My name is Paige Drobny and I'm 37 years old. I am a dog musher and a fish biologist.
How did you acquire your dogs?
By the end of our first winter, 2009, we had twelve dogs and a puppy. Many were adopted from shelters, and others from passed mushers. In the beginning we were just having fun with them, going on camping trips and day trips. Eventually all the sports merged into dog mushing when we got up to Fairbanks.
How big did you want your kennel to hold?
We were never going to have a big kennel, never more then fifteen to twenty dogs, the numbers always changed. We just loved it too much, with the different personalities of the dogs, working with them, going places. The further we wanted to go the more dogs we needed. It was like a big camping trip. The kennel kept growing. With racing we wanted to try it to see if we like it.
Why dog mushing?
I have always been interested with animals in the natural world. When I was younger, I used tt always get lost in the woods and getting into trouble for it. I went to Virginia Tech for my undergrad and decided to travel to Fairbanks in 2008 for my grad studies in Fisheries and Oceanography at UAF. I've always loved animals and have always wanted to have a farm with a big slew of animals. My husband, Cody grew up on a farm. He built me a sled for Christmas one year and then left town for a trip. When he got back, I had acquired three sled dogs, the beginnings of our sled team.
How do you train for your races?
Preparation for races is an ongoing thing. We start at the end of August, beginning of
September, when temperatures hit below 50 to 45. We start running them with a 4 wheeler and gradually increase their miles as time goes on. When the snow comes, we get on the sled and continue to work the miles. It's a gradual progression, like a marathon runner would train. We do lots of camping trips and multi-day trips. We don't show them anything in a race that we wouldn't show them in training, so there is nothing to throw them off.
How often have you raced?
It's only been a couple years since we started with two races in 2009-2010. In 2010-2011, my husband and I did only one race. I still worked full-time as a fish biologist at the Tanana Chiefs, until I quit the following summer to dedicate my whole time to the dogs.
How do you get your dogs motivated to run?
If you think about wolves, or even house dogs, their natural rhythmic cycle is up in the morning, sleep through the midday and up during the early evening. Around mid-night, they are up again, having a six hour on six hour off natural rhythmic cycle–equals prime running dogs. In distance mushing, mushers try this method to get the most out of their dogs, although races typical start around noon. Mushers adjust accordingly.
How does breeding line up with future commitment?
If we decide we want another liter, we sign on for another 15 years. It's a fine balance, coming up to racing prime dogs and dogs getting ready to retire. We have to be very particular about breeding with whom. If we have a great litter, all will make a race team with long careers, however, if we choose incorrectly, a litter of puppies who are not into mushing need to find good homes, which is never the goal. The goal is to have a litter of superstars every time when we breed two dogs together. We are super conscientious for the future of our dogs if want to continue to race. It's hard at times, like having fifty kids out in the yard. We don't view them as a herd of working dogs but as our babies. They are not like disposable creature to us.
What do you do with the dogs that can no longer run?
We keep the retired dogs or we try to find them loving homes that lets them lay on the couch for the rest of their lives. We are picky about who wants to adopt. We try to find them good homes or they stay with us in the house.
What is an average race career for a typical dog?
The average race career with the dogs vary between 5 to 10 years, depending on the dog, and if he or she wants to keep at dog mushing.