get it home page promo

Race to Sky dogs pay visit to schools

2010-02-12T00:00:00Z Race to Sky dogs pay visit to schoolsBy ALANA LISTOE Independent Record Helena Independent Record
February 12, 2010 12:00 am  • 

Local musher Mark Ibsen brought some of his dog sled team to Helena Middle School Thursday morning, hoping to instill in students two key points: Dog is God spelled backwards, and dogs are worth loving because they are people too.

Ibsen is one of 11 mushers competing in the 25th annual Race to the Sky dog sled race. The 350-mile marathon, which begins Saturday at Camp Rimini, is a qualifier for the 1,150-mile Iditarod. A new 100-mile junior race beings Sunday in Lincoln and has five teams.

Sixth-graders at HMS were able to ask questions, look at the sledding equipment, and pet the dogs.

Students often wonder about whether the boxes the dogs are kept in  are too small, Ibsen says.

He told the group of enthusiastic middle-schoolers that if the vehicle is going down the highway at 70 mph, a small container is safer so they don’t get jostled around. Ibsen also noted that a dog is a den animal, and therefore doesn’t mind small spaces.

Noel, Jack, Luna and Blizzard offered wet dog kisses to the sixth-graders as they gave them affectionate pets in front of the school.

“Are they mutts?” one student asked.

“All these dogs are descendants from wolves,” Ibsen told them. “They are all mutts but trained to do a job, so they are purebred.”

Sixth-grader Levi Hill has never seen a dog sled race but said he was intrigued by the concept.

“It’s amazing how (the dogs) can run so long without getting tired,” he said.

Hill was impressed with the dedication mushers have for their dogs.

“They have to know a lot about the dogs and care about them,” he said.

Classmate Brooklynn Lundberg described the dogs as sweet, strong-willed and nice.

“They seem happy with the job they are doing,” she said.

Lundberg has never been to a sled dog race, either, but is considering mushing in her future.

“I love racing, Siberian huskies and being pulled,” she said.

A musher must be strong, willing to put in the time to train the animals, and enjoy a canine companion, Lundberg said. The dogs must listen well to commands and be friendly, she added.

“The dogs need to stop when you want them to or if there is danger, like a moose in the road,” she said. “Mushers need to train themselves and be able to live in the cold.  It means putting your dog first — they are your leader, but they are dependent on the trainer.”

Lundberg says she’s a good candidate for the job.

“I really am loyal to any dog if the dog is loyal to me,” she said. “I’m patient and like to do activities with them and most importantly I love to race.”

Ibsen began mushing in 2001 after handling the dogs for a number of years prior. He enjoyed the school visit for many reasons — first and foremost because he likes to talk and answer questions about a sport he thoroughly enjoys.

“It’s a great sport that almost died when snowmobiles came out, but with the strong commitment for the way of life of mushers, it caught back on now,” he said.

He says there’s a certain magic that happens on the snowy trail on a sled pulled by a team of dogs.

“That (magic) happens whenever the dogs are running in the dark and flying down the trail and it’s quiet in the sunset with a cloud of dog breath,” he said. “It’s a spiritual thing.”

Reporter Alana Listoe: 447-4081 or alana.listoe@helenair.com

Copyright 2015 Helena Independent Record. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(1) Comments

  1. Everhaste
    Report Abuse
    Everhaste - February 12, 2010 10:47 am
    Good luck on the race, Mark!

Civil Dialogue

We provide this community forum for readers to exchange ideas and opinions on the news of the day. Passionate views, pointed criticism and critical thinking are welcome. Name-calling, crude language and personal abuse are not welcome. Moderators will monitor comments with an eye toward maintaining a high level of civility in this forum. Our comment policy explains the rules of the road for registered commenters. If you receive an error after submitting a comment, please contact us.

If your comment was not approved, perhaps:

    1. You called someone an idiot, a racist, a dope, a moron, etc. Please, no name-calling or profanity (or veiled profanity -- #$%^&*).

    2. You rambled, failed to stay on topic or exhibited troll-like behavior intended to hijack the discussion at hand.

    3. YOU SHOUTED YOUR COMMENT IN ALL CAPS. This is hard to read and annoys readers.

    4. You have issues with a business. Have a bad meal? Feel you were overcharged at the store? New car is a lemon? Contact the business directly with your customer service concerns.

    5. You believe the newspaper's coverage is unfair. It would be better to write the editor at editor@helenair.com. This is a forum for community discussion, not for media criticism. We'd rather address your concerns directly.

    6. You included an e-mail address or phone number, pretended to be someone you aren't or offered a comment that makes no sense.

    7. You accused someone of a crime or assigned guilt or punishment to someone suspected of a crime.

    8. Your comment is in really poor taste.

    9. Don't write a novel. If your comment is longer than the article you're commenting on, you might want to cut it down a bit. Lengthy comments will likely be removed.
Add Comment
You must Login to comment.

Click here to get an account it's free and quick

THE IR ED BEAT REPORTER

Alexander Deedy covers education and business for the Independent Record. Send news tips and feedback to alexander.deedy@helenair.com. Follow Deedy on Twitter at @IR_adeedy.

Follow the Independent Record

Great Helena Businesses

Clipped From The Newspaper