GREAT FALLS— Brett Bruggeman is a Great Falls dentist who specializes in root canals.
But, what may come as a surprise, is that he owns 36 sled dogs and is a musher who competes in sled dog races.
Brett and his son, Spencer, coincidentally were both reading books about sled dogs at the same time about seven years ago.
Spencer, being born with a birth defect in his right leg, left him unable to do traditional sports.
After reading these books on sled dogs, they both realized they wanted to start a sled dog team.
This is when Skinny Leg Sled Dogs was born.
After owning sled dogs for only around six months, Brett decided to compete in his first race, the Race to the Sky in Lincoln, Montana.
“The first Race to the Sky, I was probably way in over my head. I was very unprepared and the team was unprepared, but we did finish it,” Brett said.
That year, Brett was the recipient of the Red Lantern Award, which is given to the musher who crosses the finish line last. He added, “It took us a long time, I think we finished 12 or 16 hours after the next closest team to us.”
But this year’s Race to the Sky outcome was a little different. Brett finished in first place.
“On this one, I guess this is my sixth one, it’s definitely a lot easier and a lot more enjoyable too. This race went really well, the conditions were tough but the dogs did great and we had a nice finish,” Brett said.
Conditions were tough alright, temperatures were 20 below zero at the start of the race and real windy, according to Brett.
“The biggest thing was the weather, I was actually glad for it cause it’s good preparation for when we go up north with the dogs,” he added.
Brett also said there was a lot of snow which makes the trails really slow, “I think this was probably the slowest first place finish in the Race to the Sky in the last 10 years.”
He added that he only got around three hours of sleep during the three days of the race. “I learned a lot through the years and it was nice to be on the other end this year.”
Not only did Brett win this year’s Race to the Sky, but he also came in first place in Idaho’s Sled Dog Challenge and came in second place at Oregon’s Eagle Cap Extreme, just minutes behind his son, Spencer. This makes Brett this year’s winner of the regional Triple Crown Award.
All these races and weekends training with the dogs is preparing Brett for the biggest race yet, the 2019 Iditarod in Alaska.
The Iditarod sled dog race is a 1,000-mile race that starts outside Anchorage, Alaska and goes all the way to Nome.
He ran the race last year and is going back to race for his second year, “It got under my skin and that’s why I’m going back.”
Brett says he’s most concerned about the weather, “I’ve experienced the trail before, we’ll be doing the same route as we did last year, so I know what to expect, but that doesn’t mean the unexpected can’t happen.”
Brett said he’s glad to get Great Falls on the map as far as the mushing community goes, “Hopefully I can represent us well in Alaska.”
The 2019 Iditarod starts on Saturday, March 2. You can follow along with their journey on their Facebook page.
-Kasey Herman reporting for MTN News