There are many things Vineyard beaches are known for — nude bathers, unearthed shark teeth, clay cliffs — but sledding? It’s for the dogs! Literally.
Last weekend, while most of the Island slept soundly under a clear sky, a team of five adults and a pack of 14 Siberian Huskies took to South Beach for a dog sledding adventure. Two by two, the dogs ran, their path lit by the bright, full moon overhead.
“When you look back on your life, you just have those moments that you will remember forever. This will be one,” said Kathy Bennett of Windsor, Vermont, who trekked down to Martha’s Vineyard for the weekend to mush her pack with Susan Sellers of Edgartown. “The passion in my life is my dogs. And then the beach. I absolutely love being on the beach. So there I was, doing my passion on the beach, on my little slice of heaven on earth — that’s what I call the Vineyard. It just doesn’t get much better than that.”
It was a moment that had been a long time in the making. Always a dog person, it was not until her daughter Elizabeth, nine years old at the time, came home one day and declared she wanted to dog sled that Ms. Bennett found huskies, the thick-coated working dogs used for dog sled racing. While other little girls took dance classes and horseback riding lessons, Ms. Bennett signed Elizabeth up for a mentorship at a local kennel. “I made it clear this was not just for entertainment,” Ms. Bennett said. “If she was going to do it, it was going to be the real deal.” After a year, Elizabeth entered her first race. “I will never forget the expression on my daughter’s face the first time she ran her own team,” Ms. Bennett remembered. “It was just ecstasy.”
Only then did the family buy their first two huskies. Then they adopted another. Two more followed. Today, the mother/daughter duo, along with the help of husband Alex MacLellan, stepfather to Elizabeth, and his daughter Lissa, operate a Siberian Husky kennel of 16 dogs out of their home.
Practically since the husky adventurebegan, Ms. Bennett has dreamed of racing the dogs on the beaches of the Vineyard, a place she has been visiting for years. The dream began to come to fruition during a chance meeting last November.
Island artist Susan Sellers, who owns two huskies of her own and mushes them around her Pennywise Path neighborhood from atop a scooter, was driving onto the ferry in Woods Hole when the bumper sticker of the car in front of her caught her eye. Like the slogan for New York city which has the letter I followed by a red heart and the letters NY, the sticker read I heart (with the face of a husky inside the heart) My Sib (as in Siberian). Ms. Sellers jumped out of her car and introduced herself to the driver — Ms. Bennett. For the duration of the ferry ride, Ms. Sellers sat in Ms. Bennett’s car and the two talked huskies and checked out pictures of them on a laptop. By the boa trip’s end, the two were already discussing the possibility of a beach mush.
Last Wednesday, Ms. Bennett arrived on the Island with 12 dogs, two daughters and a husband. On Thursday, with temperatures cool enough so the dogs would not overheat, the gang took to the shore at low tide. For their first run, Ms. Bennett and Ms. Sellers hooked up the 14 dogs — Ms. Sellers’s two joined — and raced from Chappaquiddick’s Dyke bridge to Cape Pogue lighthouse and back. “The dogs had never seen the ocean, so they weren’t sure about that water coming at them,” Ms. Sellers laughed.
The next day, the team waited until the full moon rose and, at 1 a.m., armed with nothing but bottles of water and granola bars — Ms. Bennett said the adrenaline rush was better than anything caffeine could have offered — they returned to the beach. “Here we are, it’s low tide, it’s only in the 40s, we’re running along the hard, packed sand and there’s a slight breeze. It was ro-man-tic,” Ms. Bennett exclaimed. “Running down the beach, the full moon in front of us creating this full moon path. . . it was unbelievable.”
The team raced from the right fork of South Beach down to the opening of Edgartown Great Pond. They turned around, raced back to the breach, did an about face and headed back to the pond. The team ended the trip nearly six miles — and many hours — later.
“We had a great time and the dogs had a great time,” said Ms. Sellers, who was too excited to get to bed at all that night. Ms. Bennett agreed. “We would love to do it again,” she said.