There were plenty of barks about it; the dogs at the ninth annual DogTerra were ready to hit the trail alongside their owners.
Owners donning harnesses and Nordic ski setups lined up at the starting line midday Sunday for the fun skijor race organized as part of the League for Animals and People of the Summit's annual fundraiser. In intervals, Louisa Morrissey set them off skating at the Gold Run Nordic Center in Breckenridge.
"It's all for fun," the certified Victoria Stilwell Positively Dog Training expert explained. Many teams were beginners, having learned the skijoring techniques in a clinic held earlier Sunday morning. The fundraiser also included agility lessons and an obstacle course for pups.
Some owners were nervous, like the woman tethered to her two huskies.
"When I'm on the ground in the middle, don't run over me!" she cried as she set off. She made it to the finish line in one piece.
Another man murmured to a friend, "I've never done this before," as his pup barked its excitement.
It wasn't the only one. Marie Criss' border collie, Lucy, barked at her, her skis, the other dogs, the snow and anything else it could find as they set off. Confused, he turned a 360 and was immediately tangled in his leash. Criss said not much later, Lucy had somehow wrapped the tether around her ski.
Meanwhile, several dogs were just eager to run alongside their owners rather than pull them, while others were distracted by fellow canines and the treat table. Owners of the "mighty mites," dogs 20 pounds or less, also lined up for a foot race.
"This could be on America's Funniest Home Videos," Criss said.
Which is exactly what Morrissey emphasized in both her clinic and the race itself.
"The most important thing about skijoring is to have a sense of humor and have fun," she said.
Morrissey's daughter, Erin Young, was tethered to her German Shepherd-lab mix, Rook, and her mother's border collie, Linus, as she said, "Skijoring builds a relationship with the dog. It's a team activity."
She added that it's ideal for Summit County because typically, individuals and couples who don't have children have dogs.
"They love it," she said of the dogs. "It's more than a hike."
Sunday's event benefited the LAPS organization through DogTerra entry fees. Members paid $25 per dog while non-members paid $28 per dog. All the money goes toward the donation- and grant-based organization whose main goal is reducing pet overpopulation through its spay/neuter programs in the Summit County area. The organization also offers financial assistance to low-income Summit County families who face high veterinarian bills or the need for spay/neuter discounts. Application forms are available through the animal shelter or through one's veterinarian.
"Rook ran into a barbed wire fence at 11 p.m. and had to get staples," Young said, explaining that it was an unexpected cost for her and her husband. By applying to LAPS, they received assistance for the bill for service that kept Rook healthy and able to continue enjoying her Summit County lifestyle.