Warm Fuzzy Salute – Top Dog Mushing

Top Dog Mushing TeamTop Dog Mushing
Glenn and Brenda Lockwood.
Deforest, WI.

Mounds has sponsored my team since 2005. When sled dogs are working really hard they can lose their appetite. They’d rather sleep and rest than eat after a hard run. It’s vital that the competing musher present his team with food they’ll eat even when they’re tired. It doesn’t matter how great the dog food is if the dogs won’t eat it. I feed Dog Power Growth Extra exclusively in the off season. During heavy training I supplement Dog Power with a variety of meat and egg by products and other premium dog food brands carried at Mounds. The dogs really prefer the Dog Power formula. It has good palatability and the high protein, high fat formulation provides a good profile for active dogs.

It’s early December as I write this and the dogs are getting fed twice a day. They get approximately twice the amount of Dog Power as the daily recommendation found on the bag. To train by pulling me on ATV for 6 miles twice a day the dogs need a 2500 calorie diet. Some need even more. That’s about the same amount of calories a 200 pound man needs doing modest work.

My son Brian got me interested in sled dogs. As luck would have it he had just read his first chapter book, “The Bravest Dog Ever: The True Story of Balto” by Natalie Standiford. In January 1925 Nome, Alaska was threatened by a potentially deadly diphtheria epidemic. The only serum that could stop the outbreak was a thousand miles away in Anchorage, Alaska. There wasn’t an airplane available that could make the flight so officials hit upon an elaborate scheme to transport the serum using sled dogs in a Pony Express-type relay, using the almost forgotten Iditarod Trail. The Iditarod Trail was one of many winter trails around Alaska that had been winter lifelines before airplanes and modern communications. The serum was transported by train to Nenana from where the first mushing team embarked as part of a 20 mushing team relay to deliver the serum to Nome. Every village along the Iditarod Trail is reported to have offered their best mushing teams for what came to be known as the Great Race of Mercy. These mushing teams braved blizzard whiteout conditions, 80 mph winds and −23 °F temperatures. Balto was the Siberian Husky sled dog who led his team 53 miles, almost entirely in the dark, to complete the final leg of the serum run to Nome. The annual Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race commemorates the use of sled dogs as working animals, the Iditarod Trail and the importance they played in Alaska’s history. So naturally, Brian wanted a Husky.

Amber was a trouble maker. She was always digging up the back yard and would escape any enclosure. We decided that a male companion might keep her out of mischief while we were not around to supervise, so we naively bought Coco. Sixty-five days later our family included seven additional huskies.

Exercise is very important to the mental state of dogs and it’s critical for getting along with young Siberians. We set up a large fenced area for the dogs with a kennel in the middle to keep them out of trouble when nobody was home. Still, it was difficult to give the 3 puppies we couldn’t find good homes for the exercise they needed.

I was born in Fairbanks, Alaska when my father was in the military. One of the local boys had a sled dog and a small sled. He would take me for rides around the base. I was just about a year old. I remembered the pictures of me in the sled and I began to feel that our Amber, Coco and the pups were a link to my heritage: That’s when I got the idea of forming a dog team. At the time I had no idea that there were sled dog clubs and sanctioned races in Wisconsin.

The more I learned about Huskies and their background the more interested I became in working them. I started training Amber and Coco to be lead dogs. At I bought the book “Training Lead Dogs” by Lee Fishback. I followed the 6 week program outlined in the book to the letter. I began skijoring with one, and then, several dogs pulling me on cross country skis. There are no reins or other signaling devices to control the dogs when skijoring. While the dogs do respond to the skier’s voice for direction, they are motivated by their own desire to run. After a few squirrel chasing adventures on skis I decided that it was much safer to stand on a sled.

The sled I bought had a brake. This was a wonderful idea and it worked in theory. My enthusiasm for mushing grew along with my aspirations. I bought dogs from a musher in Michigan that was retiring and raised some pups that were line bred. I accumulated dogs that weren’t fast enough or smart enough to make somebody else’s team. My team shifted from purebred Siberian Huskies to Alaskan Huskies, which are not a recognized breed but rather a mutt with a pedigree. At some point I went from declaring that there was no way I’d ever race in the Iditarod to wondering if I could make it. My goal became to become qualify for the Iditarod, and if the logistics work out, make a bid for Nome.

But my wife, Brenda, wouldn’t let me spend our retirement money on a dog race in Alaska. I bought two houses, fixer uppers, in hopes of financing my bid for the Iditarod in 2005. It turned out that my journey to Alaska began with a trip to the emergency room: I had a heart attack. The first leg of my race was run on the rehabilitation trail. I lost 25 lbs but I was eventually cleared to continue on to Alaska. The doctor OK’d me to race in the Iditarod. I had planned on running it that year but knowing that my heart condition might worsen with advancing age was compelling motivation. I might not get a second chance. I haven’t looked back since.