Bio: Pokallus Embraces New Generation (Dog Sledding - 2017)

Contact: Dolores (Mohr) Kenyon

Surnames: Pokallus

----Source: Clark County Press (Neillsville, Clark Co., WI) 8/16/2017

Pokallus Embraces New Generation (Dog Sledding - 2017)

Pokallus Embraces New Generation of Dog Sledding

Cassidy Pokallus poses with her dog sledding team (left to right), Blue, Indie, and Sage. The Raging River Racing Siberians are training for three sprint races scheduled in 2018. (Contributed photo)

Imagine yourself in the midst of a winter wonderland, a remote trail that runs through the forest blanketed by a layer of fresh new snow that fell the night before.

You can see your breath, and feel the sting of the cold Wisconsin winter on your face. In front of you is a team of dogs, barking, and howling with glee and sheer excitement, doing what they were born to do.

Your boots are firmly planted on the runners of your sled, which was custom-made for you from white ash. Your dogs’ paws claw through the snow and ice, pulling you forward as your team weaves through the snow-covered pines.

The sport of dog sledding isn’t limited to the rugged Alaskan wilderness. There are people who run dog teams right here in Wisconsin, one of which lies right under our noses.

Cassidy Pokallus, a Neillsville native, is a musher. A musher is someone who trains, runs, and even races sled dogs.

Cassidy is the only daughter of Jeffery Pokallus of Neillsville and Brenda Pohle of Hixton. She is a May 2015 graduate of Neillsville High School.

Instead of continuing on to college like most of her classmates, she had something different in mind.

Cassidy purchased a Siberian husky puppy from a Wisconsin breeder, and the dog sledding journey began. From the moment Cassidy brought “Indie” home, she knew that this little puppy would grow into something truly remarkable.

She began to train the puppy with sledding commands at four months old; they walked around town learning commends every day, even in the winter.

With the money Cassidy earned by working at Apple Valley Bar and Restaurant, she bought her first sled in January 2016. The sled arrived a few weeks later, and on Feb. 6, 2016, Cassidy and Indie ran with the sled for the first time.

“Indie was a natural and did exceptionally well for being only seven months old at the time,” Cassidy said. “Indie and has only continued to improve.”

Since that first un, Cassidy has broadened the modes o transportation for sled dogs, including her bike, which she rigged so Indie could pull even without snow.

Later this year, Cassidy began working at Ho-Chunk Gaming Black River Falls, and moved to Black River Falls in December 2016. With moving, came a new husky to add to her team.

Cassidy’s boyfriend (now fiancé) Damon Finch of Black River Falls had a Siberian husky of his own, named Blue. Indie and Blue became a dynamic duo and pulled together for the first time in January 2017.

After a couple of months of things going great, Damon and Cassidy began talking about getting a puppy. On March 19, 2017, the youngest member of the team was born. Sage was born at the very same kennel that Indie was almost two years prior.

Cassidy did extensive research on the history of her dogs’ lineage. She found that two of her dogs (Indie and Sage) have a proud heritage of descendants of a lead dog from the 1925 Serum Run in Nome, AK.

Togo, a sled dog owned by Leonard Seppala, braved what was said to be the most perilous stretch of the relay, including the crossing of the Norton Sound and ever-shifting sea ice. Togo was later sold to a breeder in New England after the completion of the Serum Run.

This relay is what led to the commemoration of national Sled dog Day on Feb. 2, of every year, the day that the final team made it to Nome and delivered the diphtheria antitoxin.

It is also called for the erection of the Balto statue in New York Central Park, and the annual running of the Iditarod, aptly referred to as “The Last Great Race.”

Here in Wisconsin, two trail systems are available for dog sleds, both of which are located in Langlade County on the other side of the state.

Cassidy feels that if more people know about how rewarding dog sledding can be, more people would be getting into the sport. She has even brought the idea of an online petition to the Department of Natural Resources, to designate more dog sledding trails and help the sport make a comeback.

Cassidy found a name for her team of dogs, “Raging River Racing Siberians.” She manages the team’s social media outlets, including a Facebook page and a YouTube channel called “The Husky Files,” where she uploads footage of her and Damon’s daily lives caring for their pack as well as mushing videos.

If you think that the designation of more dog sledding trails in the state is a good idea, the petition will be shared to the team’s Facebook page when it is created.

In August 2017, Ragin River Racing became associate members of the Wisconsin Trailblazers Sled Dog Club.

Cassidy plans to attend the following races: “Ode to Champions,” Jan. 6, 2018, in LaFarge, hosted by the Tri-State Alaskan Malamute Club; Merrill Winterfest, Jan. 27-28, 2018, in Merrill, hosted by the Wisconsin Trailblazers SDC; and the Wausau Round Barn Rally, Feb. 24-25, 2018, in Wausau, hosted by the Wisconsin Trailblazers SDC.

“These races aren’t exactly the Iditarod, they are sprint races with distances varying from 2-10 miles versus the Iditarod’s staggering 1,000 miles,” Cassidy explained. “I don’t see myself running the Iditarod anytime soon, but anything is possible.”

With fall training around the corner, Cassidy will be dividing her time between working at the casino, and making sure that come January, her team will be raring and ready for the task at hand.

Good Luck, Raging River Racing.



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