Tales of sled dog’s rescues told in ‘The Blizzard King’

Special to the Sun
Courtesy Lloyd and Steve Van SickleLloyd Van Sickle, Rex's trainer and sled driver, was best buddies with the indomitable and loving Samoyed.

TRUCKEE, Calif. — Jim Cheskawich, author of “The Story of Rex of White Way, The Blizzard King,” will sign copies of his book Tuesday, Jan. 15, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. at the Bookshelf, located at 11310 Donner Pass Road in Truckee. A dinner at 6 p.m. at Cottonwood Restaurant will follow.Cheskawich, who has served as Samoyed Club of America (SCA) president and treasurer, wrote a historical biography about Rex of White Way, a noble, loving hero dog, whose legacy carries on today.The purebred Samoyed lead dog, trained by Lloyd Van Sickle of Truckee, lived from 1946-1957 and was involved in more than 30 human rescues. Rex, bred by Agnes Mason of Sacramento, was awarded a place of honor in the U.S. Postal Hall of Fame for this work as lead sled dog on a U.S. mail run up the Targhee Pass. He set the record for strongest dog in the world in weight pulling, won speed and freight races with Van Sickle’s Targhee hounds, including sled dog races in Truckee. The most famous of his rescues occurred when he pulled victims from downed planes at the Truckee Airfield in 1949 and delivered them by sled to a doctor in town. Another world-famous rescue occurred in January 1952 on Yuba Gap, where Rex blazed the trail to reach the snowbound train City of San Francisco with 226 passengers and crew.Rex was whisked from the Golden Gate benched dog show to make the mission, delivering Truckee’s Dr. Nelson to the stranded train fr emergency aid.He also was on the movie set with John Wayne for “Island in the Sky” filmed at Donner Lake.“A fantastic account of a once-in-a-lifetime dog, his breeder Agnes Mason, and his trainer Lloyd Van Sickle … This is a great memoir filled with wonderful historic pictures,” wrote Madeline Druse, Tamerack Samoyeds, Samoyed breeder, exhibitor and AKC judge.Cathy Cusack, president of the Potomac Valley Samoyed Club called the book “A touching memoir of a Samoyed whose immeasurable spirit and heart will live on forever.”Tuesday’s event commemorates the 61-year anniversary of Rex’s delivery of Dr. Nelson on the snow-covered pass.Cheskawich lives in Woodland, Wash. and manages Woodland Kennels. He received his Bachelor’s of Science and Master’s of Business from Penn State, and served in Vietnam with the 101st Airborne Division.“In a way, Rex wrote his own story, and my job was to be faithful to the marks he left … This was a great dog,” wrote Cheskawich, who owns award-winning “Riley,” a Rex descendant.The book is available in hard and soft cover as well as the Kindle version on Amazon and also at the author’s website:

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