- Associated Press - Monday, January 20, 2014

MANTORVILLE, Minn. (AP) - Tom Kryzer has no illusions that his sled dog team will ever race in the famed 1,049-mile Iditarod race in Alaska.

For one thing, the rural Mantorville man owns only four Siberian huskies and one Malamute. Iditarod mushers have 20 or more well-trained dogs for the race.

Second, Kryzer’s dogs, Sky, Mikita, Foxy, Kimber and Nala, aren’t exactly a finely honed running machine.

“They know gee and haw (signals to turn right or left),” Kryzer told the Post-Bulletin (http://bit.ly/1b67zbw). “They choose not to at times.”

And third, there are no squirrels or wild turkeys along the Iditarod trail. That’s important because when Kryzer’s dogs see a squirrel or a flock of turkeys, “they are off to the races. That’s always entertaining.” Otherwise, they tend to begin with a five-minute burst of speed, taper off to a dog trot and then, to a walk. Sometimes, they stop and rest.

But Kryzer isn’t interested in the Iditarod. For him, taking his dogs through the woods around his house and onto the frozen Middle Fork Zumbro River for a 5-mile round trip is fun for him and the dogs.

“I want the dogs to do their thing,” he said. “I’m in it for the ride.”

His interest began after he made some winter trips into the Boundary Waters Canoe Area pulling gear on a sled.

When Kryzer eventually decided he wanted sled dogs, people told him they would change his life.

He bought a dog, but it didn’t work out living in Rochester. So, he and his wife, Lori, found a home they liked in the woods east of Mantorville.

“They are not city dogs,” he said. “They want to know what’s around the next corner.”

He bought more dogs and a sled for them to pull him, but racing was out.

“I’m not getting any younger or skinnier,” he said.

Besides, racers run on trails, and “I want to go where there are no tracks. The river is never the same twice.”

Recently, after the brutal cold, the Zumbro River was nearly solid ice, and Kryzer had just endured three hours in a dentist’s chair.

“I need to get out,” he said. “I love it right now. It has been an excellent year for me.”

The dogs yipped, jumped, howled and nearly pranced when they saw him. They knew it was time to run.

He hitched up a sled and away they went through the woods and to the river. The dogs pulled happily along then settled into a trot. Suddenly, they burst forward -squirrel.

Kryzer took them about 2.5 miles and then turned around. As he rode, he looked for deer, but saw none, though he did see two large raptors.

On the way back, the dogs again broke into a run. Maybe 100 yards ahead, five turkeys ran across the river and about a dozen more flew overhead.

Then the five dogs settled into a slow walk.

“Hup, hup,” he said, telling them to run.

No response.

“They got no more hup in them,” he said.

Once home, the dogs walked to their kennel, exhausted. Kryzer unhooked them, happy.

___

Information from: Post-Bulletin, http://www.postbulletin.com

Copyright © 2016 The Washington Times, LLC.

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