Somerset Siberian huskies soak up spotlight
Siberian huskies Sir Prize and Mojo knew the good life — living in a rural setting in Somerset with their family. Then, destiny came knocking at their door and things have never been the same.
Their owners, Lorraine “Lorri” and Dale Barron and their 14-year-old daughter, Laura Dale, all work together as a team to own and operate Lauradale Kennel outside of Somerset.
Now, that teamwork has been recognized in a big way.
Sir Prize and Mojo have starring roles in the new Disney movie “8 Below.”
Sir Prize plays Dewey in the film and Mojo plays one of two dogs acting as Truman.
“It’s amazing they found us,” said Lorri. “We never thought they would be so interested in our dogs because we are from a rural setting.”
Interested they were. Birds and Animals Unlimited, the trainers for Disney, contacted the Barrons in fall 2003 after seeing their Web site when conducting an Internet search for Siberian huskies that live in the northern U.S. because apparently these dogs don’t shed as much.
The trainers asked to take eight of their dogs from the kennel to Oakhurst Tea Room along Route 31, west of Somerset.
They explained to the Barrons that they wanted to see how the dogs reacted to people coming and going from the restaurant and how they handled without their owners being present.
“When they brought the dogs back, they told us ‘we’ll let you know’ and then they left. We thought ‘we’ll never hear from them again,'” remembered Lorri. “Within about a week or two they called and told us they wanted Sir Prize and Mojo. We were so excited. As their owners, we knew our dogs were special but it was great to have Disney tell us that.”
Along with the Barrons’ huskies, Ravenwood Kennel, of Garrett, Somerset County, also has two dogs in the movie, both of which were bred at Lauradale Kennel and then bought by Ravenwood.
The Ravenwood dogs, Dakota, a white Siberian huskie, plays Shorty, and Chase plays Truman along with Mojo.
There were 36 Siberian huskies in the movie with eight main characters and backups for those roles and several other huskies as well.
Mojo, however, really won Disney’s heart so much that Birds and Animals Unlimited wanted to buy him. But, Lorri told them he’s too special to sell but will be ready to do a sequel any time.
“Mojo gets along so well with other huskies and with other animals. He is so caring and too special to sell,” said Lorri.
In the fall of 2003, Disney flew the dogs to Vancouver, British Columbia, and they came back in March 2004. The dogs then flew again in September and came back in May 2005 when the movie was completed.
Mojo and Chase also went to Greenland to shoot a special sea gull scene.
Disney told them that the movie “8 Below,” a compelling story about eight huskie sled dogs that survive in the Antarctic wilderness against the odds, would debut Feb. 17. The Barrons couldn’t forget that date — it was their wedding anniversary.
“It is so exciting to see our dogs on the big screen and to see what they were trained to do,” said Lorri, who has given quite a few media interviews of late and also took her star dogs to the Palace Theatre in Somerset for the opening date of the movie.
“People can’t believe it and the dogs just love all the attention,” she said.
The Barrons started out 12 years ago with one Siberian huskie that was owned by their older daughter, Crystal Law, of Richland. Crystal moved to an apartment that did not allow dogs, so the Barrons took care of him and then they thought about getting another one.
“He (Chief) was such a good dog and we really liked him so we decided to get two females,” said Lorri. The numbers grew from there and now the Barrons sell their Siberians throughout the U.S. There is even one of their huskies in Hawaii. They have also branched out to a few other breeds. They built a new kennel a few years ago and give Dennis Wetzel, Somerset County dog warden, a lot of credit for helping them with the plans.
Life is busy for the Barrons, especially since both Lorri and Dale work full time. Lorri serves as the first deputy in the Somerset County recorder of deeds office. Dale drives tanker truck for Stahl Oil Co. in Somerset.
Younger daughter Laura, 14, attended Somerset Area High School and now cyber schools at home. Laura is a very big part of the kennel operations. She designed the Web site that Disney found and she regularly markets the dogs and replies to e-mails. While Laura also has a few horses she is training, she could never imagine life without their huskies.
The Barrons’ other children also love to help out when they come home. They are Crystal, married to Trevor Law, who works for the Johnstown Police Department’s K-9 unit, and their four children, of Richland; Eric Glessner, a respiratory therapist at Westmoreland Hospital in Greensburg; Bryan Glessner, of Raleigh, N.C., and his daughter, Amy Blough, a teacher at Rochester High School in the Pittsburgh area; and Sheldon Barron, married to Kandy Watkins, of Somerset.
“This is something the whole family can do and enjoy,” said Lorri. “It’s a team effort for us and we love our dogs and are very happy for our two special stars.”