JEANETTE: Today’s guest is Tom Andres from Germany. He is doing sprint and middle distance. Can you tell us a bit about how everything started?
TOM: It started now 25 years ago with my first Siberian husky, which was a show dog. After school, I was of the opinion I needed to have a dog. I needed to have a friend beside myself, doing many sports. So I thought it was a good opportunity to have a dog. Of course, it had to be a Siberian husky. It was nice-looking, black and white, blue eyes. So I bought the first one. It was a kind of show dog, but with already a nice body for running.
Then I started to meet the first people out of the competition scene who compete in the sled dog sport. I was interested, and half a year later I had four dogs and bought the first running Siberian huskies and started to compete in the sport.
Two years later it was then 16 Siberian huskies, so I was the guy who was jumping up very fast with the amount of dogs – which brings also some problems, because you should grow inside. Especially a kind of dog like this, which has not always the best behavior and it’s hard to teach them because they have their own head, and it’s a strong head. But I managed it after a few mistakes and after a few years. From mistakes you can just learn.
JEANETTE: What kind of challenges did you face?
TOM: One of the big challenges perhaps was the collecting of good dogs out of different kennels. If you want to have a good start, you need to go to the best kennels. But every kennel wants to reduce the problem dogs, so I was the one who got the best fighters. This was a problem, but I think it was very good for the purse of the veterinarians because I was there many times in the first years.
But we managed to do it on the other side. These dogs’ heads, really strong heads, which the people who sold me the dogs can feel after the first two years, when I started winning the races against them with the dogs they sold because they had a problem with this dog. I managed to get this in a lane that it’s still working. The secret always was to have a small kennel and less dogs. Then you can manage it.
You have the chance to pick out of a big kennel with perhaps 40 race dogs, you can pick out the problem dog because you have only 10, not 12 dogs, and you have more time for each individual. It was possible to bring them in a way where there was a handlebar. This was the start.
I was into the Siberian husky scene 7 years, and then looked over the border to the people on the other side, which was much faster than we, and fell in love with the Alaskans and with the Hounds. To this time, I was one of the best Siberian husky drivers, so it was easy for me to find a good kennel who would take nearly all the time. We are still friends, so after more than 20 years now, we are still friends. He’s not competing anymore, but he bought my whole race team, so I know all the team stayed together. He had quite good success a few years later. It was easy for me to step from the Siberian huskies to the hounds because the kennel was empty after a few days.
To the time I was racing the Siberian huskies, I was also going to the championships, like the German championship, European championship, world championships. You are always proud of yourself when you win something like this. It was the chasing after medals, let’s say. When I changed to the European hounds, my opinion also changed a little bit. I started to know people who had a completely different opinion to this and a completely different way of leading their dogs.
JEANETTE: Can you specify that?
TOM: Especially let’s say one name. It’s Heini Winter who is still a hero for me and is still I think one of the best dog guys in the world. How to lead dogs and how to think about all the race. He says winning is always super fantastic, everybody wants to win, but there’s only one guy