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Dogs, humans adapt to winter with skijoring

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My dad and I love to run, as well as my three dogs. However, when it gets colder, it gets harder to run outside. It also becomes a lot harder to throw the ball because the dogs have more energy and the humans, less patience.

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One of my dogs, Tamarack, is absolutely unbearable to be around if he does not get exercise. Throwing the ball three times a day usually does the trick, but it's winter now, so we do something else.

Twelve years ago, when we had just moved here, my dad was running a lot with our only dog, Chester. My dad really enjoys skiing and didn't want to stop exercising with Chester. So, he tried skiing with him. His sister, Tanna, who lives in Alaska, heard about what he was doing. She responded, "Oh, you mean skijoring!"

Not many people have heard of skijoring. Skijoring is basically where dogs pull skiing humans in the snow. It's way better than snowmobiling and prevents dogs from barking in the middle of the night (a side effect of getting no exercise).

Also, it gives you exercise. It may sound easy, but it's really exhausting. The dog doesn't do all the work.

Skijoring is truly a team sport, and if half of your team wants to go out, you have no choice. If anyone thinks we torture our dogs by having them pull us, you are half right. The dogs are tortured when they don't get to skijor.

Skijoring varies from dog to dog. We have three dogs, and they each have different personalities. Julie is the oldest dog, but we've been having some problems getting her to skijor because she's afraid of the noises caused by the ice forming and there's not enough snow on the ground yet.

Tamarack is the perfect skijoring dog; he's super strong, loves running and has incredible endurance.

Aunnie is our youngest, and although she likes running, she has dominance issues, and her endurance isn't quite there yet.

My first run this year was with Aunnie, and my dad's with Tamarack. We went out onto the lake, and started out well. Aunnie, however, soon fell behind. We ended up going really slow, with Aunnie just trotting.

The past two times, I've been out with Tamarack. Tamarack doesn't ever go slow, runs at a steady pace and doesn't pull as hard as he can when you fall. When Tamarack and I skijor together, we fly.

My dad has actually been doing pretty well with Aunnie. They've been able to keep up with Tamarack and I most of the time, even though Aunnie runs out of energy quickly. Things work out nicely when Aunnie and my dad run after Tamarack and I.

The only animal who does not like this arrangement is Julie. She gets left at home with my mom while her buddies get to run. My mom, however, is just fine with being left at home. Her idea of fun does not include going 20 miles per hour on a slippery surface while wearing narrow sticks on her feet.

It may be too cold to run outside, but my dad, our dogs and I have adapted to the season. Instead of lacing up our running shoes and wearing thin socks, we lace up our ski boots and put on wool socks, while the dogs go wild.

Holly McCamant is a freshman at Frazee-Vergas High School.

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