Moe Boksa

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            I first learned about the sport of mushing when I moved from Colorado to Vermont, with my newly acquired pet Siberian Husky. Sometimes we have conscious reasons for our choices, sometimes we do not. I honestly have no idea where I came up with the idea of buying a Northern Breed dog. I had very little knowledge or experience with Siberians, but became sure that this was the kind of dog I wanted to bring into my life. I found Rasta just days before my planned return to Vermont, and picked her up the day I was leaving to drive back across country. She was a wonderful driving companion and I fell in love with her immediately.

            Upon my return to Vermont, I started work at Golden Russet Farm, an organic veggie farm out in Shoreham. There I met a woman named Lissy, who would become a lifelong friend and the one who started the chain of contact with other mushers. I soon became involved in the sport, regularly driving 1 1/2 hours to train with an experienced musher.

            Before long, I had my second dog and started skijoring. This is a sport in itself, which entails hooking a harnessed dog to yourself while on cross country skis. I had never before put myself on cross country skis, so it is easy to imagine where I spent most of my time, my first outing being on a very icy trail. Two dogs have a great deal of power; I became very experienced at picking myself up from the extremely hard ground! Addictions grow as they are wont to do, and by the end of that winter, I had a third dog and a sled. I then became interested in racing and felt the pull towards longer distance. Sled dog racing is quite prevalent in New England, with sprint racing being the more popular endeavour. Although the thrill of speed was quite enticing, I craved the idea of spending more time on the sled with my dogs. I started entering thirty mile, then sixty mile races. I started adding more dogs to my fleet. I moved to different houses a couple of times, always to find a better location to house my dogs and better trails for training longer distances.

            I quite loved the Siberian breed and purposefully resisted the temptation to switch to the more commonly used Alaskans. I had a great deal of confidence that the Siberians could perform to similar standards. I concentrated on revitalizing a line of Siberian that was was in danger of becoming very diluted, perhaps disappearing. My breeding program was successful, but I never really got these dogs proven on the race circuit.

            When I moved out west (yet again looking for a better place to train and race dogs), my plan was to continue with the Siberian breed, to prove them on the big races. After the first year, however, I made the switch to Alaskans. I felt somewhat traitorous to my committment, but there seemed to be little to no option for outcrossing to new lines. My kennel was at a tight genetic place and needed some new blood. Any breedings would have to take place out of territory, a situation that created a great added expense and logistic that seemed a little outageous. I bought some excellent Alaskans locally, an easy task when surrounded by several seriously competitive kennels. I sold most of my Siberians to friends back east. It has been a great honor to subsequently watch several of my original dogs and their offspring compete with great success in The Yukon Quest. They are now members of Team Tsuga, owned by good friends Mike and Sue Ellis.Some of the best dog trainers I know, Mike and Sue have worked hard to hold the honor of the record for fastest Siberian team to ever run the Yukon Quest.

            I now have a small kennel, with just nineteen dogs. Although I have only just toyed on the edge of the racing circuit here, the big races always hold interest for me. I raced in the Quest 300 in 2009, honestly thinking that after its completion, I would move on from dog racing. I have always loved this sport, but have been involved for many years and have recently been thinking about moving on to different pastimes. However, after the Quest 300, I felt even more of a draw to distance racing. I loved the sleep deprivation, the stategy, the planning needed for a distance race. I loved spending days out of my regular life, immersing myself only in the relationship with my dogs and the trail.

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            Last year I did take a year off racing and enjoyed a relaxing winter of mushing with Finn(11) and Maible(7), now old enough to run their own small teams. I started skijoring again in the spring, an exciting adventure after not being on skis for over ten years! It took several weeks in the spring for all the bruises to fade away! It felt great to be out on the trail with my dogs individually; some were undoubtedly more talented with skijoring than others!

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            As winter 2010-2011 approaches, the pull to train has begun. I am not sure what course this year will take, the restless traveller and the dog musher are currently at odds. Check back to find out which journey I will choose...

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