ELTON - Most people enjoy taking their dogs out for walks. But Beth and Ken Castaldi prefer exercising their many dogs a little more competitively. For them, "snow time" is really showtime.
It's all going to the dogs--at least that's what Beth and Ken Castaldi believe. Beth has been racing dogs for four decades, something she's just doggone crazy about.
"Oh the dogs! Absolutely the dogs. I'm the type of person who loves working with puppies," says Beth.
Beth says it's more of a dog-teach-dog world. "The older dogs are so important because they train the younger dogs. They can teach them a whole lot faster than we do," Beth explains.
But Beth and Ken aren't the first mushers to ride in Langlade County. The history dates back to the '40s.
"A mail route was established between the Shawano area and it went north into, I believe, Green Bay and even further, and they actually used dog sled teams to deliver the mail," said Beth.
Beth and Ken want to share their passion with the community, even if you don't have a dog.
"We have members that do sprint racing with their sled dog team. We have long-distance or mid-distance racers. We have members who don't even have dogs," Beth said.
Because sleds are sold separately, Ken, the trail manager, says if you don't have a sled, there's always a solution.
"The beauty of it is, one dog and a bike. Most everyone has a bike," says Ken.
But Ken reminds us that the most important part of the sport is the safety of the dogs, especially during training.
"It's just like a human athlete--you have to build conditioning. Your first day of practice, you can't run a 100- yard dash as fast as you can; you're just asking for injuries," says Ken.
Yet, at the end of each day, it's all about one thing. "There's a very serious bond between us and the dog," Ken said.
Beth and Ken will be competing in the Midwest American Championship at Camp Ripley in Minnesota February 17 through 19. Everyone is welcome to come to show their support.