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Retired sled dog finds happy home with 7-year-old Iditarod dreamer

Published: Feb. 8, 2021 at 3:08 PM CST
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LEMMON, S.D. (KFYR) - The 2021 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in Alaska will have a local connection.

Seven-year-old Sloane Penfield from Lemmon, S.D. and her new best friend, Harley, will be watching the world-famous race a little extra closely.

Penfield has been dreaming dog sledding for most of her young life.

“There’s this movie that I watched when I was little called ‘Eight Below” and I just fell in love with it,” she explained.

Penfield had been trying to fill six two-liter bottles with dimes; someone told her that would be enough money to buy her own Husky someday. But before she could fill all those bottles, her dream came true. In November, her parents surprised her with a trip to Montana, a visit to Skinny Leg Sled Dogs and her very own sled dog.

“They came out here we did a little sled ride together. And then we came back to the barn and I asked her if she liked Harley quite a bit and she said she did and she loved him and then I said, ‘Well, he’s yours if you want.’ She didn’t know what to do,” recalled Brett Bruggeman, a former Iditarod racer who now lives in Great Falls, Mont.

“I was so surprised!” said Penfield when she recalled the day she met Harley.

Harley raced in the Iditarod. He’s retired now, and his owners were looking for a forever home for him. Penfield was the perfect match.

“It’s been so fun to see all the things that she’s doing her family. She reads in books rooms and gives them baths,” said Bruggeman.

There hasn’t been enough snow this winter for Penfield and Harley to practice mushing, so the dynamic duo has found a compromise. She’s hooked Harley to her bike.

Now Penfield is busy planning for Harley’s birthday – he’ll be 11 this month.

“I’ll probably give him a toy,” she said.

Her mom, Kelli, sends photos and videos to Bruggeman and his wife so they can keep tabs on Harley. Bruggeman says he’s happy to see his best friend find a new best friend.

“Harley was a real special dog here he is probably one of the happiest dogs we had. He was just always happy and always wanted to run,” said Bruggeman. “He was probably one of the kindest dogs to never worried about him with children and it’s pretty much perfect that he’s with her.”

Penfield couldn’t agree more. These mushing mates plan to keep going, and going and going long after this year’s Iditarod race is finished.

Penfield has started baking homemade doggie treats for Harley.

She even donated four dozen treats and two copies of the Skinny Leg book to a benefit auction for a classmate who has leukemia and raised more than $300.

This year’s Iditarod begins March 6.

Harley came from Skinny Leg Sled Dogs in Great Falls, Mont. You can learn more about their story on Facebook; just search Skinny Dog Sled Dogs.

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