Saving lives: One woman races with all-rescue sled dog team

DIAMOND LAKE, Ore.– You don’t normally think of sled dog races when you think of Oregon. However, in the right conditions, it’s just as good as any other place for a race.

This weekend at Diamond Lake, several regional groups held their annual race to showcase their teams and get a little practice. The event was hosted by the Cascade Sled Dog Club and Pacific Sled Dog and Skijor Association with dozens of dogs and racers coming from across the west coast.

Some even came from the Rogue Valley’s own backyard.

Allyson Griffie and her team are from Medford. She’s been fostering animals and working with sled dogs for more than a decade. But unlike other teams, Griffie’s dogs all share a similar back story. They’re rescue dogs.

“Jackson’s from Salem,” said Griffie, pointing out one of her dogs. “He was, unfortunately, kind of a drug baby. His owners were making meth and he was exposed to it and he’s doing great now.”

While some racers have one or two dogs that have been rescued, Griffie acknowledged many still prefer to find dogs through breeding programs that provide the fastest and most athletic.

“Although people do have some of those rescues a lot of people are actually breeding them themselves or getting them from mushing lines,” she said. “And they are, they’re faster at this and they win the races.”

While Griffie does enjoy the race, to her winning has a different meaning – one which involves healing.

“I got this dog when I was healing from cancer and he helped me in so many ways,” she said while holding her dog Jackson.

Griffie was diagnosed with breast cancer several years ago. She says having the dogs helped her find a purpose and give her the support she needed and for that she’s grateful.

Now, she’s returning the favor and helping give her dogs a purpose and a chance at a second life.

“These dogs like I said, I feel like I helped heal them from bad situations but in turn, they’re helping heal me and they’re kind of my support system too,” she said.

And because of that, her dogs are grateful as well.

The Diamond Lake Sled Dog Race is expected to return again around the same time next year. However, last year the race was canceled due to a lack of snow but all the racers hope next year’s conditions will be just as good as it is this year.

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