Caribou families learn about dog sledding with visit from musher, sled dog

2 years ago

CARIBOU, Maine – Families who stopped by the Caribou Public Library on Tuesday got a lesson in dog sledding from a local musher and one of her sled dogs.

Tracy Babin of Caribou recently finished ninth in the 30-mile portion of the Can-Am Crown International Dog Sled Races, held in Fort Kent. She and her Eurohound sled dog Dan helped conclude the Caribou library’s IditaREAD program.

The IditaREAD program, geared towards children and adults, gives readers a “passport book” highlighting checkpoints of the famous Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. Participants are encouraged to read 970 pages from books of their choosing that relate to sled dog racing. The page number is meant to closely correspond with the Iditarod’s total miles.

Once they complete the IditaREAD, participants turn in their list of finished books and are eligible to win a Barnes & Noble gift card. But for the program’s youngest readers, the real prize came from seeing a real sled dog up close.

Dan is one of two lead dogs in Babin’s team of six Eurohounds, who are a crossbreed of Alaskan husky and the German shorthaired pointer. The friendly canine posed for photos with children and stood patiently as Babin demonstrated how she prepares her dogs and sled for practice runs and races.

The library is the second place Babin and Dan have recently visited. Prior to the IditaREAD celebration, they held a demonstration at Caribou Community School. Babin hopes to possibly inspire families to take up the sport of dog sledding.

“Kids are the future of our sport,” said Babin, who recently began racing with her daughter Chantelle, 15. “I love teaching them about the types of dogs they might only see in movies or books.”

Though 9-year-old Luke Carlson of Caribou watched the Can-Am races with his family, he was ecstatic to meet Dan and learn more about racing.

“I’ve seen sled dogs but not like him,” Luke Carlson said.

Luke’s mother, Brianna Carlson, said that the IditaREAD program inspired Luke to learn more about sled dogs and made him more enthusiastic about reading.

“This is the most excited I’ve ever seen him get about reading. When he found out that he’d get to see a real sled dog, he read an extra book so we could be here today,” Brianna Carlson said.

Jessica Ciszewski of New Sweden brought her children to Caribou’s library after 11-year-old Caleb and 8-year-old Annika completed their IditaREAD challenge. Caleb said that at first Dan did not look like his version of a typical sled dog.

“I thought only huskies raced,” he said.

Caribou Library Director Peter Baldwin noted that prior to Tuesday’s event 10 children had turned in their IditaREAD lists and more were expected to finish. The positive response from families will encourage the library to make the IditaREAD and sled dog visit annual events, he said.

The library plans to host reading programs every winter and summer to encourage more children to read and help them learn about different topics, Baldwin noted.

“Kids like the idea of a challenge,” Baldwin said. “[With the IditaREAD] they get to see a real sled dog instead of just reading about them.”

CARIBOU, Maine — March 22, 2022 — Tracy Babin explains to families at the Caribou Public Library how she maneuvers her dog sled during races. Babin and her lead sled dog Dan visited the library as part of its IditaREAD program. (Melissa Lizotte | Aroostook Republican)

CARIBOU, Maine — March 22, 2022 — Eight-year-old Annika Ciszewski of New Sweden visits with sled dog Dan at the Caribou Public Library. (Melissa Lizotte | Aroostook Republican)