Dog Sled Racing is All in the Family

January 20, 2017

 

by Jay Hobson

It would be safe to say that dog sled racing is not your average activity even in this neck of the woods, but an entire Windham family of four has chosen to undertake the sport, known as mushing, that usually finds enthusiasts in Alaska and Canada.

“About 10 or 11 years ago we had some retired Iditarod dogs, and, at that time, all we knew was how they pulled the sled,” said Kim Murphy.

Kim said that back then there was very little “dry land” activity with the dogs which she said is a lot of what they do now.

“With so little snow the last couple of years, we’ve been doing dry land racing where the dogs pull us on bikes (known as bikejoring),” said Kim’s husband, Steve.

Daughter Melissa won a gold medal in the adult bikejoring single dog category in 2016, according to the International Sled Dog Racing Association website www.isdra.org.

Kim said that after the Iditarod dogs died, they got more dogs and became involved with racing.  Melissa, 17, now a junior at Windham High, started when she was in the fifth grade and her twin sister, Danielle, started about two years ago.

“The dogs are really excited when they know they are going to be pulling,” Steve said, adding, “but when they are just hanging around they can be real couch potatoes and relaxed.”

Kim said that the family has four racing dogs, which allows each of the family members to race at each event.

“We can put all four together as a team to pull a sled when there’s snow, or we can hitch them individually to bikes for dry land events,” Kim said.

Kim said, even though they’ve only been racing for the last for years, “It keeps getting bigger and bigger.”

Outside, as the family demonstrated how the dogs are attached to the sled, the dogs were quiet and fairly docile, coming over to sniff this reporter’s hand and say ’hello.’  Then the harness came out and the howling and excited pulling against Steve and Melissa began as Kim and Danielle secured the other two dogs to the sled.

“They get really excited when they know they’re going to work,” Steve said  “They love it and are happiest when pulling the sled.”