Urban mushing hits Winnipeg streets

Who needs a car when you have dogs?

When a multi-day spring snowstorm forced many Manitobans to take refuge in their homes, Asmara Polcyn saw an opportunity for a quintessential northern activity.

“In a perfect world you throw the dogs in the car and then you are on a ski trail,” said Asmara Polcyn. “But when a storm sends you home and tells you to stay home there’s not too much choice but to sled or kick sled out the front door.”

There was a nice base of snow, plows had yet to go through, and most importantly, traffic was quiet.

“That sort of opens up the streets for winter activities for dogs,” said Polcyn.

So, with dogs in harnesses and skis under foot, she set out on the streets of Winnipeg’s Lord Roberts neighbourhood on Thursday. The trip had many residents giving her the thumbs up as she passed by yelling commands like “Gee” or “Haw” to help direct her pulling companions down the snow covered asphalt.

Polcyn is the proud owner of three dogs: a 3-year-old German Shepherd called Strix, Ace who is a 7-year-old Belgian Malinois and a blind Alaskan husky named Patch.

Now, one would assume a blind dog may not be best suited to pull a sled, but he comes with a racing pedigree having competed in events in the Klondike as well as World Championship dog sleds races in The Pas. He competed in those while visually impaired.

“He’s absolutely astonishing,” said Polcyn.

This was not Polcyn’s first foray in dog mushing. She said she was inspired years ago by dog sled races put on by the Festival du Voyageur. Dog teams would take part in 10-mile runs starting at The Forks and travelling down the river.

“That was it. To hear those dogs screaming and yelling cause they’re anxious to go and just to see all those teams down there. Just so much excitement,” said Polcyn.

That was about a decade ago and she hasn’t looked back since.

“You’re outside and you’re getting sights, sounds, smells, you’re also working with a team so you have your teammates there, your family there with you. You’re all getting some exercise and the benefit of endorphins and everything all dog owners want which is sleeping dogs later,” Polcyn said.