Woodstock dog races will raise money for husky rescue and adoption

Adopt-a-Husky will put on its Rig Rendezvous this weekend

Flynn, Coraline and Keegan are rescues being fostered by Adopt-a-Husky, a Siberian Husky rescue serving Illinois and Wisconsin. The non-profit's annual Rig Rendezvous race and fundraiser is set for Saturday, Nov. 11, in Woodstock.

Siberian huskies “are smart and have a sense of humor” and might, in fact, “love causing mayhem,” said Mary Beth Kolb of Adopt-a-Husky of Illinois and Wisconsin.

It’s that sparkle that makes Kolb love huskies. She has 13 of her own plus a Shiba Inu named Larry on 5 acres in Lake Villa.

But it’s that same sparkle and smarts that some owners find themselves not ready for once the dog hits its teenage years, Kolb said. It’s also why the rescue was founded in 1999 – to find homes for dogs that have nowhere else to go.

They are an active dog that require your participation.”

—  Mary Beth Kolb, Adopt-a-Husky of Illinois and Wisconsin

Adopt-a-Husky pulls dogs of the breed out of kill shelters across the two states, puts them into foster care and helps find them forever homes, Kolb said.

One of its largest annual events, the Bill Leonard Rig Rendezvous, is set to kick off at 9 a.m. Saturday at 3500 Route 47, Woodstock.

The Rig Rendezvous includes several types of dog-led racing and gives husky lovers – and anyone with a dog designed to run – a chance to compete with each other in McHenry County.

Spectators should, however, leave noncompeting dogs at home.

“There is no learning your dog can do at a race” like those set for Saturday, Kolb said.

The annual dogsled race is competitive, with trophies for the top three placers in each category. It is meant for people who have practiced and enjoy running, biking and sledding with their dogs.

Anyone who has a dog they run and race with can register.

“It is newbie-friendly, but it is a professional race,” Kolb said.

The fundraiser is held in remembrance of the rescue’s founders, Bill and Lois Leonard. The couple died a few months apart in 2008, Kolb said.

“Their philosophy was to give back to this breed that they loved” by founding the rescue, she said.

The first husky the couple rescued came from a kill shelter, Kolb said. That is a stance that the organization has stuck with, only taking in dogs in peril of being put down.

Over the weekend, Kevin Lane and other volunteers were out with three of those rescued dogs at Spring Grove’s Nature’s Feed pet supply store.

One of the dogs, Coraline, had been rescued from a kill shelter only a week before. Coraline is estimated to be a year old and may already have been bred.

“We are still learning about her, and she has no manners” and needs training, Lane said.

Huskies, he added, are very smart dogs with lots of energy – something a new owner may not be prepared for but that makes them great sled dogs.

Rig Rendezvous is different from what many in the U.S. might envision when they think of dogsled races and mushers. This is not the 900-plus-mile Iditarod in Alaska, which involves 12 dogs racing in extreme conditions across frozen tundra.

The dog-powered sports here are ones owners can partake in regardless of the weather and to keep their high-energy dogs engaged, Kolb said.

Rig Rendezvous offers 1.5-mile courses in men’s, women’s and junior canicross, bikejor and obstacle course races.

The 2.5-mile course offers a one- or two-dog scooter team, a two-dog bikejor team and a three- to four-dog rig race.

Canicross is an event in which owners run with their dogs attached by a harness. In bikejor, the dogs are attached to a bike or pedal-less scooter they can pull. A dog-racing rig is a bit more like a three-wheeled cart made for several dogs to pull.

Huskies and malamutes are known for sled racing, but those are not the only breeds that will take a harness and run. There often are eurohounds, another type bred for sled racing; Labradors; and even pit bulls on the course, Lane said.

Huskies were bred to run, but it’s a misnomer that they need a lot of exercise, Kolb said.

“They don’t need 20-mile runs. They need time and interaction,” she said. “They are an active dog that requires your participation.”

More information can be found on the group’s Facebook page by searching Rig Rendezvous.