Brooke Rudolph with her howling buddy Timber, 2nd place finisher in 2016
The Yukon Sourdough Rendezvous and the unique relationship between a Yukoner and their beloved canine companion are two of the most enduring images of life in the North. So, it should come as no surprise that man and woman’s best friend features prominently in the annual winter festival.
Yes, our furry friends need to break that cabin fever, too. The One Dog Pull event gives competitors a chance to burn off some pent up energy, and pays homage to the valuable role of sled dogs during the gold rush. They were the primary mode of transportation in winter months, with early stampeders’ survival often depending on a strong, resilient team.
The dogs are harnessed and must pull the sled a distance of 16 feet within one minute. Incentives such as treats are forbidden, and the dogs can only be touched for safety reasons during a pull. With two divisions, Junior and Senior handlers, senior dogs are weighed in then classified into light (under 50 lbs), medium (under 100 lbs), and heavy (more than 100 lbs).
Dogs are attached to small sleds with increasing amounts of dog food stacked on to pull. In the ultimate contest of “will work for food,” the heaviest pull with the fastest time takes home the kibble that made it across the finish line. Spectators can expect to see about 15 to 20 competitors at this crowd pleasing event. This year the Junior event is brought to us by Eyewerx, and Wykes Independent Grocer sponsors the Senior event.
There is also a pound for pound trophy that is a calculation of the weight of the dog versus the amount they pull. It is awarded across all weight classes.
Kim Solonick, a former Rendezvous Queen in her own right as Miss Ecofor Consulting in 2013, said, “There is nothing more exciting than watching a dog dig deep and pull hundreds of pounds inch by inch along the course.”
Solonick coordinated the event for a decade, along with Jamie Bowie who was involved for 20 years.
“The record pull is by a Newfoundland dog named Lucifer who pulled in excess of 1,000 pounds,” Solonick said, adding, “The competition and camaraderie amongst the dogs and their humans speaks to what it is to be a Yukoner.”
The One Dog Pull events take place on Saturday, Feb. 24 at Shipyards Park. Registration and dog weigh-in takes place at 9 a.m. The Junior competition is at 11:30 a.m. and the Senior competition is at 12:30 p.m.
If your canine is more the type to sing for their supper, there is also the Feed Store/Pet Junction and Humane Society Yukon Pet Parade, which takes place at 3 p.m. on Saturday in the main tent in Shipyards Park, followed immediately by the Bluewave Energy Dog Howling competition.
Lifetime Achievement Howler Award recipient, Ruger, has placed in the event three times in three years, taking home first place in 2014 and 2016. Stage mom Shawn O’Donovan-Shipman said, “Ruger is usually quite a shy dog, and when we entered him we didn’t think he would even get on the stage. But the moment he was up there he shone like the sun and howled his little heart out.”
Last year marked an early retirement for Ruger. He participated in the competition just for fun, yielding a winning chance to other young “pup-and-comers.” He’s been coaching his cousin Mowgli, who you can catch competing this year.
Handlers are encouraged to howl, sing and make general fools of themselves to get their dogs to join in for a chance at the title.
Hopefuls must register online at www.YukonRendezvous.com/pet-parade-dog-howling by Tuesday, February 20. Entry is by donation.
If you want to participate…
One Dog Pull: Feb. 24, 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. dog weigh-ins; 11:30 a.m. event starts at the Shipyards Park Snow Pad
Pet Parade and Dog Howling Competition: Feb. 24, at 3 p.m. in the Shipyards Park Main Tent