JUNIOR MUSHERS - DOG'GED JUNIOR MUSHERS

Featured in the Nov/Dec 2006 Issue: As far back as I can remember, I dreamed of dogs. My name is Sarah, and I am a 16-year-old junior musher with a team that consists entirely of Alaskan Collies. Although not a true breed, they are basically enthusiastic Border Collies who think they are Huskies. As for me, I am a kid from Pennsylvania who dreams of being a true Alaskan musher.My obsession with dogs began long before I could talk. This story begins in March of 1990. When I was just a few hours old, my family placed a little pink toy puppy in my cradle. As I grew up, this spotted creature became “Fluffy.” When I look at photos I realize why my life went to the dogs.I grew up with an American Staffordshire Terrier mix, a dog named Timber. She was the gentlest and most patient dog I have ever known. Our ancient Labrador, Little Bear, has been with us since I was just three years old. He taught me so much about dogs, and most importantly, he has been a good friend. Promise, a beautiful Greyhound, taught me there is such a thing as a giant cat camouflaged as a dog. Although her life ended all too soon, she still has a very special place in my heart.

During elementary school, while my peers were singing and dancing, I practiced barking. I continually mimicked animal sounds, and even performed in the talent show three years in a row. I created slide shows, dressed as a wilderness girl, and tried to show other kids that animals are beautiful in every way.Four years ago my dreams of becoming a musher met reality. My first Border Collie puppy, Zilli, set out to change my life. When she was a year old, I knew it was time to explore the world of dog sledding. After searching the WWW, there it was, a Canadian Kicksled; I just had to convince my parents. Soon after, I discovered a nearby mushing demonstration, and decided to see how Zilli would do. The rest is history.If someone said back then that I would be raising a litter of Border Collie pups in a short while, I would not have believed them, but they would have been right. In April of 2005, Zilli gave birth to eight puppies. With mushing on my mind, they sure looked like a team.When the snow flew that first winter, I decided it was a good idea to hook up a five-dog puppy team. With Will in the lead, just eight months old, we learned the lines. He was like an old pro, and to this day I have no idea what sledding would be like without him. Sure, we ran into plenty of challenges, but enjoyed it all the same.My biggest supporter that first season was my younger brother, Josh. He helped with crazy hook ups, tangles, driving, dog care, and was just nine years old at the time. He is a natural when it comes to the dogs, has saved my life, and together we have learned teamwork through mushing adventures.And so the story goes, in November of 2005, after two years of novice mistakes, I found Sled Dog Central’s message board. I hoped to find a few e-pals my age, and began contacting some of the junior mushers. Each became a friend through the sharing of adventures, pictures, training tips, and we grew to know and respect one another.After communicating with approximately fifteen other juniors for several months, the time came to jump in with all four paws. I had introduced many of them to each other, and it almost got to the point that I needed a member directory to keep track of everyone. Soon I put up a message board, made a web site, and began taking submissions for our very first newsletter. This was in the beginning of June, and the first newsletter was released on July 1, 2006.We now have over 60 members, 7000 posts, and are growing quickly. Some are not mushers, but rather come from all walks of the dog world, including agility, flyball, herding, obedience, conformation, search and rescue, dock jumping, and more. Some members have even taken on other dog sports after learning from their peers. I feel that the very best way to help our sport grow is by inviting people, especially kids, who already love dogs.We offer newsletters, a message board, contests, and more. I have seen members excel in certain aspects of their life that they had given up long ago, such as drawing, photography, and writing. Dog’ged Juniors encourages everyone to contribute by submitting their talent.I would like to give thanks to all who have helped us get started. Many mentors and other adults involved in dog sports have submitted interviews, photographs, articles, advice, and even volunteered to meet in our online chat-room to answer questions. They have all been extremely kind and helpful.If you would like to help the club, please visit the web site for contact information and forms. We are always looking for mentors to help lead the way. Our quest is to create positive experiences and support for junior mushers and handlers around the world. We are here to make a difference in someone's life. Our goal is that our members will still be involved in dog powered sports twenty years down the trail, and if not, we hope they remember this learning experience to pass on to the next generation. Dog’ged Juniors, a place for kids who love to talk dog.Gone Sleddin’Sarah T.

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