­land dog rac­ers - ur­ban mush­ers with bi­cy­cles, rigs, scoot­ers and some sim­ply teth­ered to dogs - com­peted Sat­ur­day and Sun­day in the sec­ond an­nual Sled Dog Sports As­so­ci­a­tion of South­west­ern On­tario’s North Amer­i­can Dry­land Derby at MacGre­gor Point Pro­vin­cial Park.

Or­ga­nized by Lisa De Gen­naro, 35, a Port El­gin na­tive who now lives near Pais­ley and op­er­ates Glacial Lake Ken­nel, the 69 class event - triple last year - of­fered some­thing for ev­ery­one.

“We had first-time rookie rac­ers who had lit­tle ex­pe­ri­ence and were look­ing for men­tors to see if they like the sport, right through to Team Canada mem­bers,” De Gen­naro said af­ter the wrap-up ban­quet and awards cer­e­mony at the Queen’s in Port El­gin. De Gen­naro is a multi-medal win­ner at In­ter­na­tional sled dog com­pe­ti­tions, along with Karen Koehler who won four events at the derby.

Three week­end events, Bike­jor­ing (dog and bike), scooter and Cani­cross (hu­man teth­ered to dog) were sanc­tioned by the In­ter­na­tional Fed­er­a­tion of Sled Dog Sports and win­ners at MacGre­gor col­lected points in a sea­son cham­pi­onship cam­paign. The other events in­cluded four­dog rigs, one and two-dog scoot­ers and two-dog Kid and Mutt and ranged from 100 yards for kids to four miles for sev­eral classes.

For De Gen­naro, it was a day of fast rac­ing, fun, “lots of good ques­tions from spec­ta­tors”, but also a lit­tle frus­trat­ing as a friend, Lori Leaney, who set a per­sonal best time rac­ing four of De Gen­naro’s dogs and beat her in sev­eral heats to take sec­ond place over De Gen­naro’s third place fin­ish which was also her per­sonal best.

“I would like to see more spec­ta­tors - this is high-cal­i­bre rac­ing and it’s ex­cit­ing for peo­ple to meet the com­peti­tors and their dogs and learn more about the sport,” she said, pleased that the pub­lic had so many good ques­tions about the sports and car­ing for the dogs. She said 32 com­peti­tors shared a $3,000 purse. and there were tro­phies for the win­ners and medals for sec­ond and third podium plac­ers.

De Gen­naro cur­rently has 19 reg­is­tered pure­bred Siberian Huskies at her ken­nel with 11 pup­pies in two re­cent lit­ters. She will be­gin har­ness train­ing the pups this spring to see if they want to be sled dogs.

“Any dog that would be to­tally happy on a couch and not rac­ing, I will find it a good home,” De Gen­naro said.

When not com­pet­ing, De Gen­naro is a cost and sched­ul­ing tech­ni­cian at Bruce Power.

One com­peti­tor, Port El­gin’s Bill Forsyth and This­tle, a nine-yearold Husky/Wolf mix, ran dead last in the one-dog scooter heats Nov. 4 and 5, but This­tle boasted a red gib­bon af­ter the rac­ing as Forsyth noted she raced, pulling Forsyth on a Pawtreker, against dogs onethird her age.

Forsyth has a team of sled dogs and uses the scooter for dry­land train­ing.

One of a fastest rac­ers of the day - world com­peti­tor Karen Koehler, earned first place fin­ishes in four events in­clud­ing one and two-dog bikes and scoot­ers.

The MacGre­gor derby ended the dry­land rac­ing sea­son for most com­peti­tors, who will re­sume rac­ing in Fe­bru­ary.

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO

Bert Langlois set a per­sonal best two-heat com­bined time of 53:07-38 in the four-dog rig to place sixth on Sat­ur­day at MacGre­gor Point Pro­vin­cial Park for the dry­land sled dog derby.

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