Canadian long-distance sled dog musher Karen Ramstead never imagined she would throw away her job as manager of a bone china shop and go to the dogs.
Now a veteran of nine Iditarod races and a guest and race marshall for this week's New Zealand Sled Dog Championships at the Snow Farm, Mrs Ramstead laughs at the transformation dogs have brought to her previously pet-less world.
She was the first woman to complete the gruelling 1760km Iditarod race and now spends three months in Alaska every year as well as racing throughout the United States and Canada.
"This is really outside the path I expected to lead in my life," she said at the Snow Farm near Wanaka yesterday.
Unlike many mushers, Mrs Ramstead prefers pure-bred Siberian huskies, which she says have fallen out of favour in recent years with the rise of the faster, purpose-bred Alaskan husky.
She compares her dogs to ice hockey teams. There are the experienced racers in mainstream competitions, the yearlings in training and a group of older, retired dogs. MORE>>