BOY PREPARING FOR MAIL RUN

February 28, 2002 11:00 pm
Three dogs pull Kevin Shepherd along Mill Beach Road in dune cart. ().
Three dogs pull Kevin Shepherd along Mill Beach Road in dune cart. ().

Residents in the Mill Beach neighborhood have become accustomed to an unusual sight.

Siberian huskies tear down the street in the afternoon, pulling a four-wheeled cart occupied by a lone young man.

Shepherd and his dogs have been practicing for the Oregon Dune Mushers Mail Run set for March 9 and 10.

Shepherd, a 14-year-old freshman, first became interested in dog sledding in second grade after reading Gary Paulsens Wood Song, a novel about the Iditarod, the grueling, Alaskan cross-country sled dog race.

Shepherds interest was again sparked three years ago when he saw a television documentary on the Dune Mushers in North Bend and Coos Bay, who ran a similar course along sand dunes with a wheeled cart.

Shepherd made quick use of the family dogs, hooking his labrador and brittaney dog up to his red wagon and carting his little brother, Marc, around the neighborhood.

On Christmas day, 2000, Shepherd got his own dune cart.

After so many years, we decided to support him on this, said his mother, Shelley. Even though its unusual. He has a passion for this.

Kevin contacted the Oregon Dune Masters through the Internet. He got in touch with Beverly Meyers, who he describes as being the driving force behind the mail run.

Through the Internet, Kevin met Trish Ingram, a dune musher in La Pine who breeds purebred Siberian huskies. He and his mother made the 6-hour drive to La Pine and ended up bringing home Fargo, a 4-year-old Siberian husky.

Shortly thereafter, new neighbors moved in down the street with their own husky.

We were just driving by the house and we saw him in the front yard, said Kevin. I thought, Wow, they have a Siberian husky!

Kevin asked the neighbors if he could borrow their dog, King, to pull his cart. They obliged, happy to have someone take King out for exercise. Kevin now had two official Siberian Huskies to pull his dune cart.

King worked out great. Hes a natural.

The Winchuck logging roads became the teams practice spot. Sometimes on weekends Kevin and his family take the dogs up to the dunes for a run.

Ingram let Kevin borrow three of her huskies to use in the mail run. Ahhso, Skyye and Superman joined the team in early February, and the Shepherds had a full house of huskies.

They love to run, so theyre perfect for sled racing, said Shelley. But theyre not the best pets. Theyre difficult dogs to keep. Theyre escape artists, you have to really make sure you have a secure enclosure.

Last year, Kevin attended the mail run as a trail guide, but this is the first year he will actually run. A trail guide occupies a post along the run and helps keep distracted dogs on course.

Kevin will run his dogs in the mini-team category, made up of a 3 to 5 dog team. The run will last three days, starting next Friday.

He hopes to some day compete in the Iditarod.