NORWAY – Whether it’s a 30-something Alaskan musher or an 8-year-old girl, the Canine 5K hosted by the Western Foothills Land Trust amounted to a guaranteed good time for more than a dozen participants. Because who in Maine doesn’t love dogs?
When the fourth Canine Cross at Roberts Farm Preserve was held Saturday in conjunction with the statewide Great Maine Outdoors Weekend, serious dog handlers and casual dog walkers competed together.
“We’ll do another later in the fall. We’ve never done one in the winter but we should because these people bring a lot of energy to it,” said Lee Dassler, the land trust’s executive director and the race director.
In other states, like Florida and California, these dog races draw more than 100.
Maine’s is a bit more modest but no less fun.
“I really felt like I was dancing on my feet. Going down the hills, I had to pull backwards, there was so much momentum,” said Jocelyn Bradbury of Oxford, a musher who was trail running tethered to her pup for the first time.
At the Roberts Farm Preserve, a 165-acre woodland protected by the Western Foothills Land Trust above Lake Pennesseewassee, the trails that double as Nordic tracks in the winter create a winding, rolling forested race course for these human-dog teams. Tethered to their harnessed pups, the human competitors worked twice as hard running as well as cheering on their canines.
The preserve passes fields and pastures, ponds and stone walls. It’s perfect for a canine race course because the four-legged competitors can see the other racers just ahead.
And the dogs go mad for the chase.
Liz York of York came with her rescue dog that looked part bull mastiff. She took two to three minutes off her time as her thick, powerful pup pulled her along the trails.
York said her dog does well when they run together but when running behind or alongside other pup competitors, he shifts up a few gears.
And Bradbury took seven minutes off her 5-kilometer time racing with her dog last Saturday. Her pup, a cross between a greyhound and German short-haired pointer, powered her momentum through the entire race.
Bradbury said she also lost 43 pounds when she started running with her dog a year ago. So she’s now a committed canine-cross runner.
Meanwhile, Kelly Hodgkins brought her German shepherd, Ranger, to race with six of her children, who all shared dog handling duties.
For the children, Hodgkins said the canine race was a new adventure but for the shepherd, it was just a day with his human pack.
“His drive is to be with the kids, to run and chase them. He has no interest doing anything else. This is what he does,” Hodgkins said.
“We call him our 100-pound cream puff.”
Deirdre Fleming can be contacted at 791-6452 or at: