Hang out at the starting line of any dog mushing race in the NWT and you might think you’ve just crashed a Beck family gathering. Really, you have.
It was no different at the Arctic Winter Games in Hay River last March. Yellowknife’s Taylor Beck, 18, took home her first gold ulu, beating her cousin Trey, 16, who grabbed silver. Another cousin, Kale, 12, placed second in a juvenile race an hour earlier. (Taylor’s younger sister Taryn missed qualifying for the games by six seconds.)
The Becks are synonymous with the sport in the NWT. Taylor’s father, John, is a Canadian champion. Her uncle Brent has won a world cup race. Her great-uncle Grant is a world champion. “As long as I was able to stand, I was on a sled,” Taylor says. When she was one, she was on a one-dog sled.
Keeping a team is a full-time job. “You can’t really have much of a life other than dogs,” she says. But it’s worth it. “People think they’re just dogs, they run for you. They’re not. They’re part of your family.”
Taylor raced in Manitoba earlier this year, but with so many young dogs on her team, she didn’t take part in the Canadian Championship Dog Derby in Yellowknife—a race her grandfather Richard has now won nine times. (Taylor remains the youngest woman ever to compete in that race.) In fact, it may be a while before she races again. Taylor plans to attend post-secondary school soon, which means heading south. She will put her mushing career on hold. (You’d be hard-pressed to find a college residence willing to take a kennel of dogs.) But she intends to pick racing back up when she comes home. “This has been my life for 18 years,” she says.
At least she won’t have trouble finding someone to care for her team.