25 November 2013

Meet the Musher: Raija

Raija, originally from Finland, makes her home in Invermere, British Columbia with her family of six sled dogs.   She enjoys her time in the backcountry, and she loves her dogs!  

How did you first get started in the sport?

Having this many dogs you really need to be committed, before I got my first ever working dog, I volunteered for a Ititarod musher Aaron Peck I also rented two dogs from him to do skijoring,to get my feet wet. I highly recommend that kind of approach, It took me two years before I got my first sled dog, it also took some getting use to the dog poop, Aaron made me clean the dog poop in the morning in his kennel, he , told me I had to get every little morsel of poop , thats how I learned to clean in my yard also.

Tell us about the “lifestyle” of mushing.   

Why, to me it more of a lifestyle, dogs are company for me, I spend large part of my life out in the backcountry, they provide transportation and security and company.

I could use couple of more as I am wearing these out I only have six and is not quite enough for long trips.

It is also all about being fit and active, if you have dogs or ever loved dogs like me, you will want to go out there every morning to give them an opportunity to run, when they look at you like you are are their whole world, and only thing that matters in their life.

It is so much of a life style, that I am trying to sell my house in town and buy acreage, to be able to get two more dogs, I think eight working dogs is a right number for me, of course when time goes by My mommy dog will have to retire to the couch and I will have to get one to replace her, otherwise all my other dogs are young and we will grow old together. and thats that.

What is your favourite activity to do with your dogs?

My favourite activity is winter camping and a mid-distance mushing in fresh powder snow... I want to clarify things when I talk about mid distance mushing I am talking on skis, my fav distance on skis is 20 to 30k. 

Tell us about your current dogs.  

My Dogs are a complete Family, first dog I got was a retired sled dog from a touring company, he single handedly shoved me the ropes, he was very experienced lead dog, but very old,He passed away two years ago, My second dog I got from a friend of mine Anna Bolvin Knudsen she was running in a sprint team that had accomplished many wins including Canadian champions, she is my Mommy dog, then I accuired a dog from 4 times world champion bloodlines who is my daddy dog and the 4 boys are their babies,   So I have mommy and daddy and four boys. the key element here was to get as good bloodlines as I could possible afford and then to breed for my self, not to sell, I do not recommend breeding just to have more dogs, since we could not have the bloodlines to advance the breed, it would be going backwards in developing better dogs I leave that job to professionals, My mommy is spayed now, I only wanted good dogs for myself I could not otherwise afford to buy this many dogs of this quality.

What characteristics do you look for in a new dog? 

Volunteering also helped me in choosing the right kind of dogs right off the start, I do not buy and sell dogs to get better dogs, I have what I have and they are my family, they will stay with me until they pass.

What is your favourite piece of gear?  

I have a sled that I use to go from point A to point B but I always pack my skis with me, I feel naked and lost without my skis.   I guess that  answers to the question of my fav. piece of equipment Skis, definitely skis, you can never have too many skis.

What training goals have you set for yourself?

This year I am attempting to do Percy 100 mile skijor race, and I must admit the closer the time comes the more nervous I become, I have planned for this race two years, I am 56 years old woman. No woman has never done Percy skijor race, needless to say, I will be happy just to finish it

What is the best advice you have ever been given for mushing?  

Best advice I have ever given it has been given to me several times first with Aaron then with many other mushers, shut up and let the dogs do their job. in Other words, too much talking whether it is praise or what ever is not good, it distracts the dogs from job at hand, And I need to be reminded of that many times since I am a blabbermouth.

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