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Northern Sask. sled dog race underway
Published Tuesday, February 19, 2013 5:54PM CST
Last Updated Tuesday, February 19, 2013 6:45PM CST
Jillian Taylor is a registered nurse, but Tuesday she traded her scrubs for a heavy-duty snow suit, toque, mitts, and 12 dogs and a sled.
She’s racing in the 12-dog Canadian Challenge sled dog race. The race is a 500 kilometer trek from Prince Albert and through the Saskatchewan wilderness that finishes in La Ronge. Mushers and their dogs are put to the test on lake trails, through bush, and of course, they have to deal with the harsh winter weather.
The trails and the weather aren’t the only challenges. “When you’re going on about 48 hours and you haven’t really slept it’s really challenging. It can sometimes be hard to keep focused and make the right decisions. You just have to push through it and know there will be sleep at the end,” Taylor said.
A sled racing veteran, Taylor won the Canadian Challenge eight dog race last year, so she’s bumped herself up to the 12 dog race. While she’s the one on the trails, she’s got a team helping her stay on track.
“Our job is to look after the dogs who look after the musher,” said Sarah Debrion, a handler for Team Taylor.
Debrion and her partner are responsible for feeding, harnessing, and general care of the dogs.
Having come all the way from England, for Debrion, the race is really a holiday – and she’s not the only one who’s crossed the pond to get to the start line.
“I was traveling through Canada on a working holiday visa and I needed something to do for the winter,” Nicholas Mears said. Curious about opportunities, the Australian-born dog handler did a quick Google search and found a job ad to work for Gerry Walker, a veteran and past winner of the Challenge.
There are eight 12-dog teams running the race, top prize is $6,000. Depending on the weather, the Challenge will crown a new winner in at the end of the week.