Celebrate Husky Heroes at annual Morton Arboretum event
Mushers aboard sleds direct teams of hardy Siberian huskies over roughly 1,000 miles of frozen Alaskan terrain every March in the Iditarod race.
Racers, both canine and human, attempt to triumph over logistics and unpredictable conditions in an event that can last nine or more days.
If any dog breed is up for the challenge, it's the husky, said Noel Dagley, treasurer of Adopt-A-Husky, an animal welfare group.
"It's very hard to wear a husky out physically. In the Iditarod, they can run 100 miles in a day. They're just incredibly athletic," Dagley said.
The rescue organization will show off the dogs' skills when it presents its annual Husky Heroes event this weekend at the Morton Arboretum in Lisle.
Dagley said about 35 huskies will demonstrate dog sledding in teams of two to six dogs per musher. If there is no snow on the ground, the dogs will pull wheeled carts.
"It is better with snow. Last year was the first year we had snow in seven years, and the dogs absolutely loved it," Dagley said. "The event was the weekend before the polar vortex. It was probably about 15 or 20 degrees."
Dagley has three huskies of her own. She said the dogs were not only unfazed by last year's cold, they reveled in it. The polar vortex didn't keep them indoors.
"My guys were outside for an hour. They didn't want to come in. They were running around in the snow, which was quite frozen," she said.
Dog sled demonstrations are loosely scheduled for 11:30 a.m., 12:45 p.m., 2 p.m. and 3:15 p.m. each day, said Jenelle Hardtke, arboretum special events manager.
The event will give visitors the chance to meet adoptable huskies, currently being cared for by foster caretakers, and learn about the breed's attributes.
"We'll have fosters out there," Dagley said. "We actually have a lot of medical need fosters right now. Last year, we had six or seven of the dogs get adopted resulting from the Morton event."
With snow on the ground, the event also will feature demonstrations of skijoring, which is cross-country skiing while being pulled by huskies.
If there isn't enough snow, Dagley said, there will be bikejoring, which involves bicycles being pulled by dogs.
Dagley said merchants selling husky-related items will be located in the arboretum's visitors center, where experts on the breed will be available to answer questions.
Hardtke said canine-related crafts will be available in the Sterling Morton Library from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. both days. The Enchanted Railroad model railroad display also will be available for visitors to view in the visitors center during the event, she said.
"It's a beautiful time to be at the arboretum. People of all ages just love it," said Hardtke. "It's still that tradition people love to come and do, particularly in the middle of January when everybody's got cabin fever."
• • •
When: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Jan. 25 and 26
Where: Morton Arboretum, 4100 Route 53, Lisle
Admission: $15 for adults, $13 for seniors, $10 for children ages 2-17, free for children 1 and younger
Info: mortonarb.org and (630) 968-0074