Mush! Sled dogs show off skills at Starved Rock exhibition

Published: Feb. 5, 2023 at 6:09 PM CST
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PEORIA (25 News Now) - Starved Rock State Park’s parking lot was full of screaming Sunday morning.

Not the screams of anyone in danger, but the high-pitched, musical howls any husky owner or husky fanatic knows all too well. Several of the dogs who were lined up to show their sled-pulling skill were too excited to keep quiet.

“They’re super high-energy dogs, they have to be exercised on a daily basis,” Free Spirit Siberian Rescue volunteer Ken Westbrook said. “The old saying is ‘a tired husky is a good husky,’ this is an excellent way to tire them out and they love doing it.”

Westbrook ran several of the sledding teams throughout the morning. While dogsledding might bring to mind images of a dozen dogs running at full speed through an icy tundra, Free Spirit does sledding in all seasons, swapping wooden planks for wheels in the warmer weather.

“We’re trying to just show what these dogs can do,” Westbrook said, “they’re bred to pull, they’re natural pullers so we’re just showing the public what these dogs can do.”

Families lined both sides of the sledding trail to cheer the dogs on while they ran. Once their racing energy was used up, the huskies were more than happy to lay down and receive pets from kids and adults alike.

“They’re just really sweet dogs,” Connor Duffield, age 10 said. He and his brother Colin Duffield watched the dogs with their mother. At home, they have a much smaller dog. Colin said he might start training it to pull things anyway.

“What I thought was cool is the bikes, I didn’t think it was going to be a bike,” Colin said.

The Huskies are rescued from around the Midwest. The group looks to pair the dogs with homes that can meet their energetic needs. Even after dogs are adopted, they can come back and pull with the team.

More information on the rescue and huskies up for adoption can be found on their website.