MCMILLAN, Mich. (WJMN) – Located 10 miles south of Tahquamenon Falls State Park is the home of MI DOG, a soon-to-be summer sled dog center, and where Laura Neese trains her team.
When the snow melts, Neese will be officially opening MI DOG to the public starting in May of this year. Neese herself is a seasoned musher. She ran in her first race in 2012, a 12-mile journey. She is now 25-years-old and has run thousands of miles in numerous sled dog races.
“I’ve had a lot of really phenomenal opportunities and just tons of adventures with these incredible dogs all over North America. I’ve been able to race two 1,000 Iditarods, two 1,000 Yukon Quests, and lots of 200 and 300-mile races all over the continent. Just seen a lot of beautiful country and spent some pretty powerful moments out there with my dog team.”
Dog sledding has been something she’s admired since she was a little girl.
“It all started when I was 9-years-old, it was a home school project to follow the Iditarod over the internet. So a little farm girl in Ohio fell in love with sled dogs. From then on I knew that was what I wanted to do when I grew up. So when I was 18, I ended up here at Nature’s Kennel to run tours for a year and give people dog sled rides. From there I took over the race team and seven years later still here.”
Neese is excited to open MI DOG and share this sport she loves in a unique way.
“A lot of people don’t know what sled dogs do during the summer, and so that’s what it is […] It’ll be an educational experience where people can come and cuddle puppies and meet the race team. Learn about what goes into sled dogs 365 days a year and what it’s all about.”
With sled dog racing season here, Neese is gearing up her team for the Midnight Run, a 90-mile 8-dog team race.
“Every run’s different, every year is different with training conditions and everything. But, overall, it’s just a lot of peace and quiet and solitude and being out there with my best buddies, traveling miles away from any other human and I really like that.”
It’s a 24/7 job for Neese, between taking care of the dogs, training the team, and grooming miles of trails.
“I mean the coolest thing about dog sledding is seeing the dog’s passion and I mean they live to run. That’s honestly when it comes down to it why I spend 10-12 hours a day removing snowing and grooming trails. So I can go out and run dogs because they love it and they’re the happiest dogs on Earth.”
While dog sledding is a whole of fun, it’s also about perseverance and teamwork.
“The human and canine bond with sled dogs is phenomenal I mean I don’t think you get that kind of bond with any other kind of dog. You just travel so many miles together and see so many different things and it’s pretty powerful.”
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