SMC’s Marsh-Peek ready to mush

Published 7:24 am Saturday, June 14, 2003

By Staff
Southwestern Michigan College Special Populations Advisor Angela Marsh-Peek of Lawrence, like most employees, decorates her office with pictures.
There are pictures of family, of course, but there's also a picture of a group of six Siberian Huskies.
But this isn't just any pack of dogs.
Marsh-Peek is the "matriarch" of a team bred to tread across snowy plains to gain the honor of grand prize in a sled dog race.
It all started when Marsh-Peek and her husband, Don, had the desire to acquire a Siberian Husky and to perhaps someday participate in sled dog racing.
Within weeks of moving into a house with a fenced yard, Marsh-Peek and her husband got their first Siberian Husky, a male they named Brock.
When the Peeks took a vacation and left Brock with her parents, they noticed how much Brock loved playing with her parents' two dogs.
To settle this dilemma, they got another male Siberian, Balizar.
Six months later the first female came into the pack -- Grace. Not only were the dogs companions for each other, but they also satisfied the three-dog requirement needed to enter races. While the Peeks were learning more about sledding from several sledding groups and mushers, Grace gave birth to three puppies. "The puppies will be old enough to start training this winter, but they can't run any long races," says Marsh-Peek.
Sled dog races can encompass a wide range of teams and distances.
The teams can contain anywhere from three to a few dozen dogs.
The race course for sprints is usually set for a mile per dog in the team.
Alaskan long-distance races can run upward of 250 miles. And although the breed seems to take to the sport, races do not have to be led by Siberians.
Mushers have raced with Dalmatians, golden retrievers, Great Danes and mixed breeds.
Even with Michigan's buffet of weather that includes summer temperatures in the 90s, it is still possible to train year-round, snow or not.
Even when the grass isn't packed with snow, you can still get sled dogs to learn pulling techniques.
A single 60-pound dog has the ability to pull around 200 pounds.