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The sport and culture of raising, living with, and racing sled dogs is a life engulfing experience.  It's a lot of work and takes a lot of dedication.    In exchange for their unwavering dedication, they deserve our upmost honor and respect.  Whenever I see something in the media or hear about dogs that are mistreated, it breaks my heart.  And I think it's important to speak up and be honest about what you see around you when it comes to animal care and living conditions.  I believe this can only help our sport continue to grow and gain more acceptance in the mainstream.
 
Getting sled dog sports featured on the front pages of mainstream publications can only help other people in the larger community understand why "us crazy dog people"  do what we do, and can help better the sport for dogs and people alike.   Racing is a blast, but there's more to it.   For me, it's a commitment to honoring our dogs.

Bangor Daily News - 10/31/09
 
 
cross-country

Eagle succeeding in canicross


Osborn resident off to World Championships this weekend
By Andrew Neff
BDN Staff

Cross-country runner, mother of two, sleddog racer, bodybuilder, self-employed house painter, and personal trainer… Whew.

If Christina Eagle wasn’t already doing enough things to be considered a renaissance woman, becoming a member of the United States National Canicross team should do it.

Well, perhaps an explanation of what canicross is would help first. Canicross (a combination of the words canine and cross country) is a sport in which distance runners race at least 2 miles along with their dogs, which are tethered to the runners via a leash cinched around the waist.

Despite competing in her first season and having just five races to her credit, the Osborn resident is one of a select group of five athletes who will represent her country while competing in the 15th International Federation of Sleddog Sports Dryland World Championships in Saguenay, Quebec, this weekend.

The four-day, four-sport event involving teams from 17 countries started Thursday and continues through Sunday.

The 38-year-old Eagle and her 2-year-old mixed breed named Spongebob Square Pants — the whole litter was named after the cast of characters from the show — will compete in a 2-kilometer race Saturday and a 5K race on Sunday in the town located on a fjord about a two-hour drive north from Quebec City.

“I wish we could go now! I’m champing at the bit, literally,” Eagle said, hours before her 10-hour drive to Saguenay. “I feel really good about it. I haven’t felt this fast since I was in college. In my training, dieting and sleeping, everything’s been coming together perfectly.”

The fact Eagle is even running at all is astounding. The record-setting high school and Springfield (Mass.) College distance runner faced a future without running after undergoing back surgery to cut out some discs eight years ago.

“I had back surgery in 2001 and they said I shouldn’t run again,” said Eagle, who also has exercise-induced asthma. “I started lifting weights more and that really helped. That got me strong enough where I could run again.”

In the meantime, she had grown to enjoy lifting and bodybuilding, but running remained her first love.

“When I turned 30, I started competing in bodybuilding and took time off from running,” she said. “Seven years ago I got an “Idiot’s Guide to Mushing” book, switched to sled dog racing, and I’m still doing it. I really love it.”

The two-time CanAm Crown Sled Dog Race competitor was introduced to canicross last year after a friend and fellow musher told her about it.

“I was going to do it last year, but didn’t really train too hard for it. I won one race and had an Achilles’ [heel] tear,” she said. “I was able to do sleddog racing, but didn’t do canicross again until April in Ellsworth.”

Now Eagle calls it her new favorite sport.

“I want to stick with this for years to come,” she said. “I love it. I really liked it right from the start, combining running with working with your dog.”

It’s not work to Spongebob — one of Eagle’s six dogs. The 83-pound half German short-haired pointer, quarter English pointer and quarter Alaskan husky has been Eagle’s race partner for all of her previous canicross races — all first-place finishes — and will attempt to go 6-for-6.

“I’ve chosen him because he has a super connection with me and has always wanted to be out in front of me,” said the Weymouth, Mass., native who moved to Osborn eight years ago. “The dogs can go 30 miles an hour, so you go as fast as you can run, but you need a dog who can follow your commands and adjusts well.

“Spongebob checks on me and my progress to make sure I’m OK, but if I’m all right, he just wants to keep going.”

Eagle’s inclusion on the U.S. Dryland Championship team resulted from a friend’s urging.

“A friend of mine is the president of the Mushing USA committee and she urged me to apply, so I sent in my race record and times and the committee voted to accept me,” she explained.

Eagle’s success in both canicross and sleddog racing has earned her sponsorship. She credited Ellsworth businesses EBS, Jim’s Auto Repair and Friends and Family Market, Amherst General Store, and Porky Sue’s Place in Waltham for helping her greatly with their support.

Neither of Eagle’s daughters (Ayana, age 10 and Ciara, 13) have caught the racing bug yet, but they do love to help out their mother with the dogs.

“They’re not as competitive as I am,” she said. “They like to hang out with the dogs, who are more like pets to them.”

This is Eagle’s favorite time of the year as it’s the end of one of her favorite sport’s seasons and approaching the start of the other.

“Oh, I LOVE it,” she said.

And what happens during her six-month offseason from mid-March through August?

“I go through withdrawal,” Eagle said with a laugh.

 

Down East Dog News
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January 2008 Issue - Click for more

Down East Dog News - Jan 2008 Issue

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Front Page
The Ellsworth American
Nov 1, 2007
 
Training Season Under Way For Osborn Sled-dog Racer Print E-mail
Written by Nick Gosling   
Thursday, November 01, 2007

Christina Eagle’s daughter Ayana holds her head back to avoid a sloppy kiss from sled dog Captain while Coggs looks on.—STAFF PHOTO BY NICK GOSLING
Christina Eagle’s daughter Ayana holds her head back to avoid a sloppy kiss from sled dog Captain while Coggs looks on.—STAFF PHOTO BY NICK GOSLING

MARIAVILLE — Rolling over the gravel surface of a backwoods road, Christina Eagle of Osborn pilots her skeleton wheeler as six yapping, excited sled dogs pull with all their might.

In seconds, the wheeler, Eagle with her daughter Ayana aboard, and the six dogs are around a bend and out of sight, heading down the road at speeds of up to 25 mph.

It’s training season.

While the 200-pound wheeler — the frame and wheels of a four-wheeler without the engine — is a heavy substitute for the 20-pound dog sled, it’s a necessary step in a place where snow lies on the ground only four to five months out of the year.

After a long summer off, Eagle, a five-year veteran of sled-dog racing, and her daughters Ayana, 9, and Ciara, 11, and their 14 dogs are itching to get on the trails.

“If you don’t race the dogs now, they won’t be ready,” said Eagle, who races a couple of the handful of dry-land sled dog competitions in the state each year. “When they race, they go all out and to ask them to do that without proper conditioning wouldn’t be fair.”

A personal trainer of 19 years, Eagle uses many of the same principles she employs exercising people to exercise her dogs. Intervals, hills, weight training (by pulling) and long runs are all part of the dog team’s weekly exercise diet.

At peak dry-land training, the four-legged athletes will reach as much as 30 miles a week.

“It’s tough on the dogs,” said Eagle about the snow-less training, which can leave abrasions on their feet from long miles on gravel surfaces.

If foot injuries do appear, booties are put on to protect their paws.

By mid- to late-December, both the dogs and the dogsledders are looking for snow.

Daughters Ayana (left) and Ciara hang onto a rig racer pulled by three excited Siberian huskies as mom, Christina Eagle, runs along side.—STAFF PHOTO BY NICK GOSLING
Daughters Ayana (left) and Ciara hang onto a rig racer pulled by three excited Siberian huskies as mom, Christina Eagle, runs along side.—STAFF PHOTO BY NICK GOSLING

Training begins in the fall, a few days a week at a time, when nights are cooler at 50 degrees or below, said Eagle.

Summers are too hot for the heavy-coated Siberian and Alaskan huskies, which will overheat in the high temperatures.

Instead, summer is downtime for the dogs, which have an acre of land to play in at home.

At the beginning of each season, Eagle decides which distance she wants to train for. This year is a team-building year, she said, with the focus on sprint races (four to six miles) and preparing for mid-distance in 2010.

For dry-land races, a 70-pound metal frame with three wheels called a rig is used.

Rig racing isn’t the only dry-land training competitors can do with their dogs, Eagle said. Canicross, running with a dog attached to a person by harness, and bikejor, biking with one or two dogs attached to a bike, are both popular dry-land dog/person races.

Skijor is another popular sport, done by a cross-country skier pulled by a dog.

“It’s such an opportunity for people who have dogs to exercise with them outside,” said Eagle, who added that any kind of dog can learn to pull in a harness.

Ciara has two years of junior races under her belt and Ayana will be starting this year. The sport is a great opportunity to hang out with her daughters, outdoors at the end of the day, said mom.

“It’s really fun to glide over the snow because sometimes you can go really fast,” said Ciara.

For now, winding gravel roads dappled with colored leaves will have to do.

For more information on sled dog racing and events, visit the Down East Sled Dog Club’s Web site at desdc.org or Eagle’s Web site at http:\\eagle-siberians.tripod.com.

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Ellsworth Winter Carnival - Feb 2008
This was our second year at the event, and it was a pleasure to return to share the dogs with the greater Ellsworth Community.  The Winter Carnival Staff provided some exceptional support to make sure that the event was as fun for the dogs as well as the people,  and as usual, blue eyed Obo was the crowd woo-er. 

Carnival Kisses
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Ellsworth Winter Carnival - Feb 2007
The event was held at The Black House, and we offered sled dog rides around the croquet lawn.  A good time was had by all!
 
Link to the Event:

Ellsworth Winter Carnival
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2011 by Eagle Sled Dogs/Christina Eagle.  Do not copy or borrow any portion of these pages without written permission.