PARK CITY — There is something special about rescuing a dog and showing it what it means to feel loved. But Rancho Luna Lobos co-owner and professional dog musher Fernando Ramirez takes it a step further: He gives his rescue dogs the opportunity to live out the purpose of their breed.
Rancho Luna Lobos is a rescue, touring and professional racing kennel housing more than 50 dogs, most of which are rescues.
"The Nordic breeds are often found in shelters because of owners’ lack of knowledge about the breed," said Ramirez. "Our main goal and passion are to share our sport and educate anyone willing to listen."
The Park City native said he started mushing when he was about 8-years-old. His mom told him if he wanted to get involved in the sport he would need to include rescue dogs on his team. Today, he competes in the International Pedigree Stage Stop Race in Wyoming and has been accepted to compete at the World Championship this year in Canada with his team, half of which are rescue dogs.
While most mushers utilize dogs with a pure bloodline and bred with racing in mind, Ramirez has not run into much trouble being an "underdog."
"We cannot teach the drive and passion to want to run," he said. "They have to have that one ingredient; everything else we can coach, except for passion."
"If they love to run, it’s only a matter of a few weeks to really train them. Then after that, it’s just a matter of seeing where they fit on the team," said Ramirez.
Some people think that dog racing is cruel, but Ramirez says that's far from the truth. The dogs that do not make the racing team join one of their four tour teams, and those who don't enjoy running at all live out their days in furnished cottages where they even watch Netflix.
"Their favorite show is ‘Glee.’ When they (the actors) sing, the dogs will howl back," said Ramirez.
But the goodwill does not stop with giving rescue dogs the chance to race with the purebreds, Ramirez and his wife, Dana, have started a nonprofit called Sledding for Hope with the prize money from the races they win. The charity helps children in Jalpa, Mexico, by giving them educational supplies, medical assistance, and meeting other basic needs.
Ramirez said he called Colby Angelos to film an ad for Rancho Luna Lobos. After spending some time with Ramirez, Colby said that there was something special with the dogs and offered to film a documentary. "The Moon Dogs" will be screening at the Salt Lake City Library on Monday, Nov. 18, at 7 p.m.
Editor's note: an earlier version of this story said "The Mood Dogs" will be screening at the Salt Lake City Library on Monday, Nov. 18, at 7 p.m. It has since been corrected to 6 p.m.