Nexus

 

Australia Network
Nexus

Print | Close


print friendly page for http://australianetwork.com/nexus/stories/s1814579.htm

28 May 2009

Sled Dogs


REPORTER: What do people say when you tell them you race sled dogs?

WOMAN 1: Oh, they... Quite often they laugh, and then they start to call it a hobby and then we insist that it's a serious sport.

MAN 1: Classically, these Nordic breed dogs were bred to work in the snow, to pull the sleds through the snow and, you know, it's challenging in Australia when there's very little snow around. But the sport's still encouraged and people are very keen about it as well.

WOMAN 1: And you always get the response, "But there's no snow, you know, out in Canberra," so you have to explain that it's actually a scooter, not a sled. But, yeah, people are surprised, I think. Not many people know about the sport.

REPORTER: The Australian version swaps the snow for forest trails and a series of sprints.

CLEM BITTENDORFER: No race is the same, no run is the same, it's totally unpredictable, because you might have a kangaroo out there that jumps in your track.

REPORTER: Clem Bittendorfer started sled dog racing after moving to Australia from Austria 13 years ago.

CLEM BITTENDORFER: I just love the look of the dog, and when I bought the first one, they said, "Why don't you come along? We run them in harness and you can give it a go." And they warned me that it was addictive, and I said, "OK, of course." And when I did it the first time, it was only 500 metres with two puppies that were six months old and I came back and I said to my wife, "I have to do this." They've been named after Abba, funnily enough, because when we decided we'd get them, we were watching one of those documentaries on Abba. So that's Frida, and that's Benny, and then I've got a Bjorn and a Fernando, because we didn't have another girl. So, yeah, that's my Abba team. From a breed point of view, they're actually an Alaskan husky line, which is sort of a real running dog. I always compare it to the V8s and the Formula One. They would be more down the Formula One alley.

REPORTER: If Clem's team is Formula One, six-year-old Emily Hall is still on her L-plates.

EMILY HALL: I race one and it's always my oldest girl. And her name is Silla. She's my favourite one.

REPORTER: They look cute and cuddly, but these dogs are bred to run.

MAN 1: They're very different, they don't fit in the lifestyle I was imagining. And this is the lifestyle these dogs are bred for, is to be in packs, to run, to be active. You know, they're not a certainly...haven't been bred to sleep on the doona, that's for sure.

REPORTER: That's a problem many new dog owners encounter, and people like Chris Proctor often provide a new home.

CHRIS PROCTOR: I have Siberian huskies and Alaskan malamutes. Some were rescued. A lot... A few of them have come from homes where they just couldn't keep them any longer, and so they've contacted me. And I was lucky enough to be given them. And we have a good time. It's a 12-month commitment, like, full-time commitment, it's not like a pair of football boots or a set of cricket gear that you can just put away at the end of the season. It's, you know, for the dog's life. But they're worth it. They're worth it. Aren't you? Yes. Yeah, was that a yes? That was a yes. Good boy.