What does it mean to love someone? Well, for Winnipeg- gers, the answer might scarily involve embracing your partner’s winter activities. This was the case for André Lavergne, who, on his second date with now husband Kevin Roberts, was asked to join a skijoring exercise.
What, you are not familiar with skijoring? Nor was André. So, not surprisingly, he arrived without a dog. Kevin equipped him with one of his, a pair of skis and a specialized leash, and off they went. The fact that André came back at all was the key element to confirming that this relationship might just work out. Now, the married couple runs Oxford Dogs, a company that offers training, equipment rentals, and equipment sales, as well as event organizing for this sport.
Do you remember when you were a kid and your parents kept sending you outside to play with the other neighbourhood kids, and one of those kids had a big dog, big enough to pull someone on, oh, let’s say a three wheeler, or maybe a scooter, or while you were on roller- blades, or anything that would be fun and cool? Well, that’s skijoring—sort of. At least, that’s how it started for Kevin, and one could easily guess for most practicing skijoring aficionados.
Knowing the laws of momentum, many figured that winter would be the best climate for such activities. Snow allows for better gliding on skis or a kicksled, but it also provides a nice padded surface for an activity that can only come with a few spills. Therein lies the attraction of strapping on skis and gliding out into the woods with your dog; it’s something fun to do during winter! And it burns energy for dogs who have a lot of it.
There is something primal here—for dogs and for people. The neighbourhood kid is still alive in us. And for the dogs, well, “There’s a path! Lets run down the path! Ya, ya. What’s down this path? Ya, ya. Wooo hooo! I’m outside running!”
For it to all work out, one needs the proper equipment and the proper train- ing. Especially since skijoring racing involves many dogs and many people barrelling down a path at speeds around 32 km/h. The result is well-socialized dogs and humans. Skijoring creates a bond with the dog, but also with the other people engaging in the activity. Kevin’s biggest competition is also the first to have offered to rewire his kitchen.
Oxford Dogs, located in Winnipeg, is a company, but it is also the home of Kevin, André, Burger, Bell and River, the last three being beautiful mutts. These five prove that with an open heart that is capable of loving, some training and a desire to follow a thrill, even winter can create lasting family bonds. For more information, visit Kevin and André’s website at OxfordDogsGear.com, their blog at skijordogs.blogspot.ca or find them on Facebook.
Eric Plamondon is a Winnipeg-based freelance writer.