JOSEPH - Dave Turner's making a name for himself in the world of sled dog racing.

He's known not only for speed on the trail, but also a well-maintained and trained team of dogs.

In fact, fellow musher Justin Harris said the behavior of Turner's animals is the picture of perfect handling in action, and added his team just might be the best in the Pacific Northwest.

"When a guy can let 12 dogs off their chains and they stay right around the truck and don't run off, you know he's doing something right," the Bend competitor said. "It's inspiring for the rest of us."

But for Turner, the real story of his animals goes beyond their pre-race composure and to their upbringing.

The eight dogs he brought to this year's Eagle Cap Sled Dog Race were raised by Doug Swingley, one of the world's premiere mushers, four-time Iditarod champ and hero of Turner's.

"Meeting Swingley for me was like a basketball player meeting Michael Jordan - it doesn't happen for very many people," he said. "But it went beyond meeting Michael Jordan of dog sledding. He's been a trainer for me and a mentor, and now I'm racing with his dogs."

Usually a short-distance speed racer, Turner is learning patience and endurance for the Eagle Cap race in hopes of continuing his winning ways with the new team.

The thing he's most apprehensive about is the final stretch of the race, which will be a 50-mile, 6-hour stretch from Ollokot back to Joseph.

Though Harris said Turner most likely will win the 100-mile race, Turner himself said he'll wait and see before making any predictions.

"Sledding all night isn't easy," he explained. "It's like late-night driving through the dark in the cold. You have to stay alert and be aware of how the dogs are running and lots of little things."

Turner works as a software engineer designing veterinary programs for Petsmart and spends many free hours with his dogs, training them for both races and recreation.

Of the seven eight-dog, 100-mile teams at this year's Eagle Cap race, he feels anyone can pull out the win, but it will primarily depend on the most balanced group.

"We're all going to have mistakes and little problems," he said. "Whoever wins is going to come down to a combination of who's trained their dogs the best, who deals with the problems that arise, and then some good fortune."

"He'll probably win," retorted Harris about Turner. "He'll probably blow us all away."


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