What Would I Do Without . . .

My dream would not be coming true if it were not for these fine folks!


Claire is my mentor extraordinaire! For some reason, she caught wind of my interest in stepping up my mushing abilities this season and she offered to board dogs for me (because I don't have land) and help me select good dogs to train with. Claire caught the mushing bug after taking a trip with Kathleen Anderson (see below) and she never turned back. She quickly became a competitive musher and placed  second in the legendary John Beargrease sled dog race during her rookie year. After illness slowed down her racing days, she continue to breed top-of-the-line eurohounds and Alaskan huskies and has mentored other very lucky mushers.

Rita is a highly competitive mid-distance musher, who together with her husband Bill run Stoney Creek Kennel, home of 40+ Alaskan Huskies. Rita has been racing dogs for more than 10 years, and in 2001 was the first woman to finish the Can Am 250 race in Maine. In 2007, she placed second in that race to become the the highest placing woman in the history of the area. Rita has also taken placed in the John Beargrease marathon. Rita and Bill live in Tofte, Minnesota, and give sled dog rides in the winter. Rita's breeding program has produced fast and tough dogs, and her training approach leads to happy, healthy, adaptable, unflappable dogs. Rita made it possible for me to train with five of her highly experienced canine athletes: Penya, Colt, Greyling, Elias, and Lydia ("Lids).

Chris is a fine musher who I've met through Claire and who has also been mentoring me. Together with Claire, Chris runs the WolfMoon team of 10 gorgeous dogs. Chris, who has a black belt in karate (of multiple high degrees) also teaches the martial art and designs and builds sets for theaters in the Twin Cities. She has every power tool known to human kind and graciously (and patiently) teaches me how to use them!

Chris convinced me I should give dog sledding a try. She runs The Wild Institute and guides groups of women on amazing adventures. I took a Wild Institute trip to the Midriff Islands in the Sea of Cortez in 2007 and kayaked, swam with sea lions near their protected rookery, climbed a mountain, stayed in a yurt, caught dinner while deep-sea fishing, provided a moment of hospice care to a dying squid, dug for clams, herded little crabs in mangroves, hiked in the desert, and tracked coyotes. For some reason, Chris figured out I might just like sled dogs. She's good that way!

Kathleen owns and operates Wintermoon Summersun, a magical place where women can learn to mush and kayak. Her homestead is nestled in the boreal Superior National Forest. She lives off the grid, uses solar panels for electricity, pumps water from her well, lives in a beautiful Finnish cabin, grows organic vegetables, raises happy chickens, and keeps a kennel of 40 fantastic Alaskan Huskies. 

Copyright 2010 Shannon Mille

Shannon runs Diamond Dogs Racing Kennel in Ohio and has competed in the Jackpine 30 (in Michigan's Upper Penninsula), the Tahquamenon Race in Michigan, and Punderson Sled Dog Classic. Shannon, a talented writer, hosts a fascinating blog about her adventures and is a very fine photographer. We became friends through our blogs (which I still find downright amazing) and it is because of Shannon that I acquired my first Alaskan Husky puppy, Ginsberg.

Maggie is a mid-distance phenom! She runs Mad Dog Racing Kennel and is frequently a top-five finisher in some of the midwest's most competitive sled dog races. Last year she took 2nd place in the John Beargrease 150, 4th place in the CopperDog 150, and 4th place in the White Oak Classic. Maggie has been super supportive of my fledgling efforts to mush and was one of the first members of the mushing community to freely share her hard-won knowledge with me. She also invited me to come out to Wisconsin and train with her, and even let me borrow her beloved Chinook to help train Ginsberg me me last year. From Maggie I have acquired the awesome RedPaw kibble, a scooter, a motorless 4 wheeler for dryland training, and a harness for Ginsberg. I SO wanted to acquire one of her puppies, but, alas, that was not in the cards for this year. After following her struggle to recover from a serious head injury that ultimately required brain surgery, I decided to follow her lead and purchase a terrific snowboarding helmet. Maggie is tough as nails and as tiny as as a wisp. 

Randy, aka the hubster, has supported my dream, helped me prepare the kennel, taken care of my house dogs when I've been sick, injured, or had surgery, reminded me when I was OUT OF MY MIND with some crazy idea, and helped restrain the spending that can quickly get out of control on this sport. He's my best bud, the one person who knows me (and still loves me) better than anyone else on the planet. He ROCKS!

Photo by Travis Anderson

Dr. Taube is just about THE best sportsmedicine doc and family physician a person could ever ask for. Some 98ish% of everyone I've ever sent her way (and I've send a LOT her way) RAVE about this doctor. The other 2ish%, well, I just don't know what to say about them. I've worked professionally with a lot of doctors during my career and hands down she is the brightest of them all. Her diagnostic abilities are far better than Gregory House, and she's a whole lot nicer. In fact, half the time I'm seeing her, we're both laughing ourselves silly. Good medicine indeed! I'm really sorry for kicking her in the face when she was giving me a knee injection, but it was a reflex thing I guess.

Dr. Boyd is an uber-amazing knee surgeon. He's fixed two of mine and will someday (hopefully some day wayyyyyyy in the future) replace them, too. He is a team surgeon for multiple professional sports teams in the Twin Cities (think Vikings, Lynx, and The Wild), but I am his first musher. He's the only surgeon Dr. Taube will allow to perform a "lateral release" on her patients. And he also lets silly patients take a picture with him.

Dr. Freehill is a top-notch shoulder surgeon who uses an iPad (extra points for this) to demonstrate what's wrong with your shoulder and what he can do about it. He took of spur on my right shoulder, shaved it down to give my joint extra room to move, and blew up my very inflamed bursa so it would come back happier and right-sized. I was his first musher patient, too.

Alex is a personal trainer wizard. While working out at Snap Fitness near my home, I watched him carefully working with other clients who are not exactly spring chickens. The first thing I noticed was his professionalism and attention to his clients. Next, I noticed how he managed to bring out the best in his clients without injuring them. I'd worked with trainers in other settings who thought they had sufficient the anatomy and kinesiology knowledge, but did not come close to Alex's professional knowledge and intuitive understanding. Under Alex's watchful eye, I became the strongest I've ever been -- and never once did I hurt myself while working with him.