Keith Bryar races with his dogs in the 2011 World Championship Sled Dog races in Laconia. (File photo/Karen Bobotas for The Laconia Daily Sun)
By ROGER AMSDEN, LACONIA DAILY SUN
MOULTONBOROUGH — Two-time Laconia World Championship Sled Dog derby musher Keith Bryar II, who died Saturday at the age of 57 after a five-year battle with cancer, is remembered by his long-time friend and fellow musher Jim Lyman as a caring person who had a deep love of the sport and always treated his fellow mushers with respect.
"He was a great competitor who always wanted to win, but he enjoyed it so much that even when things weren't going his way he could smile about it. He told me once that he knew his team wasn't good enough to win but that he was going to have a good time anyway," said Lyman, who is president of the Lakes Region Sled Dog Club and for the last 25 years has spent time with Bryar training sled dogs.
Lyman said that the club will definitely honor Bryar by naming next year's race in his honor. There was no sled dog derby this year due to poor snow conditions.
Lyman said that in some years he spent as many as 40 hours a week with Bryar training dogs and recalled one instance in Danbury several years ago when he was riding a snowmobile along the trail and went off the trail and got his snowmobile stuck in a snowbank.
"He stopped his team and came back to help get me out of the snowbank," he said. "There was no place for him to anchor his snow brake, so he said that he was just glad that his dogs were well enough behaved to wait until he got back to the sled before they started to run again."
He said Bryar was a favorite in Canada, where he frequently raced and won the Canadian championship in 2005, and forged close ties with Canadian fans and racers.
Bryar won his first Laconia championship in 2002 and again in 2011, and came from a family deeply involved in sled dog racing. His father, Keith Bryar Sr., drove to wins in 1960, '61 and '62, and his stepfather, Dick Moulton, won in 1968, 1971, 1973, 1975 and 1976.His mother, Jean, who once took a team to the top of Mt. Washington, ran the legendary Norvik Kennels in Center Harbor and won the North American Woman's Championship in Fairbanks, Alaska, in 1962.
In a 2013 interview with The Laconia Daily Sun, Bryar said he was proud of his being able to adapt to changes in sled dog racing.
"'The old timers like Dick Moulton used to laugh at me when I told them that my team would some day average 20 miles an hour. They said it was impossible. But we did it two years ago and I'll always be really proud of that," he said.
That 20 mph pace Bryar refers to came on the first day of the 2011 race, when his team set a scorching pace by finishing the 15.5-mile course in 46.5 minutes, a pace which was unthinkable for the sled dog teams that his father and his stepfather Dick Moulton won races with. The dogs on those teams were primarily Siberian huskies for his dad and Alaskan huskies for Moulton.
But sled dog teams in the sprint races changed forever in the 1990s with the advent of the so-called Eurohound, a cross between an Alaskan husky and German shorthaired pointer, which Swedish musher Egil Ellis brought with him to North America and soon came to dominate all of the major races.
''They're dogs with a lighter coat and tremendous stamina. And they're easier to manage,'' Bryar said at that time, adding that that he had bred his dogs to retain an Alaskan husky look but with attention to their behavioral characteristics.
Lyman recalled that Bryar's favorite dog was "Goofy," who was one of the hardest-working dogs around, and spent years after his racing career as a training dog who helped young dogs learn how to race.
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