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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Sports >  Outdoors

‘Equal partners’: Dog, humans forge unique connection while skijoring on Mount Spokane

By Angela Schneider The Spokesman-Review

There’s a revolution afoot, one that shifts the human-dog relationship from master-servant to partnership.

One skijoring run around the Linder Ridge trail at Mount Spokane State Park would convince even the most stalwart of Cesar Millan adherents.

There can be no assertion of “pack leadership” or “alpha” mythology when one is on cross-country skis and has her canine leashed to her waist.

One must learn to trust her four-legged partner.

Kate Burns, past president of the Spokane Nordic Ski Association, grew up on a subsistence farm, learning three basic purposes of animals: companion, food or showmanship.

After she left the farm to pursue adulthood, she worked in animal shelters and veterinary clinics and knew of dogs as nothing more than companion animals.

Skijoring has changed that.

“I realized that the dog and I could be equal partners,” Burns said Sunday during Spokane Nordic Ski’s annual BarkerBeiner skijoring event. “Our success as a team is determined by how well we work together and support one another.

“The connection between dog and human, when competing in a sport like skijoring, is one of equal admiration. When you become a team instead of a dog and an owner, the relationship reaches that next level.”

Dog-powered sports then might be the new “trust fall.”

One of BarkerBeiner’s volunteers said he’s feeling the itch to give skijoring a try.

Trevor Finchamp, who was filming the event and operates Inland Northwest Media with his wife Dee, said there’s something “primitively wonderful” about teaming up with a dog and cross-country skiing around the forest.

“It’s just beautiful to see (humans and dogs) working together and mutually having fun,” he said. “It’s like this is what we are meant to do with dogs … be out in nature, just running around.”

BarkerBeiner drew more than 20 skijoring teams for the 6.5-kilometre course, from world-class athletes like Dan Hanks to competitive juniors and recreational cross-country skiers.

Hanks won the two-dog event in a time of 17 minutes, 41 seconds. Bil Donnelly was second at 21:22 with Brandi Williamson third at 26:12 and Holly Weiler fourth at 36:04.

Matt Halloran took the one-dog skijor title at 22:35 with Williamson second at 23:14 and Ben Brattebo third at 25:55.

Charlotte Burns won the junior one-dog race at 20:51. Owen Ainsworth was second at 30:52 and Isaac Pooler third at 31:51.

Spokane Nordic Ski puts on skijoring clinics to teach the community how to participate in the event. Find more information on the association’s website at spokanenordic.org.

Anyone wishing to skijor at Mount Spokane may use the following trails: Linder Ridge, Mica, Lower Tripps and Upper Tripps. Skijoring is permitted Sunday through Thursday after noon and all day on Wednesday.

“I want other dog owners to be able to experience the same connection I’ve found,” Burns said.

“Once more people in our community come out and give it a try, they’ll find out how enriching the bond with your dog can be.”

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