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"We also ask ourselves: why does the dog run?"

Blitz-interview of the most famous Kamchatka cameraman Andrei Semashkin on the eve of the launch of "Beringia-2018"

This year the dog sled race "Beringia", traditionally starting in Kamchatka, will reach Chukotka for the second time in history and for the first time in the world will cross the mark of 2100 kilometers in length. On the eve of the start of the mushers, who will have to overcome all the hardships of cross-country movement, EastRussia asked the four-time winner of the Beringia and the winner of the Beringia-2018 prologue race, Andrei Semashkin, what could happen to the team on the way and why should dogs run ahead at all. 

"We also ask ourselves: why does the dog run?"
Photo: Dmitry Shcherbakov

- By what principle do you form a team: there are more than a hundred dogs in your Snow Dogs kennel, but you need to select 16 for the current race?

- Usually everything is determined during the training: who keeps the pace, how quickly gets tired, how he listens. So gradually you determine who will remain in the team and who will not. As a rule, for the race I take dogs of the same litter, or just young, but of the same age, and then I deliver to them experienced. 

- Why littermates?

- First, they have about equal physical qualities, one growth, one color. Secondly, they know each other by smell, if you can say so, "by blood." They have their own hierarchy from puppyhood. So it's easier to work with them, sometimes, one or two dogs are excluded from the litter, the rest can be worked on. And this is easier than forming a team harness.

- It happens that dogs do not get along with each other, do they quarrel?

- Anything can happen. But the most important leader in this pack is me. And the dogs act and work on the basis of my wishes. They must hear and listen to my voice. Some short-term skirmishes are permissible: it is entangled with a paw, not jumped there. But some serious fights in the teams, at least, I do not. It is unacceptable.

- Can a dog not recognize the authority of a caviar?

- There are such dogs, very strong in character. If they have good working qualities to include them in the team, they have to "break". I had a dog that did not feed. I had to fight to the blood, I earned a bunch of scars. As a result, an amazing working dog turned out to be four years old. They just need to work with, and love them.

- This race will be the longest in history - for 2 thousands of kilometers. Any special approach to the selection in this regard was? For example, on endurance?

- First they wanted to make this race linear, not stage. In a linear race, everyone can adjust the mileage and the duration of the run and rest. But the choice was made all the same in favor of a stage race. The race promises to be quite heavy, not everywhere there will be snow. There will be many long transitions, and dogs need a full rest. For long distances we, the cavalry, so to speak, do not go every day. So we'll go into the villages, rest somewhere even for two days, so that everyone eventually reaches the finish line. 

- The race is not easy. Is there a moment when a "second wind" opens for a mule and a dog?

- Many people refer to the race as an additional training. For example, if someone's dog does not have time to make a foray, it can be done during the race itself. "Second wind" opens somewhere in the middle of such a long distance: the dogs begin to work more actively.

- What are the main difficulties faced by the guards on the track?

- Usually dogs must first be held so that they do not waste their energy, do not let them go to high speed. It is always necessary to be guided by the situation, by the presence of snow. There are many difficulties. 

- Are there any cases when dogs are injured? 

- Of course. In 2011 year I went with the team to the stage length of about 130 kilometers. Due to the fact that there was almost no snow, they changed the route. We went to the bare ice, it was very hot. Many of my dogs cut their paws. Because of this, their immunity has weakened, and at some point the "case" has begun: they did not die, of course, but just started to drop out. We shot them one after another, and I prisshshelos, reaching only Palana, get out of the race to save his team. 

- "Beringia" - one of the main events of the year for the cue. And for dogs? Do they feel the significance of the moment?

- Yes, and very good. They are "charged" for long distances, ready for the fact that these will be long transitions. The spirit of dogs can always be seen even by the audience. Leaving the start fairly quickly, the dogs, tuned for a big race, move to the fast lynx. Dogs ready for a sprint at 10 kilometer will gallop the entire distance. My dogs have already calmed down, tune in to a long route and do not waste their energy. 

- Do dogs rest after "Beringia"?

"A maximum of two or three days." And then we again bring the dogs into working mode. This is very important: the constant work of the heart. Because there have been cases if the dog is left for a long time in after the race, she just falls asleep and does not wake up.  

- Do they themselves feel such a tension of power?

- I think yes. If the dog "is not high," she will never run. We often ask ourselves: why does the dog run? Runs in a pack, and all work clearly, smoothly. Even in snowstorm, when you can not see the rear dogs, I'm sure you will always be taken out.

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