- Associated Press - Monday, April 14, 2014

STRATFORD, Wis. (AP) - When Tim Carey of Stratford was trying to find an appropriate sport for his young and slightly built son, he never thought it would bloom into a mutual passion that his wife also embraced.

Joe’s always been kind of small for his age. He’s thin and athletic, and when a friend of ours told us about sled dog racing, I thought it might be a good sport for him,” Tim said.

Being lightweight and fast on your feet is a big asset for a sled dog team, Tim said.

When Joe started learning the sport five years ago, he was 11 years old and everything about it came easily to him, Tim said.

“I tried it one time, and I was hooked,” said Joe, now 16.

“I thought we’d just get these two dogs and that would be it, but it sorta grew,” Tim told News-Herald Media (http://mnhne.ws/1mRLx65). “It’s a good thing we have a farm.”

Sleds and racing equipment fill the spare spaces while the family’s backyard is home to 16 kennels.

“We have 14 dogs now, and that’s a good amount,” Tim said.

Joe’s passion was infectious, and three years ago, his dad took up the sport. His mother, Laurel, also participates during the races by serving as a timer.

“It’s fun doing this with my dad. We work together,” said Joe, a junior at Stratford High School.

Between the two racers, they have enough dogs for multiple sled dog teams and other related events such as dry-land races. Instead of snow, dry-land races combine the dogs with sports such as running and biking.

Joe and Tim said they enjoy the camaraderie almost as much as they enjoy racing with their dogs.

“These dogs live to race, and they’re like part of our family,” said Tim, adding that the canines are supposed to live outside, but he often finds one or more of the dogs lounging in the family’s house.

“Alaska is a favorite. She’s got some greyhound in her, and she was the first one we raised as a puppy,” Tim said.

The races Tim and Joe compete in are sprint-style rather than endurance races, such as the famous Alaskan Iditarod.

“These dogs are called Alaskan huskies, and they’re bred for speed,” said Tim, explaining that most of their dogs are a mix of Siberian husky with a breed known for speed, such as hound, or retrieving breeds.

“When you’re hooking them up for a race, they are so excited. I think that is the part of it that we really like is that the dogs are even more excited than we are. They enjoy running so much it just wears off on people, too,” Tim said.

Joe has been bitten by the racing bug and said he thinks about moving to Alaska when he graduates from high school.

“I like dogs. It’s kind of a dream to do the Iditarod, but I’m not sure. But I do know that I’ll stay with sled dogs for a long time,” Joe said.

Among Joe’s favorite races is the canicross, which features running cross country with a dog.

“I like to run, so it’s fun,” Joe said about running with Alaska.

When it comes to choosing a favorite style of racing, Tim said it’s difficult to pick one because each has something he enjoys.

“This was a great season for the sled races. But dry-land races are fun, too,” he said.

The sport has been a good one for his family, Tim said.

“The local club is very supportive,” he said. “It’s not a cheap sport. The dogs and the equipment - that can be a big expense. But we’ve made lots of really good friends and my wife, Joe and I have a good time doing this together.”

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Information from: News-Herald Media, http://www.marshfieldnewsherald.com

Copyright © 2016 The Washington Times, LLC.

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