The annual Itsago dog races took place this past weekend in Enterprise, however the second day of the event was cancelled.
The high afternoon temperatures, mixed with the overnight lows, caused parts of the track to become hardened with ice, which is tremendously hard on the dogs paws.
But the weather didn’t stop racers from coming out on the saturday to blaze through the six mile track that less snow and more sugar-like granular terrain and plenty of water.
Normally, the six-dog sleds would race on the six mile course, while the 10-dog racers would race a 10-mile circuit. However, because of the weather, all racers competed in the six mile run.
Chaal Cadieux, event coordinator, is relatively new to dog racing.
“This race is such a blast,” he said.
He explains the that managing so many dogs is very hard.
“You really have to keep calm, you start swearing, they will go wild.”
And with many of the racing dogs being just one or two years-old, the challenge is even greater.
Cadieux also says that when a racer wipes out, they have to keep holding on.
“I wiped out today…when you do, you have to keep holding onto the sled, if you don’t, those dogs will race away.”
The high-energy howling of the racing dogs only increases as they get closer to the starting line. The pedigree of these dogs goes back 10, 20, even 40 years, while breeders mix close to 30 different types of dogs to breed the fastest, leanest, high energy dogs.
Cadieux said next year, he envisions the eight-year-old event to be more family-orientated, and to host a race where all skill levels and ages can participate in it, much like the annual K’amba Carnival, hosted by the Hay River Reserve each year.
Normally, the races happen in December, as the name suggests: If there’s snow, “Itsago”. However, due to frigid winter temperatures followed by time constraints, the event was a little late this year, and perhaps it was the last available weekend for dog racing.