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      Life as a musher

      Jerry Trudell is a musher.

      "It's someone who's gotten a virus of running dogs, and the only way to cure it is to hop on a sled behind a team of dogs and head out into the woods," said Jerry Trudell, musher.

      He started in 2007 with just two dogs and now he owns an entire dog sled team, competing in up to five races each winter. Mushing has become a very popular sport in the Upper Peninsula, from Newberry's Tahquamenon Country Sled Dog Race to the UP 200 in Marquette and the CopperDog 150 in Calumet.

      Trudell came in second during the 2011 UP 200 Midnight Run. But before any race, it takes a lot practice.

      "So far this year, this training season, we've got just about 900 miles on the dogs," Trudell said.

      Trudell does a lot of his training with an all-terrain vehicle (ATV). It gives a musher better speed control, and the four wheeler helps the dogs build up muscles. In order for dogs to become great runners, they need food, and Trudell feeds his dogs twice a day.

      "They seem to know if I come out the basement door, they know it's feeding time so these dogs are lean, but they're certainly healthy. The diet is very controlled just to keep their weights at the ideal weight," Trudell said.

      As with most sports, mushing can be expensive.

      "It kind of adds up. Dogs are like bicycles. If somebody asks you how much a bicycle costs, well, you can get a bicycle for $50 or you can get a bicycle for $10,000. The same goes for sled dogs," Trudell said.

      Regardless of cost, having your own sled dog team means the owner and the dogs create a very special bond.

      "The more I've done this, what I've really found is you really do bond with these dogs. You really do get an understanding and a trust with each other," Trudell said.

      In the second part of my series, I put my trust in a couple of sled dogs to find out what it's like to step on the sled.