Prof heads sled for Cascade contest

According to the Chinese calendar, the Year of the Dog only comes around once every 12 years, and this is it. But in Margaret Black’s world, it’s always the year of the dog. With 21 purebred Siberian huskies to care for, how could it be otherwise?

This weekend Black, an associate professor of pharmaceutical sciences, is scheduled to compete in the Snow Dog Super Mush in Conconully in the Northern Cascades near Omak. It’s possible that a shoulder strain she suffered earlier this month in a sledding accident will sideline her dogs for this race, but since this is the mushing season, there’s another race on the horizon: the 75-mile Cascade Quest Sled Dog Race near Leavenworth at the end of the month.

The Conconully race is 50 miles, she said, and she’ll be racing a six-dog team. “I’m not brave enough to do 12,” she said and laughed.

Black, who has been mushing for about 10 years, said she never even owned a dog growing up, but got one in the bargain when she married her husband, Carl Bowman. Bowman already had a Siberian husky named Olaf, but Black thought he needed a playmate, so they added Sitka, and one accidental pregnancy later they were on their way to building a team.

Black said mushing was really her husband’s hobby, something he loved and could spend time on while she was in graduate school. But, when Bowman died in 1996, Black was faced with a decision: either get rid of several of the seven dogs they owned or make the sport her own.

“I thought the best thing I could do was keep the dogs and continue mushing to honor him,” she said. But 21 dogs? Black laughed again, “Obviously I got the bug big time.”

While all of her dogs still train, she said, not all of them have the strength or stamina to compete. But she’s keeping them all; it’s not really about the competition anyway.

“It’s a good way to get out in the woods,” she said. “I just like to enjoy being with my dogs.”

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