On Saturday, Feb. 18, between 12 and 3 p.m., Mary Beth Logue, a mid-distance dog sled racer who lives in Trout Run, Pa. will have a unique display on The Green in the heart of downtown Wellsboro. This is one of the free games and activities being held on The Green during the Wellsboro Winter Celebration.
Included will be some of her sled dogs, some harnesses, her sled and the supplies she carries during a race. “My dogs are friendly so people can walk up to them," she said. "Its tradition that a litter of Alaskan husky puppies be named based on a theme. The six dogs with me in Wellsboro are from the Wrangell-Elias National Park litter. McCarthy, Wrangell, Blackburn, Bonanza, Chitina and Elias are named for places in the park."
Logue got into sled dog racing when she and her husband motorcycled to Alaska in 2001. "We saw a sled dog demonstration in Denali National Park and I was hooked. It is my passion. My husband is supportive,” she said.
When Logue returned home, she read every book about sled dog racing she could find in her local library. "The first thing I did was teach my mostly lab, part husky mix how to pull me when I was cross-country skiing." It's called Skijoring. "I was on skis and using poles to power myself and wore a skijoring harness that was attached by a towline to my dog's sledding harness." For skijoring, the human doesn't have to be an expert skier and the dog doesn't have to be a husky but has to be healthy, love to run and weigh at least 35 pounds.
Her first sled dog was a husky her husband got for her from Alaska after they returned home in 2001. "I was addicted," Logue said. "I acquired several more dogs from Alaska and bred some of my own. All of my dogs are huskies whose relatives run 1,000-mille races in Alaska."
Logue's team is in transition. "Two of my dogs, both 15, passed away during the past year and a half. I have a 13-year-old with health issues and another that is turning 15 this week."
She is training two, a five-month old and six-month old. "A sled dog learns in pieces. "They are wearing harnesses and learning not to bite and wrestle with them. They are also learning to go for walks and listen for commands (sit, stay, lay down). They won't actually be harnessed and pull anything until they are 10 months old," she added.
"I have entered my team in mid-distance races of 30 to 150 miles in New England, Michigan, Maine and one in the Allegheny National Forest in Warren County, Pa. Some races are for six-dog teams and others for 10-dog teams. Each race has its own rules,” she said. The number of races she enters in any given year is dependent on if there is enough snow to hold the event. “In the past several years there hasn’t been that much snow so I have gone to one a year or none."
Beginning in September, she keeps the dogs competition ready by using her ‘sled on wheels’ to run her team in the woods near her home. It only takes about 30 minutes for Logue to harness her team and clip them into place for a training session or a race. They can run 6 to 15 miles per hour depending on trail and snow conditions. A longer race is usually run in heats over two days.
"Huskies are undoubtedly long distance athletes - better than humans and race horses," said Logue. She feeds them food high in calories supplemented with meat and, when it is really cold, fats. “They get lots of meat treats when they are training.”
"You spend your whole life training these dogs," Logue said. "Last night, my team wanted to run on the left side of the trail rather than the right like they should. There’s always something.”
"For me, the worst experience is watching my dogs age and not being able to do what they love. The best experiences are always the good runs when the dogs are so happy and proud of what they did,” Logue said.
“The most amazing thing about huskies is they want to run. As soon as I get home from work, they are begging to go."
For a full schedule of Feb. 16-19 Wellsboro Winter Celebration events visit www.wellsboropa.com or call the Wellsboro Area Chamber of Commerce at 570-724-1926.
|Bonanza, an Alaskan husky, shown with Mary Beth Logue, will be one of the dogs that will be with her on The Green on Feb. 18.|
|Mary Beth Logue's sled dogs wait to hear "Alright," her command for them to start the race.|