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Mush Larose: Having fun letting the dogs run
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“Our main purpose, as we see it, is to get working dogs off unemployment,” Cranstone said, with a chuckle. Sled dogs come in all shapes, sizes, and breeds, from the big-chested, blue-eyed Huskies most people think of when they hear the words “sled dog” to setters and collies and more than a few proud mutts who all have one thing in common with their pure- bred pals. They all like to run along a snow- covered trail and they don’t mind hauling along a human behind them, either in a sled or standing on a pair of skis and holding on for dear life to a tow-rope. The latter formof sled dog running is cal- led “ski joring” and is typical if a dog owner has just one or two dogs available for trail running. Ski joring is becoming more and more popular as it does involve as much upkeep as maintaining both a proper racing sled and a team big enough to pull it along.
On almost any givenwinter weekend in the Larose Forest, as soon as there is enough snow on the ground, the woodlands ring with the loud barks of sled dogs waiting with ill-disguised impatience for their owners to hurry up and hitch up the traces so they can start running all over the trails. The Mush Larose Association has been around, in one form or another, for many years.These days it includes an amalgama- tion of several local and regional dogsled clubs in and around Prescott-Russell and neighbouring counties. It is one of (if not the) largest recreational dogsledding clubs in Eastern Ontario. But ask Dana Cranstone, the current club president, what the purpose of Mush Larose is, dogsled racing is not the first answer she will offer.
Dana Cranstone and her dog team race through the woodland trails of Larose Forest. The dogs are happy to be out and about and that’s all that matters to Cranstone and other members of the Mush Larose dogsledding club.
Mush Larose has an active membership that varies between 75 to 90, from season to season. Cranstone noted that there have
been dogsled clubs using the Larose Forest for their fun as far back as the mid-1990s to her understanding.The reasons dogsledders have for pursuing their passion differ as much as their dogs. “Some like the professional racing as- pect,” Cranstone said. “For some, it’s the excitement and the rush of running with a fast dog. But dogsledding is always about a love for the dog.” Somemembers of theMush Larose have begun exploring ways to keep on enjoying their sport even after the winter snow has melted away.The club has instituted a sum- mer series of dry land racing events similar to what goes on in the Land Downunder of Australia where dog sled fans use carts and scooters for their dogsledding and joring. In the end, it is the sled dog that gets the most benefit out of Mush Larose activities. “The most important thing is the dogs,” Cranstone said. “They love to run. When they come home, they’re tired and they’re happy.”
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