By SUSAN SCHELL
The Oregon Dune Mushers Mail Run was no problem for Brookings resident Kevin Shepherd.
The 14 year old completed the dog and cart endurance run from North Bend to Florence through rain, high winds and a prankish little brother.
The annual non-competitive run covers approximately 60-72 miles across the old stagecoach trail of the dunes and is believed to be one of the longest dry-land events for dog teams.
We finished and thats all that counts, said Kevin.
He began the run on a Friday morning with five Siberian huskies, but finished on Sunday with only three. His dog, Fargo, was still recovering from a previous illness, and Kevin didnt want to push him too hard.
King, a neighbors dog who joined the team in February, cut up his feet and could not complete the run.
That left Superman, Ahhso and Skyye, who were on loan to Kevin specifically for the run by a Siberian husky breeder in La Pine.
On Saturday, wind gusts over the dunes on Winchester Bay picked up to more than 50 mph. There was sand in my ears and in my teeth, Kevin said. The lead dogs tail was blowing around in circles.
The mushers got a chance to recuperate at night; they slept in hotels and picked up where they left off the next day. But even back in his room, Kevins little brother, Marc, made sure he didnt relax too much. While Kevin was in the shower, Marc took all the towels out of the bathroom and cranked up the heat.
He was bored, he didnt have anything to do, Kevin explained. It was about 100-degrees. I stuck my head out of the bathroom and yelled, If you dont bring back those towels, Im coming after you. Marc brought back the towels.
But as Kevin looks back at the overall experience, he wouldnt change a thing. There was nothing better than going outdoors for the weekend with three of my best friends (the dogs), he said.
I had quite a sense of accomplishment. Of course I want to do it again next year; and everything can stay the same.
The only sad part was returning the dogs who had carried him through to the end to their home in La Pine.
I was sad, but I knew they werent my dogs. Theres no helping that.
Kevin is eyeing the Jr. Iditarod, the Alaskan sled dog race that takes place in February. The 150-mile, 2-day race is a bit more rugged than the Oregon mail run; the mushers dont check into hotels at night, they sleep outside with their dogs. Kevin isnt worried about that.
The mushers usually sleep in their sled bags, he explained.
Ive got sleds, snow hooks and gang lines. I just dont have the dogs or the cold weather gear.
Now I need to get my own dogs so I can start training, which my mom is dreading. I think shes just dogged-out right now.