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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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EV grad likes competition of sled-dog racing

Steve Christilaw Correspondent

She can’t remember the title of the book, but the subject has stayed with Anja Goetzinger.

“When I was 8 years old my mom read me a book about the Iditarod when I was being home-schooled,” the East Valley senior said. “It was one of those true-story books. I loved the adventure of it and I love animals.

“From that time on, I wanted to race sled dogs.”

Racing sled dogs was a foreign concept around the Goetzinger household.

“Well,” she laughs, “we were cat people. We didn’t have dogs around at all. In fact, it was a bit of a shock when I announced that I wanted to have dogs.”

Goetzinger began raising Alaskan Huskies, a cross-breed bred especially for racing. And she started racing.

“There are dog sled races all over,” she said. “There are even races specifically for kids where they race with just one dog. I never wanted to do that myself. I always wanted to race with more dogs, so I competed against adults right from the beginning.

“My first race was when I was 13. We went down to the Blue Mountains for a race and I competed in the four-dog competition.”

It wasn’t so much the competition that brought her back however.

“I do like the competition,” she said. “But what I really love about dog-sled racing is being around the other mushers. You get to see everyone else. It’s all a big community. If you see a dog truck going down the road, you automatically wave to one another. We’re all friends and we all know each other.”

Goetzinger is a member of the Inland Empire Sled Dog Association and remains close to the sledding community.

“We have races around here, too,” she said. “There are all kinds of events. There are sprints as well as distance races. I don’t do too many of those kinds of long-distance races because my dogs aren’t really that kind of dog. They’re better at the shorter, faster races. They’re more like sprinters.

“The kind of dogs I have are trained to run just as fast and as hard as they can. Because of that, they tire out quickly. They’re suited to the shorter, faster races. For races like the Iditarod, the longer races, there are dogs that are bred to actually pace themselves. They’re more suited to that kind of long race.”

Goetzinger said she sees two typical reactions when people learn she’s a dog-sled racer.

“People will either say that it’s easy because the dogs do all the work, or they think that I’m being mean to the dogs by making them pull the sled,” she said. “First of all, there’s a lot of work and a lot of running in dog sledding. If you think the dogs are doing all the work, you’ve never seen a race.

“Second, people don’t realize that racing is something these dogs love to do. This is what they’re bred for. When my dogs see the sled, they run over and stand in front of it and wait to be harnessed in. Once they’re in harness, they start howling and jumping around because they can’t wait to get going.”

While Goetzinger has followed her own dog path, she does take after the rest of her family in other ways.

“My whole family are artists,” she said. “My dad is a freelance artist, my mom is an artist – everyone.”

Goetzinger has won a number of regional competitions with her paintings.

But the art that she wants to pursue in college uses a brush only to baste.

“I want to be a chef,” she said. “I love to cook. I think it’s another way of expressing your artistic side.”

Goetzinger is enrolled in the culinary program at Spokane Community College and hasn’t ruled out studying further once she completes the program.

“I’m not sure exactly what I want to pursue, but I know there are other programs that I could go into once I finish at SCC.”

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