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Mutt Mushers

posted: 03/03/2003
by Brian Siegfried

Nothing cements the bond between dog and owner like the iditarod, a 1,100-mile dog-sled race. But who has the time for a two-week adventure in in the Alaskan backcountry?

Instead, enter the Jackson Hole Coney Classic Fun-Jor, a five-kilometer over-snow race for novice mushers and dogs of all shapes and athletic prowess. Brainchild of former Iditarod racer and Jackson musher Maria Hayashida, the third annual event returns to Jackson Hole on March 16. Rules are simple: Teams of one to three dogs are tethered in some way (harness, leash, shoelace, whatever) to a skier. Who leads whom remains in question from the moment the starting bell rings, but teams with focused Fidos quickly distance themselves from those with preoccupied pups.

No one actually wins the race-a result of Hayashida's number-one rule: "Don't get competitive." The whole event is a fundraiser for the Teton County Animal Shelter and PAWS of Jackson Hole, a nonprofit pet-advocacy group. Last year, 45 teams completed the 3.1-mile loop, finishing with times ranging from 15 minutes to an hour. (The keg and pizza party lasts considerably longer.) Strategies vary: Racer Megan Shuman (shown above) tried to get an advantage by rigging a tennis ball to the end of a fishing pole and dangling it in front of her golden retreiver, Taahcabi. "We were trying the old 'carrot-and-the-stick' trick," Shuman says. "But it sort of backfired. He just ran around in circles the whole time."

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