Not erics_bruisers related. Except for the part about it being 10000 degrees in Columbia. No anti Iditarod posts, please. http://www.thestate.com/mld/thestate/16797333.htm Chapin Burgess’ avocation usually elicits one of two reactions: “You do what? or “You live where?” Burgess is a musher. Mushing, or dog sledding, is most popular in places with arctic conditions, places like Alaska, where the famous Iditarod and Yukon Quest races are held. Not in South Carolina. Not in Chapin. Suffice it to say it’s an unusual sport for someone like the Southern-born Burgess. “Mushing is something I’ve wanted to do since I was 2 years old. I used to turn a chair upside down and tie the cats to it and pretend I was mushing, even though, of course, we weren’t moving.” Thirty-six years later, he’s moving. His goal is to race in the Iditarod, a 1,150-mile race that lasts 10 to 17 days over frozen terrain in Alaska. This year’s Iditarod starts Saturday. Burgess is training for the race, which he hopes to run in three years, in Chapin. His race team includes 12 huskies, all of which were abused or abandoned. Burgess keeps 25 rescued huskies on his rural property in Chapin. He even adopts out the dogs he doesn’t keep to train. “His passion is taking rescue pets and transforming them into champion dog sledders,” said Laura Thackston, who owns Wescott Acres Luxury Pet Resort and works with rescuers. “That to me is so special. It says a lot about his talent.” Burgess has traveled all over the country to race his dogs on dry land, with wheels on a cart or rig, and on snow. Before he goes to Alaska, he plans to actually spend time training where there’s snow and ice. For now, Burgess races his huskies in rural Chapin nightly, as long as the temperature is below 70 degrees with no humidity. He serves the team 75 pounds of dry food, 25 pounds of steak, 15 pounds of chicken and 15 pounds of bacon daily while they’re training. “They eat steak and fish while I eat Ramen noodles,” he said. Burgess accepts donations of food, including freezer-burned meat. The training season ends when it gets too warm outside. Then the dogs go back to eating dry dog food. They also go swimming on Lake Murray, which helps them stay in shape — and stay cool. Even though the dogs were bred for cold weather, they adapt to the heat by shedding, Burgess said. And even though most of his dogs are Southern-bred huskies, they will adapt when they race in those arctic conditions. And so does their musher. While Burgess was working as a handler at a race in Alaska, a television reporter approached him. After establishing Burgess was from South Carolina, the reporter asked him if he knew what the temperature was. He didn’t. Later, when he watched the television interview, he learned it was 20 below — and saw he was wearing a short-sleeved T-shirt. Burgess grew up in Fayetteville, N.C., and spent several years in countries like Kenya, Japan and Korea doing missionary work before graduating from Columbia International University. He has climbed mountains to get over his fear of heights and learned about wilderness survival — which comes in handy with dog sledding when you have to do things like melt snow for drinking water and boil fish for the dogs. Burgess, who works for a company that owns cell towers, knew very little about huskies when he started, but is now considered an expert. Perhaps because of his Native American ancestry — he’s descended from the Mattiponi tribe and speaks Cherokee and Sioux as well as seven other languages — he shares a quiet understanding with the dogs that seems almost magical. “It’s almost like he’s one of them,” said Andrew Reed, who works with local rescue groups. “Chapin can look at the lead dog, and he will know what to do ... with just a look passed between the two.” That kind of understanding is vital when you’re a musher, Burgess says. “I trust them totally,” he said, speaking specifically about his lead dogs. “I trust them with my life. ... You develop a deep bond. And it’s not only me trusting them, but them trusting me.” His dogs haven’t always been so well understood. Cosmos, his main leader, was rescued from Tennessee. He had been beaten and abused. “The first time I went in to get him, he bit me,” Burgess said. Now, Cosmos is one of the dogs Burgess takes to schools when he speaks to students about his hobby. He is friendly and affectionate. And, like his teammates, he loves to run. Whether it’s in Alaska — or in South Carolina.