This summer has brought a lot of changes to the kennel. I had to look hard at my goals for what I wanted to accomplish this season as well as make some tough decisions about some great dogs. Some of my dogs were better suited to recreational mushing homes, and others better suited to distance mushing homes.
What's the difference?
Well, first of all, recreational mushing dogs can be any dog breed. Some people mush with Golden Retrievers, Labs, or any kind of dog who has a propensity for pulling and loves to run.
When it comes to competitive races, however, there are several types of races that mushers compete in. Sprint races, which are the shortest distances, are run with super fast dogs who are often crossed with hounds, like greyhounds. These dogs sometimes reach incredible speeds of 20 miles an hour or more, and run full-throttle for distances that are usually a mile per dog. For example, a four dog sprint team would run four miles. Open class unlimited sprint racers can run any number of dogs, however. The dogs that run these types of races tend to be shorter coated and sleek, leggy, fast machines. A popular sprint race in Alaska is the Fur Rondy.
The super endurance, distance races, like the Iditarod and the Yukon Quest, go over 1,000 miles. The dogs that tend to run these marathons typically have a dense coat and are heartier and muscled-up compared to the sprint dogs.
The kinds of races I ran last season and plan to run this season (and into the foreseeable future) are called mid-distance races. Like the name suggests, these races are in between sprints and distance races. The races I compete in are between 90 and 150 miles, and the dogs, like the race, are a blend of the best of both the sleek, fast sprint dogs and the woolly, muscled-up distance dogs. They tend to have finer bones than those who run ultra marathons, but are still beefy enough to break trail.
It might be worth noting that in mid-distance and distance races, mushers camp out with their dogs at certain mileages. A fourth type of race is the Stage race. In these races, dogs and mushers rest at certain mileage points, just like in mid-distance and distance races, but mushers aren't required to "camp out" with their teams; they can check into their favorite hotel and snooze in a cozy bed. A well-known stage race is the International Pedigree Stage Stop.
Part of my paring down this summer was out of necessity due to life changes. But these changes gave me an opportunity to really study all of the dogs to discern who was the best fit for my race goals.
In the end, I was left with what I think will give me the best shot at stepping up my goals this season and being competitive.
I parted with seven beloved pack members since the end of July. But they all went to awesome homes - and several are now full-time house dogs, which makes me happy.
This also left me with only seven race dogs.
So...soon three new dogs will join Team Diamond Dogs. I can't wait to introduce them! Stay tuned!