Free Spirit Siberian Rescue Visits Starved Rock State Park For Sled Demonstration And Seminar

Tracie Hicks

An educational event was held this past weekend at Starved Rock State Park in Oglesby, Illinois. The event was by a non-profit organization, Free Spirit Siberian Rescue. Karen Ferreri-Miller founded the organization in 1999. The rescue center is located in Harvard, Illinois. They held seminars on huskies and dog sledding, along with dog sledding demos. People could meet the dog sled team and pet the dogs, with a few of dogs up for adoption.

Free Spirit Sled Demo Team has visited Starved Rock State Park many times. The recent trip brought in many visitors. The LaSalle Conference Room at Starved Rock Lodge was overflowing with people. Many of the children were seated around Juneau, a rescue from a puppy mill in Missouri.

Jason Hussong, event coordinator and speaker, said, “These two seminars have been some of the biggest we ever had. We may need to look for a new venue for February’s event.”

The seminar, held by Jason Hussong, is presented with slides and videos. You are taken on a tour of the past to the present. You learn how mushing started, the importance of working dogs, and how those dogs are used in modern times. You learn the devices the sled team uses on their runs and during races. Jason brought Juneau up for all to see. He uses Juneau to help explain how Huskies can withstand the cold and heat by describing how their fur works, including the shedding process.

The seminar explains how Huskies are not the only dogs who can draft. Any dog who is healthy and capable can draft, from Dachshunds to Great Danes.

The demos were held in the parking lot of Starved Rock State Park’s Visitor Center in 20-degree weather. Before the demo started, everyone was given a chance to meet the team and pet the dogs, who enjoyed all the attention everyone was giving them. A few of the dogs there were up for adoption, with one set being bonded, Thelma and Louise.

Due to lack of snow on the ground, the demo team used a sled rig. A sled rig looks like a three-wheel bicycle with no seat, and this is called Dryland Mushing. The dogs are attached to the sled rig with a gang line hitch, like what we see them in regular sledding in the snow. The sled rig can go pretty much where bicycles can go.

The Free Spirit Siberian Rescue rescues not just Huskies, but many dogs. The rescue center is open for people to volunteer. Volunteers help take care and nurse these beautiful animals back to health.

The adoption process starts with an application. You will need references and a reference from your veterinarian. Once everything is verified and the adoption fees paid (ranging from $275 to $400), they will ask you to come to the rescue to meet your new family member. Then they will schedule a time to deliver the dog to your home, and this is to help him get used to his/her new surroundings.

The Free Spirit Siberian Rescue does these seminars and demo events throughout the U.S. The next event for Starved Rock State Park will be on February 18, 2018, between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. You may bring your pets to the event.