Comments Off on CT woman embraces sport of dog sledding

MIDDLEFIELD, CT (WFSB) — The Husky has been close to the heart of Connecticut residents for many years, especially after the University of Connecticut took on the mascot in the 1930’s.
It became a longstanding figure in college sports across the world, but there’s another group of Husky fans in a much more literal sense that stay dedicated to the centuries old tradition of dog sledding.
Channel 3 caught up with a woman who has dedicated her life to dog sledding.
Julia Klaucke has been enthralled with dog sledding since she was a little girl.
Her crew includes Barks, Riker, who is 8 months old, Zola, Mochi, Kahn and Spock.
“They love it, they love to pull and run,” Klaucke said.
There’s still wolf in them. Old and cold habits remain ancient instincts urging them onward, but moving as a united pack comes with months of training.
“I’ve been doing it for eight years now,” Klaucke said. “When I was a kid my mom read ‘Balto’ to me and I was just fascinated by it. By the sled dogs and the snow and the winter, and I just thought it was the coolest thing.”
Balto was a Siberian Husky who led his sled team on the final stretch of the 1925 Serum Run to Nome, Alaska.
It was a relay in brutal weather conditions to transport an antitoxin to combat the outbreak of the deadly disease, diphtheria.
To this day, the Iditarod trail sled dog race, the largest sled dog race in the world, commemorates the trip. There is also a statue of Balto in New York City’s Central Park.
“Originally from Connecticut, but I grew up in Uzbekistan,” Klaucke said.
Unfortunately, Uzbekistan is mostly desert, so Klauke had to put her snow dog dreams on pause for a while.
“After college I got my first sled dog, and I started with a bike and just him pulling my mountain bike, and then my team kind of grew, and I started training others that were interested in the sport and it just kind of went from there,” Klaucke said.
She has trained with the best.
“When I first got into the sport, I went out and trained with a woman who actually runs the Iditarod, Karen Ramstead.
Ramstead has run the Iditarod 11 times.
“A couple of my dogs are from her, so some of them, their parents have run Iditarod,” Klaucke said.
Now, a Redding resident, Klaucke has become a dog sled trainer.
“Right now I’m a dog trainer and I do train people to do urban mushing and then I also work with shelter dogs. So I’m surrounded by dogs all the time,” she said.
Urban mushing is when you have a dog or two and they can pull you on a bike, scooter, or skis. It makes the hobby a bit more all-seasonal.
“We do this all over Connecticut. So, state parks, anywhere where there is a nice trail where they allow bikes, wheeled carts, that’s where we go,” Klaucke said.
For a dedicated dog sled lover like Klaucke with six dogs, it is a lifestyle.
“If I get home even at 8 at night. I go out, I put on my headlamp, I put light up collars on the dogs and we go out and we run,” Klaucke said.
Just like any athlete, they have their days off and down time.
“They’re couch potatoes as much as they love to get out and run,” Klaucke said.
The dogs can run hundreds of miles in a day and wake up the next and be ready to play.
Hot air from their howls hits the cold air with excitement when their paws hit the snow.
Without much snow early in the season, Powder Ridge Ski Resort in Middlefield provided a special opportunity for Channel 3 to see the dogs stretch their legs.
The pro’s top out in the 20s for speed, but to move as a pack they must learn the basics.
“We train them with particular words that they pick up, they hear the sounds they know what it means,” Klaucke said. “’G’ means right, ‘Paw’ is left and on by is to pass something.”
Over the years, Klaucke has as networked and promoted the sport by going to schools and talking with people that show interest.
“I love the sport so much and I love these dogs so much that I really want to share it with as many people as I can,” Klaucke said.
She added that she would consider moving to a colder climate to pursue the sport.
The teams that run the Iditarod have 16 dogs, and while she enjoys the competition in the Connecticut state forests, there is a simple reason to hook up the sled every day.
“They love doing this and that’s why we do it. We do it for fun,” Klaucke said.
You don’t have to have a Husky to do it. Some people use pit bulls, hounds or other breeds.
“Mushing, it seems for a lot of people that they say ‘Oh my god I never really thought of the sport,’ but it’s a really great way to get out and exercise your dog especially in the winter,” Klaucke said.
It’s also a chance to get outdoors, appreciate nature, and build upon a bond with your dog.
“When you go out on the trail and you’re both just all ready to go and share the same experience, you kind of feel that and have the same excitement as your dogs do. There’s something really cool about sharing that passion,” Klaucke said.
You can learn a lot from these dogs and the characteristics that they carry — Trust, responsibility, reliability, pride.

Comments are closed.