LACONIA — Sled dog racing is in the blood of Brittany Colbath and her sister, Rachael.
Their uncle, Keith Bryar, was a prize-winning sled-dog racer, who also raised and trained sled dogs. Both sisters have been involved in sled-dog racing since childhood.
On Wednesday, students at Laconia Middle School heard firsthand about the sport of sled-dog racing, as well as the health, diet, and training of the dogs.
For the program the Colbaths, who operate Bryar Patch Kennels in Gilford, brought along Pepperjack and Anchovy. The husky-pointer mix dogs will be competing in the six-day, sprint race during the World Championship Sled Dog Derby which gets underway in Laconia today and continues on Saturday and Sunday.
The Colbaths, together with Brittany’s husband, Leendert van Dorp, told the students about the various kinds of sled dog racing, not all of which takes place on snow.
For example, there is canicross which is cross country running with dogs, and bikejoring where one or more dogs are attached with a tow line to a bicycle.
“You have to be able to run faster than the dogs,” said Van Dorp, who has competed in canicross events.
The presentation was timed to get the students interested in this weekend’s World Championship derby — the 91st ‚ is the longest-running sled dog sprint race, Brittany Colbath said.
“It’s a way of getting our students into taking interest in and celebrating community events,” school librarian Tina Fleming said.
The presentation also provided an introduction to the sport of sled dog racing in general, which will include the students studying about the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race which is run every March over a 1,049-mile course from Anchorage to Nome, in Alaska.
Van Dorp told the students that sled dogs enjoy running.
“They’re very happy to do their job,” he said.
He explained to the students that the dogs are fed a high fat-high protein diet and they spend virtually all their time outdoors.
Other than the fact that they are not house pets, “you treat sled dogs just as you would treat your pets,” Van Dorp said, responding to a question from a student.
Seventh-grader Haley Cochrane said she was especially interested to learn about how many different types of races that dogs are involved in — both on and off snow.
Hunter Lovisek, a sixth-grader, said he was most impressed with how fast sled dogs can run, sometimes as fast as 20 or 25 mph. “My dog is lazy,” Hunter chuckled.