I think, so far, Kyle has the best story of how he got involved in dog sledding. I hope I can do it justice with the written word.
His inspiration initially came from his grandmother who had her own 2 dog team that she used to haul grain and oats and he still has an old photograph of her with her dogs that he looked at often when he was younger.
At 18 after meeting his wife, Jen, and each owning a dog, a Pit Bull and a Sheltie, they decided to add one more to the family, a Rottweiler. This crew of pups got him thinking, if his grandma could do it with 2 surely he could do it with 3.
Kyle builds his own sleds, in fact he is incredibly resourceful having even built the house that he lives in now.
So at 18, he built his first sled. I'm not sure it would have been legal at any race. He said it was a big heavy wooden thing that somehow included an old lawn chair, a few of those kids crazy carpet sleds and lots of staples. In fact the harnesses were home made as well using cheap Petland store brands covered in wool socks and duct tape.
Living in Calgary at the time he chose to use the back alley to take his dogs for their inaugural run. Hooking everything up and standing on the back of the sled he discovered his mix matched team of dogs had no intentions of pulling him anywhere.
This was not about to deter Kyle. Instead he grabbed a tennis ball and threw it ahead of his little team who surged forward for the chase. The rest of the day, running back and forth along the alleys of Renfew Calgary were spent having to get off the sled, grab the tennis ball back from the dogs and throw. It must have been quite the sight.
However it was enough for Kyle to begin hunting through the Bargain Finder paper where he found his first 'real' sled dog.
This is another fun story that you will have to ask him to share with you in detail. It includes a rather large Malamute dog that was full of fury and teeth. The seller put Kyle on a sled for his first ever run with 6 dogs, a crazy run in which he lost the team. However he came away smiling, hooked, and the owner of a new dog that shredded the seatbelt in his car on the way home.
This dog turned out to be one of his best leaders.
15 years later and now in the Rimbey Alberta area with a yard full of Alaskan Huskies at OpenCreek Kennels, I'd say it ended up the way he'd hoped and dreamed.
Kyle's first race was at the Canadian Challenge in 2015, almost 13 years after his ball chasing team took him for a ride through the streets of Calgary
His most memorable experience of that race also highlights one of his dogs, Kayto. A yearling in 2015 ending up being one of his best leaders, especially as he went into this race without a good leader to begin with.
Not having enough supplies waiting for him at the wilderness checkpoints he had to carry an extra drop bag with him making a very heavy sled for the hills he had to traverse before Montreal Lake. The dogs were tired by the time he got there and he was hoping to get across the lake before dark.
The wind had picked up and the teams desire to run was waning. What he needed was a leader to take charge and he found that in this young dog who still looked raring to go. He remembers Kayto turning his head into the wind and pulled the team all the way into Harolds, never missing a marker.
When asked if he had any plans beyond this race he wasn't 100% sure, although he seemed to have his plans well thought out. He says he would stick with mid-distance racing for now, eventually qualifying for the Yukon Quest, attending races such as the Eagle Cap and the Beargrease in order to build up experience and do well enough to gain sponsorship so that he can one day afford to run the Yukon Quest.
His high energy levels and positive spin will get him there, that I am sure of.
Kyle and his crew try out sprint racing in Didsbury
Photo Credit: Mike Forhan