U.P. Musher Laura Neese Offering New Summer Sled Dog Experience

April 28, 2022

Need a sled dog fix this summer? You’re in luck because musher Laura Neese is opening MI Dog in Newberry, MI on May 28, 2022. Her new “summer sled dog experience” will give visitors a chance to learn about dog sledding and meet her team of dogs, including dogs that finished the Iditarod and the Yukon Quest. Laura works and races for Nature’s Kennel and she’s run the UP200 and Midnight Run many times. The Gang-Line caught up with Laura to get all the details on her new venture and how you can go visit some sled dogs this summer.

How long has MI Dog been an idea that you’ve wanted to pursue? When did you actually begin to bring MI Dog from dream to reality?

My vision for MI DOG started in the summer of 2019. The first step in bringing MI DOG to life was to find the perfect piece of property. After looking all summer I decided on a beautiful 18-acre piece of vacant land on M-123 about halfway between Newberry and Tahquamenon Falls. The property was very overgrown with young beech trees, so I spent the following summer with a chainsaw in hand, thinning the 18 acres out and planning where I wanted to put everything. Last summer was spent getting the driveway, parking lot, and trails put in as well as installing the kennel and fencing in play areas and puppy pens. Finally, this spring is a busy time constructing the gift shop, installing the last of the fences, and putting the finishing touches on everything before the grand opening on May 28th!

What will guests experience on a MI Dog tour?

Our visitors will start their tour with puppy cuddles and an introduction to the Alaskan Husky breed. After their puppy time they will take a walk to the adult dog area where they will meet me and the race team. I will give a short presentation on varying topics including stories from races, cold weather gear for the dogs and myself, training during the different seasons, etc. They will see the race team in their summer training/summer play time and have the opportunity to meet a few of the team members hands-on.

What are you hoping that MI Dog visitors will leave the experience understanding about sled dogs and mushing?

My goal is to give our visitors a look into the life of professional racing sled dogs and to leave MI DOG with an understanding of the exceptional abilities of these dogs. I want to share a glimpse into the passion that these dogs have for running and the amazing lives that they lead with top of the line care, feeding, and love from their mushers.

What is your favorite memory from running a UP200 or Midnight Run?

My favorite memory of the UP200 is my rookie run in 2015. It was my first year working at Nature’s Kennel and the UP200 was my second Iditarod qualifier. I had broken my tailbone a week before the race start, so I was taking a LOT of ibuprofen and I remember bootie-ing dogs on my knees so I didn’t have to bend over. My team that year was very talented and fast. In true UP200 fashion, we got a big dumping of snow during the race and we were in our element. I had no idea what place we were in until Wetmore Inbound, when Ed pointed out that we were in second place behind Ryan Anderson. That last run was incredible. The team was just rolling and we pulled in to the finish 20 some minutes behind Ryan. A pretty magical race for an 18-year-old living a 9-year-old dream!

Left: Laura Neese and two of her dogs, siblings Maple and Winkle – photo courtesy of Laura Neese

Will you share a photo of one of your dogs and a short anecdote about what makes them special?

Anyone that knows me, knows my leader Maple. There has been a special bond between us since we met in 2014 and she is truly a one-person dog. She has led my team through some of the coldest and craziest weather out there without blinking, and I’ve put my life in her paws multiple times. She is retired now, and is my head co-pilot and working buddy.

MI Dog opens May 28, 2022. Find more information on MI Dog here.