Dog sledding has filled Butler County home with furry competitors and lots of love

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Cindy Eddy and her son, Austin, sit on the couch in their Butler County home, covered in dogs.

While at least 12 run around, some lie on the floor and others jump into their laps. One even walks along the top of the couch looking for a little attention.

Only 10 of the dogs, however, belong to the Eddy family. The others are friends’ dogs that Mrs. Eddy has agreed to dog sit.

Now that’s a dog lover.

But these dogs are more than pets. They are a variety of breeds that travel in four states to take part in the sport of dog sledding.

Mrs. Eddy has loved animals all her life and runs a mobile dog-grooming business called Country Critters out of a large van.

She got her first husky puppy immediately after high school and learned about the sport of weight pulling, in which dogs are harnessed to pull weights on a sled. One of her dogs weighs 60 pounds and can pull 700 pounds.

Eventually, she got involved in racing the faster dogs while they pulled a sled. Alaskan huskies are bred for speed, while the Siberian husky is usually better suited to weight pulling. One of the Eddy family dogs is a German shepherd who is fast and loves to pull a sled. One loves to run on the treadmill while receiving treats.

Austin, 16, does the dog sledding now as the sport can require a lot of physical exertion. The Eddys take their dogs to races in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Ohio and New York through the Pennsylvania Dog Sled Club. Austin participates mostly in sprint races that cover 2 to 3 1/2 miles. He and the dogs can cover two miles in under seven minutes. Other types of races traverse 250 miles over a couple days.

When there’s no snow, the dogs pull carts on wheels or specially outfitted bikes at the events.

As Austin harnessed two of the dogs to pull him on his bike, the animals’ excitement could barely be contained, and they took off along the road at full speed. Although two huskies pulling a bicycle may be an unusual sight, in the Eddy family’s neighborhood in Center, a passing driver just gives a casual wave.

Mrs. Eddy believes the sport is great for the dogs; for Austin and her other son, Justin, 14; and her husband, Ray.

“It’s another thing for the kids to do instead of sit in front of the TV and the computers all the time. They are out there working with the dogs,” she said.

“It’s all family-oriented, something to do with your pet. [The dogs are] not just tied up out back or in the house laying there. They’re still loved. They’re well-adjusted dogs.”

When she met her husband, he didn’t want any of the dogs in the house. He wouldn’t even let them in the car back then, but that changed as his wife kept adding dogs to the family.

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Doug Oster/Post-Gazette
Austin Eddy, 16, plays on a trampoline with one of his dogs, Amos, at his home in Center. He uses some of his 10 dogs for sledding.

“After about the fourth one, he said he was leaving,” Mrs. Eddy said. “The fifth one, he said he was leaving. After the 10th, he hasn’t left yet. So if he does, I’ll probably replace him with a couple more dogs,” she said, laughing. “He’s come a long way with loving the dogs. It’s an acquired way of living.”

Now Mr. Eddy loves the dogs and allows six of them to share the couple’s queen-sized bed.

The dogs greet visitors to the house with wagging tails and intense interest, but after about 10 minutes, they go back to what they were doing. They are well-behaved inside, but sometimes the law of the jungle applies.

“It’s that three-second rule when things hit the floor, depending on how bad you want that Oreo. It’s mine if I get there before the dogs,” Mrs. Eddy said.

The family goes through about 50 pounds of dog food a week.

“There’s probably not much furniture that has not been chewed in my house because that’s the breed. We’re making it dog proof. It’s all linoleum, ceramic tile, hardwood floors. … Carpet didn’t last very long at all,” she said.

The dogs love to run in their fenced-in yard. When Austin jumps on the family’s trampoline with one of the dogs, others hop on to join them.

Mrs. Eddy stands in her driveway covered head to toe in mud from the dogs running, jumping and playing with her. It won’t be pretty when they head back inside, but she wouldn’t want it any other way.

“It’s a bond, like having kids. I could never put them out in the back yard. I love my babies and I’ll deal with the mud.”

Source: Post-Gazette

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