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Article updated: 1/26/2013 10:00 PM

Arboretum visitors learn about huskies at annual dog sledding event

By Marie Wilson

Hundreds who visited the Morton Arboretum on Saturday in Lisle left a little smarter -- or at least with increased knowledge about huskies.

The first day of the annual Husky Heroes event offered plenty of opportunities for suburban residents like the Moore family of Wheaton to learn about Siberian huskies and their sled-pulling talents.

Arboretum visitors could listen to a brief presentation about dog sledding, then watch teams of huskies pull sledders around a 1/3-mile loop.

They could watch a video called "The Last Great Race" to learn about the role huskies played in Alaskan history and today's world of competitive dog sled racing.

Visitors also could gather information about fostering and adopting huskies in need of good homes.

After listening to a presentation and watching a sledding demonstration, Clara Moore, 13, said she learned huskies can run 50 to 100 miles a day in prestigious races. Her sister, 11-year-old Stella, said she learned huskies can run up to 20 miles in three hours, even when they're not racing.

But event organizers said the best way to learn about huskies is to talk with the dog sledders themselves, many of whom are volunteers for the nonprofit rescue group Adopt A Husky.

Here are some husky facts volunteers shared Saturday.

Adult female Siberian huskies weigh about 40 pounds, while adult males weigh 45-50 pounds.

Siberian huskies can eat dry dog food or foods like chicken, rice and fish.

Huskies were born to run. "They're a working dog. That's their breed. They'll handle the cold and their stamina, their ability to keep going, is amazing," said Steve Domantay, an Adopt A Husky volunteer.

Huskies shed-year round and change their coat at least twice a year -- once in the spring, which Adopt a Husky volunteer Joli Jurcak said can be compared to taking off a winter parka, and once in the fall, to put their warm winter coats back on.

Huskies are social dogs and prefer to live in packs.

Huskies can be used as therapy dogs because of their sociability and temperament, Jurcak said.

Huskies can be family-friendly and good pets, but owners must keep them leashed or have high fencing to prevent them from running.

"Huskies have a very high pain tolerance, so invisible fences don't work on them," Adopt A Husky volunteer Jen Adelman-McCarthy said.

The chance to learn about huskies and watch them in action continues from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. today. For details, visit mortonarb.org or call (630) 968-0074.

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