My other life: Kirsty Price, 23

26th May 2006 at 01:00
Day job: Science teacher on graduate trainee programme at the Dukeries college, Nottinghamshire

Other life: Competitive sled-dog musher (driver)

It's not always easy keeping nine huskies at the bottom of the garden.

First, they don't all get on. Also, they howl like clockwork at 7:30 each morning when I leave them. Luckily, the neighbours are supportive. And one is deaf. Sky, Odin, Quest, Balder, River, Loch, Ice, Heaven and Spirit don't bother him too much.

I've been racing huskies since I was 14, when I got my first two from a breeder. Now I go to meetings all over the country and race pairs of dogs across three to four-mile courses, and I'm usually the top-placed female musher in my class. I drive the dogs, and my rig - a sled with three wheels - around in a van meant to transport horses. For food, we've struck a deal with the local butcher, who gives us his fat cuttings.

If you want to do well in national race meetings, you have to work hard.

Four times a week, at 5:30am, I take the dogs to Clipstone Forest to train.

Steering the rig is a delicate art; I've been thrown off a couple of times.

And I try to work on personal fitness, too; the best mushers are those who can get off their rigs occasionally, and run. As long as you cross the finishing line on board, you're within the rules.

It's my love of dogs that drives it all. Even my degree was a BSc in animal science. My dogs are my mates; they know my habits and I know theirs. Dogs are trustworthy, and they definitely have individual personalities. Sky, for instance, is smart. He can count - with a little help - and woof along to "How Much is that Doggie in the Window?"

It was even my dogs that prompted me to become a teacher. I'd always sworn I'd never teach, but when word got out about my hobby locally, I ended up taking Sky into nearby schools. The children were fascinated, and I loved it. Now I use pictures of the dogs for my lessons on adaptation; we talk about how a husky's teeth are specially adapted for ripping into flesh.

I'm in training now for next season, which will begin in November. I'm working hard so we can enter the Affiliated British Sleddog Association (ABSA), where some of the best mushers race. We'll face some serious competition, but I'm determined not to let the dogs down. But I have even grander plans. We had snow here this Christmas, and I took the dogs out with a sled. It felt so different, absolutely amazing, just gliding along; I knew that this was how husky racing was meant to be. So as soon as I've saved the money, I'm taking the dogs to Alaska.

Kirsty Price was talking to David Mattin

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