Training canines for the world’s most renowned sled dog races, such as the Iditarod and the Yukon Quest, is tough and dangerous work.
On a routine late night run with his team of sled dogs, Ed Stielstra reached down to adjust his headlamp as he had a million times before. Stielstra lost balance and was detached from his sled and knocked unconscious, resulting in loss of teeth, a black eye and a severe concussion. What should have been an emergency trip to the hospital turned into hours looking for his loose dogs.
“They definitely put the needs of the dogs first,” Jamie-Sue Seal, Stielstra and his wife Tasha's agent, said.
Tuesday evening, Ohio University Performing Arts will host Idita-Quest, an intimate look into dog sled racing with the professionals and furry athletes themselves. The event presented by Tasha, who is a sled dog racing champion and educator, has caught the attention of many people, so it’s advised to arrive early to this free event.
“There seems to be a lot of interest in the event,” Andrew Holzaepfel, senior Associate Director of Student Activities, said. “We have limited our advertising a bit because there is limited space.
Tasha and Ed own Nature’s Kennel in the upper peninsula of Michigan, where they raise and train their champion canines.
“These dogs are so great, I mean they just love ... to run and they are just phenomenally cared for. … Ed and Tasha have won numerous humanitarian awards for the care of their dogs,” Seal said.
In case taking care of 150 sled dogs failed to keep the couple busy enough, the Stielstras are raising their two children, and they speak to thousands of children around the United States every year about dedication and teamwork. Ed also recently just finished the Iditarod, which takes place in Alaska, for the eighth time — more than any musher in the Midwest.
Tuesday’s audience will get a first-hand account at what it’s like completing one of those world famous races. Tasha, accompanied by Ed and teammate Lauren Neese, a Newark native, will share their favorite stories, videos and photographs from trails, as well as introduce a few of the canine athletes.
“They’re very friendly dogs,” Seal said. “People will be able to pet them and there’ll be some photo opportunities — they have a nice backdrop that they’ll bring.”
Holzaepfel had the opportunity to see the Idita-Quest presentation last year at a Performing Arts Center in Newark and said he thought it would be something great to bring to OU.
“I think that this is something that’s really unique and whenever we take them to different campuses or different performing art centers, everybody always says like, ‘this is nothing like we’ve ever presented,’” Seal said.