Dogsledding is in the blood
- Marjorie D.L. Roden | April 20, 2023
At this year’s Prince Albert Winter Festival, the McGunigal family proved dog mushing is not just a man’s sport by placing in the top five in several of the competitions.
“I will say (my daughters) are very strong, independent women, and they’re a bit younger than I am, but they’re a huge inspiration for me,” said Tammy McGunigal, who placed first in the four-dog sled race.
The Metis women have a long history with the sport.
“We’re fourth generation dog racers,” said Danielle, the elder of the two daughters.
She placed fifth in the 10-dog team race.
“My great grandpa raced the dogs, then my grandpa raced the dogs, and then my parents started racing dogs,” said Danielle. “We were born into a sled-dog-racing family.”
Younger sister Demi was also in the two-day, 10-dog-sled team race.
On the first day, she placed fourth just ahead of her older sister. However, in the six-dog race, Demi placed second.
The sibling rivalry on the trail is all part of the fun.
“We always give each other a hard time, joking around, trying to get each other to stop running,” Demi chuckled. “It’s so I can try to get by her.”
On the second day of competition, Danielle redeemed herself.
“I didn’t actually see her much on the trails today,” said Danielle. “Yesterday was more fun, she was running in front of me.”
The pair will likely face off more in the future now that Danielle has moved out and joined her partner’s team.
“We have our own sled dogs,” she said.
With the sport being mostly male dominated, Danielle has noticed some changes.
“Over the last few years, more females have been involved,” she said. “I was in The Pas last weekend (at the Northern Manitoba Trappers Festival). I think there was a total of 13 female competitors.”
As with any sport, support is vitally important, in more ways than one, said the McGunigals.
“I think it’s a sport that’s hard to do by yourself, whether it is from friends or family,” said Danielle. “We went to Minnesota earlier this year, and we were gone for almost a week, so we needed someone to stay at home with the animals.”
Competitions also means time away from her young son.
“I have grandparents usually with him, or my parents, who usually take care of him,” she said.
However, it is a sport she loves and is happy to be doing her part to keep it alive.
“It’s important to me, as a Metis woman, to continue on this as a sport, which is a part of Metis history,” said Danielle.
She encourages young people interested in the sport to keep at it.
“Don’t give up on a bad day,” said Danielle. “I’m sure with any sport, like soccer, you might want to quit. It’s the same with dogsled racing. You’re not always going to have a good run with your dogs, but don’t quit on a day like that. Keep going.”