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Dogs of Hope return for races

On your mark, get set – mush!

The air in Hope Valley this weekend will be filled with the howls of hundreds of happy, hustling huskies for the 12th annual Canine Connection Sled Dog Races.

While the race was plagued by a blizzard last year, it looks like the weather is going to cooperate for this year’s two-day event. Members of the Sierra Nevada Dog Drivers, who organize the event, can’t wait.



“We all have a great time. It’s a super fun sport,” said Michael Callahan, race coordinator. “The dogs are so excited when you get them up to the line. They love to run so much.”

The public is encouraged to come.




“The crowd is kind of fun,” Callahan said. “A lot of people haven’t seen sled dog racing. It’s hard to find the sport around California.”

Hope Valley is a good place to hold the race, officials say, providing for plenty of viewing.

“Most people really like coming out,” said Dotty Dennis of Husky Express Dog Sled Tours/Sierra Ski Touring. “It’s a real spectator event. We have a nice loop where people can see really well. Some places you can’t see anything until they come to the finish line.”

Dennis will likely be competing in the four-dog race. Other events will include eight-, six- and three-dog races as well as a junior event. A skijoring event is also planned, where participants essentially cross-country ski while tied to one, two or three dogs.

“It’s mushing without a sled,” Callahan said.

People are allowed to sign up for skijoring the day of the event. However, they should get there before 7:30 a.m. for a mandatory meeting for all racers.

“If people want to show up with their pets (and go skijoring), sure, we’ll sign them right up,” Callahan said.

Unlike some years, the 1999 Canine Connection will not be sanctioned sporting event. But participants will be competing for trophies.

Regardless, participants enjoy the event. What do mushers like about dog sledding?

“The camaraderie with the dogs, being a team,” Dennis said. “It’s nice to get out there on the snow in a non-motorized environment. We always look forward to (the race). Last year we had a big snowstorm, but it looks pretty good for this weekend.”

breakout

What: The 12th annual Canine Connection Sled Dog Races

Where: Hope Valley, one mile west of the junction of Highways 88 and 89

When: Saturday and Sunday, 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Cost: May be a nominal parking fee

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