Husky Heroes a hit in Lisle

Perched in a tree overlooking the grounds of the Morton Arboretum in Lisle, four-year-old Kyle Gunn had the best view of the Siberian husky teams bounding along a makeshift racecourse Saturday during Adopt a Husky Inc.'s annual sled dog exhibition and adoption event.

For the Gunn family of Homer Glenn, Husky Heroes is about the closest they'll come to adopting a canine pal, at least for the time being.

Ray Gunn and his wife Angie work in Chicago. They say it wouldn't be fair to keep a dog crated all day at home.

"But we love coming here," said Ray Gunn. "We use this event as a substitute. They have beautiful dogs for adoption."

Adopt a Husky Inc. has sponsored the event for about 13 years, said President Mike Dagley of Bartlett, of the group which rescues and fosters huskies "sitting on death row" at animal care and control facilities.

"It's all about rescue awareness and finding these dogs homes," he said, describing them as wonderful family pets.

They're good with kids, he said. They're pack-oriented so they get along with other dogs, but not so well with smaller animals like cats or rabbits.

"They love to be petted," said volunteer Ron Jungels, of Naperville, referring to Zephyr, an 8-year-old male with ice-blue eyes who lay patiently at Jungels' feet as Cordelia Mohammad, 2, patted the brown and white dog under the watchful eye of her father, Rizik.

The family has a papillon, said the Rolling Meadows man, but Cordelia seems to have taken to the husky.

"He's probably friendlier than our dog," Mohammad joked.

Dagley cautions prospective owners that as agreeable as huskies are, they need training and a task, even if it's just chewing a rawhide.

"They have to have structure or they will start ruling your house," he said. "And if they're in charge, you're in trouble."

They are notorious runners, he said, so containment is important. For a dog who can reach speeds of up to 19 miles per hour pulling a sled, an open door is an invitation to bolt.

That instinct was evidenced by the wagging tales and excited barking as the drivers harnessed the teams for their runs.

"You can't make them stop running," Dagley said "You hook them up and they go."

The teams pulled riders in carts not sleds and they trod on muddy grass instead of packed snow. But that didn't seem to bother attendees who an arboretum representative estimated numbered in the thousands.

The balmy conditions didn't bother the huskies, although Dagley said they prefer lower temperatures.

"It can't get too cold for them," he said. Their double coats, consisting of an exterior layer of fur that wicks away moisture and an undercoat that serves as insulation, make it possible for them to stand subzero temperatures.

During the winter, Wayne Schimpff's husky curls up outside his Chicago home on the snow-covered chaise lounge for a nap.

"After an hour I have to go wake him up," he said.

Husky Heroes runs from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 31, at Morton Arboretum, 4100 Illinois 53, Lisle. (630) 968-0074. For more information on husky adoption see

  Kara Donham, 9, of Glen Ellyn pets a seven-month-old Husky during the annual Husky Heroes event at the Morton Arboretum in Lisle. Daniel White/
  Addison Kozer of Joliet cuddles a young Husky puppy during the annual Husky Heroes event at the Morton Arboretum in Lisle. Daniel White/
  Mike Rawaillot of Woodridge guides his team during the annual Husky Heroes event at the Morton Arboretum in Lisle. Rawaillot is a member of the Adopt A Huskey team. Daniel White/
  Nelle Dagley is pulled uphill by her team during the annual Husky Heroes event at the Morton Arboretum in Lisle. Daniel White/
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