“Haw!” “On by!” and “Gee!” are all terms you can hear being yelled out on most Saturday mornings at Rideau River Provincial Park. The person yelling these is Liz Macfie, retired dental hygienist and long-time skijor instructor.
Skijoring is the act of cross-country skiing while being pulled by a dog that is attached with a harness and a leash. It can be a different way to spend the winter weekends .
Macfie has been teaching the art of skijoring for 17 years and loves introducing new people to it. She owns multiple dogs herself, all rescues, and attempts to train all of them. Some dogs are better suited than others.
One requirement in terms of dogs is that they do have to be big enough to pull a full-grown human, and over the age of two. This is because if they are any younger their skeletons are not fully formed and can be damaged says Macfie.
Another requirement is the equipment; however, Macfie does supply that for training sessions.
For first-timer Daniel Sousa, his dog Akira did exceptionally well. She is a two-year-old Shepard-husky mix that took the lead very naturally. Sousa found out about the sport when he saw it in an article on CBC.
“I wanted to try skijoring because I was looking for a way to exercise with my dog that would tire us at the same rate. She can easily outrun me, and cycling with her is a bit too slow for me. I think with skijoring we will both be able to push as hard as we like and be equally tired at the end,” Sousa says.
The sport is unique but with more groups around Ottawa taking it up it has allowed for annual races with growing numbers.