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Sled dogs are raring to go on coldest days of winter

Dear Shirley, the bitterly cold weather this winter has to be good for something. Up until now, I have had a hard time figuring out what that is. Then, I learned the weather is perfect for sled dogs. Todd Lerol, who has Alaskan and Siberian huski...

Dear Shirley, the bitterly cold weather this winter has to be good for something. Up until now, I have had a hard time figuring out what that is.

Then, I learned the weather is perfect for sled dogs.

Todd Lerol, who has Alaskan and Siberian huskies at Grafton, N.D., says the dogs were fine with it when the temperatures hit rock bottom this week. He just gives the dogs a little extra straw, some warm rice and extra fat. And they thrive on cold weather.

Lerol has been racing his dogs in area runs for the past 10 years and is now organizing the first Red River Sled Dog Derby coming up Feb. 29 to March 2, Shirley. This is something he has been wanting to do for a long time. And since this has been such a good winter for sled dogs, he already has eight teams of dogs signed up. He's looking for more dogs and sponsors.

The event begins Feb. 29 with pre-race vet checks by Dr. John Reichert and other area vets at Red River Emergency Animal Clinic, and a mushers meeting at Happy Joe's in Fargo.

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The races begin March 1 in Halstad, Minn., and the teams should reach Frog Point Park in Traill County at midday. They should be arriving at Lincoln Park in Grand Forks about 5 p.m. that Saturday. Then, the dogs will go back up the trail March 2, and the whole thing will end with an awards banquet at Halstad.

Nancy Yoshida, who lives south of Grand Forks not far from the country club, is signed up for the race. She's had her dogs in races in Montana this winter and has a goal of going to the Iditarod in Alaska next year.

Other mushers already signed on are Jason Matthews, Livingston, Mont.; Eric Morris, Port Wing, Wis.; Don Galloway, Makinen, Minn.; Nancy Johnson, Devils Lake; and two Canadians, Ed Jenkins of Saskatchewan and Jess Allen of Manitoba.

The race sounds really exciting, Shirley. Lerol says animal care comes first and foremost in the races. His wife, Jocelyn, has been helping him with the Web site: www.freewebs.com/redriverdogderby/index.htm .

It should be fun to go down to Lincoln Park and see the teams of 12 dogs each come racing in. The mushers holler "Gee" for right and "Haw" for left. It's "Whoa" to stop.

And then it's "Hike" for go, but Lerol says you really don't have to use it much because the Huskies are always raring to go.

It would be great if we all would be raring to go in cold weather.

After all, we control our own destiny. That's what they say all the time in the world of sports. And tonight, the UND Sioux women's basketball team will control its own destiny when UND plays the Coyotes of the University of South Dakota in the Dakota Dome at Vermillion, S.D. That's the only team UND has lost to this season, Shirley. A lot rides on the outcome of the game.

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It would be fun to be down there, and I know many fans will follow the team. I will be glued to the radio 100.3 FM to hear what Scott Swygman and Paul Ralston have to say.

Thank goodness we have Sioux sports to keep us from going into hibernation during these long North Dakota winters. I wish you could have seen the excitement last weekend when the hockey team won two games here against the University of Denver. UND won the right to host the playoff games. And The Ralph was rocking, Shirley. There was electricity in the air, as a full house of about 11,600 cheered them on. It made me wish that Ralph Engelstad could have been there to see the magnificence of his gift to his alma mater.

I know the Chicago White Sox are holding their spring practice in your city of Tucson right now, but the winter baseball fans probably aren't as lively as the hockey fans around here.

I guess I must admit there are signs of spring all around us. Grand Forks Softball Association held an organizational meeting Monday. It is holding the annual PGA Golf Seminar at UND Feb. 29 and March 1. And there are stacks of Peeps for Easter out in the stores already.

Love from your sister Marilyn, using oceans of lotion along the frozen banks of the Red River of the North.

Reach Hagerty at mhager ty@gra.midco.net or at (701) 772-1055.

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