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Meet the underdogs who overcame significant obstacles to become one of the world's top dog-sledding teams – CBS News

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In the mountains of Utah, the Rancho Luna Lobos race team is gearing up for its next competition as one of the top-ranked dog sled teams in the world. 
Each of the all-star canines is an underdog who has overcome significant challenges to reach their winning status. Most were abandoned or abused before being rescued by Fernando and Dana Ramirez, who helped them find new footing in life. 
The couple and their five children foster nearly 100 dogs on the 55-acre ranch, giving the pups a second chance at life and love. Fernando Ramirez began racing at just 8 years old alongside his rescue dog named Yellow, and sees his current life as an extension of those early years. 
“Dog sledding for me is my art form,” Fernando Ramirez said. “There’s nothing like assembling a team of dogs that have come from different types of backgrounds, and when they’re all on the line together, it’s a masterpiece, because they’re all working in unison and you’re like one body.” 
Dana Ramirez is actually allergic to dogs, but sees her love of the pack as its own kind of medicinal cure. 
“You look into their faces and there’s a powerful connection that resonates into your soul,” she explained. “And it changes you, if you’re open to listen. It’s such a powerful thing that I say all the time, like, I never would have wanted you to have been a doctor or to be something else, like, this is what we were called to do.” 
Much like their owners, the dogs on the ranch have found a new sense of purpose and belonging through sledding. 
“Whenever we’re stepping on a sled, there’s purpose to it,” Fernando Ramirez explained. “And whenever we’re going and we’re running, there’s a mission behind it.” 
Fernando Ramirez took CBS Mornings along on a training run — one of several he does each day — where the dogs run up to 18 miles an hour to prepare for races as long as 30 miles. The pack is led by Umberto, a blind puppy who has overcome the odds stacked against him. 
“This dog with no eyes, he’s helping to lead an entire team,” Dana Ramirez said. “He ignites a fire in everybody else because he has such passion.” 
The couple emphasized that even though the dogs work hard, people shouldn’t be concerned about their welfare. The animals are not forced to run, Fernando Ramirez said, and the dogs get exceptional treatment, including chiropractic work and massage care, Dana Ramirez said.
“Everything that these dogs get is so … far above and beyond what the average house dog will ever get,” Dana Ramirez said. 
Their excitement for the race can also be seen on the trail, Fernando Ramirez said. The dogs have represented Team USA in three world championships so far, despite their underdog status and the difficulties they’ve had to overcome. 
“I like to see it as, if we really want to achieve something, life at times and most often will hand us a raw deal, right?” Fernando Ramirez said. “We don’t like the cards we’re dealt with, but it’s what we do with the deck we have at hand, is what matters the most.” 
Jonathan Vigliotti is a CBS News correspondent based in Los Angeles. He previously served as a foreign correspondent for the network’s London bureau.
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