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Dog sledders take to Winona Forest for Tug Hill Challenge (VIDEO)

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MANNSVILLE — It was a day for the dogs Saturday, as they pulled sleds in Winona Forest during the Tug Hill Challenge.

For Lou J. Pereira, the excitement for his Alaskan huskies Sid, Cashew, Frost, Thunder, Jumbo and Ookie started as soon as he broke out the harnesses.

“It’s like suiting up for a game,” he said. Their energy, he said, makes the sport possible.

“You can’t make them do it,” he said. “It’s the excitement in them.”

The event, organized by the Pennsylvania Sled Dog Club, was last held in 2011, according to Frank R. Caldwell of the Winona Forest Recreation Association. About 20 teams competed in multiple categories Saturday, based on the number of dogs and length of the course.

The entrants came out to the forest’s Civilian Conservation Corps camp with a wide range of sled experience.

Jessica S. Doherty, of Central Square, who came up with her fiance, Brian E. Weir, has had her share of success on a sled: she won the six-dog category in the International Federation of Sleddog Sports’s 2013 Winter World Championship, held in Fairbanks, Alaska.

Ms. Doherty said there’s a process to getting the best out of her dogs Eli, Emma, Lefty, Rose, Dean and Tim, crediting herself with only 10 percent of the team’s success.

“I’m like the head coach,” Ms. Doherty said. “I gotta motivate them; I gotta train them, coach them. We’re one team.”

Walter R. Schirber, of Boonville, said he has been racing for about 45 years as he pulled up for his run in the four-dog competition.

“They’re doing what they’re supposed to be doing,” the 75-year-old said. “It’s a great thing.”

On the other end of the experience spectrum, George E. Chianese, of Philadelphia, Pa., competed with his dogs Sachi, Isabella, Donzi and Ollie for the first time in snow. The thick snow quickly tired his dogs, which slowed down to a walking pace shortly after their start.

“I knew I was in for a long race,” he said.

With the finish line in sight, Mr. Chianese’s dogs took a quick detour, diving into an inviting snowbank.

The first snow race for Baltimore, Md., resident Mary R. Wolf got off to a bad start as she missed her time window. Even worse, a line caught under her sled, which slowed her team for about the first mile before she figured out what was going on.

“I was thinking, ‘Why are these dogs so damn slow?’” Ms. Wolf said.

With some extra speed, Ms. Wolf closed faster than she started, raising her arms as she moved toward the finish line. Afterward, she said that her run was a good training experience, and that she was ready to go for the event’s second day.

“After I get a good night’s sleep,” she said.

The event will finish today, with competitors repeating their races from Saturday.

Video from Saturday’s racing can be viewed at http://wdt.me/dog-sled.






Dog sledding in Winona Forest
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