Mushers abuse dogs during Iditarod

Dogs work! Mushers ride!

Comfortable seats mushers sit on while racing their dogs into the ground, photo attributed to Alaskan Dude on flickr

Comfortable seats mushers sit on while racing their dogs into the ground, photo attributed to Alaskan Dude on flickr

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Dogs whipped, beaten and bitten

The Iditarod has no rule prohibiting the use of whips.

Many other dog sled races do have this prohibition, including all Can-Am Crown races, International Pedigree Stage Stop Sled Dog Race, John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon, Gin Gin 200, Percy DeWolfe Memorial Mail Race, Copper Basin 300, Tustumena 200, Dubois, Empire 130, AttaBoy300, Yukon Quest, Yukon 500, Grand Portage Passage Sled Dog Race, Sandwich Notch Races and Kuskokwim 300.

Dogs beaten into submission:

“They’ve had the hell beaten out of them.””You don’t just whisper into their ears, ‘OK, stand there until I tell you to run like the devil.’ They understand one thing: a beating. These dogs are beaten into submission the same way elephants are trained for a circus. The mushers will deny it. And you know what? They are all lying.”

– Tom Classen, retired Air Force colonel and Alaskan resident for over 40 years
USA Today, March 3, 2000 in Jon Saraceno’s column

The Anchorage Daily News didn’t want you to read about whips:

On April 4, 2006, Ethel Christensen submitted a personal letter (on her own and not in her capacity as director of the Alaska SPCA) to the editor of the Anchorage Daily News. Although this letter was under the paper’s 225 word limit, the editor refused to publish it in its entirety. The one the newspaper finally published on April 21 excluded the sentence “Whips are still being used and I have been given the names.”

— Here is the original letter Ethel Christensen sent to the editor on April 4, 2006:

Bullwhip. Bullwhips are used on Iditarod sled dogs. Photo attributed to AldoZL on flickr.

Bullwhip. Bullwhips are used on Iditarod sled dogs. Photo attributed to AldoZL on flickr.

“This is in response to Laura Kelly’s letter to the editor in today’s paper. I have know Laura for years but have to take her to task for she insults people outside of Alaska and in particular the tourist. Whips are still being used and I have been given the names.

I have never met Margery Glickman but know she was one of many tourists who have been appalled by what they see as tourist when they visit the large dog lots and in particular of well known mushers. These complaints have also included the wolf tourist sites.

To insult the tourist is certainly non productive and couple that when an Anchorage Daily News reporter calls Margery a “guttersnipe,” I find it an embarrassment.

In addition, when Dr. Catherine Mormile was contacted at the recommendation of Duke University to have Anderson Cooper interview her on CNN, the Anchorage Daily News totally ignored her. Dr. Mormile was CO poisoned as an Iditarod musher in 1994 and recovered through the help of family and shear determination on her part. She played a large part in helping the recovery of Randy McCloy. Dr. Mormile’s experience or her recovery could be a positive for all of us, including the animals.

This is all so sad and to treat a tourist with ridicule is rude, to say the least.”

– Ethel D. Christensen

Investigative report that Ramy Brooks hit dogs with chain:

“He [David Amuktoolik, Jr.][an adult] told Paniptchuk he found a short chain where the musher had been.

Two children, an 8-year-old girl and a 9-year-old boy, also told the investigator that Brooks kicked some of his dogs. One of the children said Brooks hit the dogs with a chain.”

– Mary Pemberton, Associated Press, May 18, 2007

Abuse is not rare:

Mushers beat their dogs with quirt whips. A quirt whip has two tails at the end. The core of the quirt is normally filled with lead shot. Mushers can roll up quirt whips and put them into their pockets.

Mushers beat their dogs with quirt whips. A quirt whip has two tails at the end. The core of the quirt is normally filled with lead shot. Mushers can roll up quirt whips to hide them in their pockets.

“Rare is the musher who hasn’t lost it with his or her dogs. Ramy Brooks isn’t the first and won’t be the last.”

– Editorial, Anchorage Daily News, May 22, 2007

Dogs beaten for going off of trail to sniff or lift a leg and for going too slowly:

“Punishable offenses include pulling off of the trail to sniff or to lift a leg, going too slowly, not keeping the tugline tight, disobeying a command, being aggressive to humans, or fighting with each other.” “…A ‘spanking’ may be administered with…a birch/willow switch.”

– Hood, Mary H. A Fan’s Guide to the Iditarod, Loveland:Alpine Blue Ribbon Books, 1996

Mushers says dogs who won’t race should be whacked:

“Her [Sandy McKee’s] dogs are being regally obstinate. They will not move. McKee is talking about dropping out, a fact that irks [Bill] Borden to no end. ‘Those dogs are playing mind games on you,’ he says, pacing inside the community center. ‘You gotta whack them in the ass and say, ‘Lets’ go.””

– Bill Donahue, “Sit. Stay. Fetch,” Sports Illustrated Women, December, 2002

Beating a dog to show dominance:

“He [Tiger] was more stubborn than I and he’d gained control. The only way for me to get it back was to dominate him, to make it more painful for him to lie around like a lazy bum than to get on with the job at hand.”

“I cut off the eighteen inch tree. I anchored the sled firmly so the dogs wouldn’t run off to Nome without me. I took Tiger out of the team and led him back behind the sled where I gave him a good switching without having the team panic into a tangle trying to get away from my anger.”

– Bomhoff, Burt. Iditarod Alaska: The life of a Sled Dog Musher, Anchorage: Publication Consultants, 2013
– Burt Bomhoff served on the Iditarod’s board of directors, as Iditarod president for many years, and ran dogs in the race seven times.

Musher says Alaskans like dogs they can beat on:

“I heard one highly respected (sled dog) driver once state that “‘Alaskans like the kind of dog they can beat on.'”

– Welch, Jim. The Speed Mushing Manual, Eagle River: Sirius Publishing, 1990

Musher says beating dogs is very humane:

“Nagging a dog team is cruel and ineffective…A training device such as a whip is not cruel at all but is effective.” “It is a common training device in use among dog mushers…A whip is a very humane training tool.”

“Never say ‘whoa’ if you intend to stop to whip a dog.” “So without saying ‘whoa’ you plant the hook, run up the side ‘Fido’ is on, grab the back of his harness, pull back enough so that there is slack in the tug line, say ‘Fido, get up’ immediately rapping his hind end with a whip….”

– Welch, Jim. The Speed Mushing Manual, Eagle River: Sirus Publishing, 1990

Whips used to drive dogs across the finish line:

“As we came up over the sea wall onto Front Street, I reached in my sled bag and pulled out a whip just as he glanced around and saw it. So he reached in and pulled out his. And that’s the way we came down the street, just driving those dogs for all there was in us.”

– Iditarod winner Dick Mackey discussing how he and Rick Swenson used their whips to drive their dogs across the finish line on Front Steet in Nome.
– Freedman, Lew. Iditarod Classics, Seattle: Epicenter Press, 1992

See a photo of Dick Mackey with a whip in his hand.

Driving dogs like they’re going to drop dead:

“As 1978 champion Dick Mackey once explained, ‘From here you’ve got to drive the dogs like they’re going to cross the finish line in Nome and drop dead.'”

– Sherwonit, Bill. Iditarod, Seattle: Alaska Northwest Books, 1991

Rick Swenson says to use force on the dogs:

“Then when you do tell him to do something, if he doesn’t want to do it for you, you enforce the command, you force him to do it, for you.”

– Swenson, Rick. The Secrets of Long Distance Training and Racing, 1987

Getting out the whip:

“Rick’s [Mackey] dogs had come back from the sickness, but he couldn’t get them to move fast enough, and the trip up the river on the snow machine trail through deep snow and drifts had worn them down again.”

“‘Maybe I’ll have to get the whip out. Joe Garnie just pulled in and two or three days ago I was faster than him.'”

– Jones, Tim. The Last Great Race: The Iditarod, Mechanicsburg: Stackpole Books, 1988

Whip is out:

“Just caught and passed Douglas Sheldon, but he had his whip out and was cracking that as he pulled away.”

– Olesen, Dave. Cold Nights Fast Trails, Minocqua: NorthWord Press, Inc., 1989

Whip makes dogs panic:

“My whip is something that, as a serious dog trainer, I do not use without considerable forethought. For the dogs who have tasted its sting, in a reprimand for a serious fight or some other major transgression, the sight of the whip and the sound of its crack are enough to touch off a flood of adrenalin and a wild rush forward powered by sheer panic.”

– Olesen, Dave. Cold Nights Fast Trails, Minocqua: NorthWord Press, Inc., 1989

Musher says mushers should always have the whip with them:

“Denis Christman passed on a piece of advice that he had gotten from Bill Taylor years earlier. Never let the dogs see the whip until you are actually going to use it. Hide it, but always have it with you.”

– Welch, Jim. The Speed Mushing Manual, Eagle River: Sirus Publishing, 1990

Bullwhip:

“Although the miles have tended to run together over time, there is one constant that I learned from my first race that stays with me even today. And, no, it isn’t to leave the bullwhip at home.”

– King, Jeff. Cold Hands Warm Heart: Alaskan Adventures of an Iditarod Champion, Denali: Husky Homestead Press, 2008

Angry Iditarod mushers bite sled dogs on their ears and noses to force them to race.

Angry Iditarod mushers bite sled dogs on their ears and noses to force them to race.

Mushers bite dogs to force them to race:

Steve Fossett chuckles about biting lead dog–

“Steve Fossett ran into a little trouble during the Iditarod, the 1,100-mile Alaskan dog sled race. His lead dog decided on his own to stop to rest and insisted that the rest of the team rest with him.

Yelling didn’t work, so Fossett marched to the front of the sled, got down on his hands and knees and bit the husky’s right ear.

As Fossett describes it in his new memoir, Chasing the Wind, the bite ‘was hard enough for him to know that I was the lead ‘dog,’ that I was the alpha male in this chain of command.’

Fossett, during a recent Investor’s Business Daily interview, chuckled at the memory of that power of will.'”

– Curt Schleier, Investor’s Business Daily, October 18, 2006

Tom Daily bit dog who balked at racing–

“[Tom] Daily tried each of his leaders. Each refused to go. On a hunch, he placed Diamond-the slow leader he had bought from Barve-in front. The dog balked. So [Tom] Daily bit him in the ear.”

– O’Donoghue, Brian Patrick. My Lead Dog was a Lesbian, New York: Vintage Books, 1996
– O’Donoghue was a reporter with the Fairbanks News-Miner

Iditarod mushers bite sled dogs on their noses to force them to race. Photo attributed to Andrew Pescod on flickr

Angry Iditarod mushers bite sled dogs on their noses and ears to force them to race. Photo attributed to Andrew Pescod on flickr

Musher bit dogs in the nose or ear–

“The same musher, in dealing with a wayward husky, would drop on all fours and actually bite the nose or ear of the offender.

– Colin Nickerson, Boston Globe, February 5, 1984

Musher beats dogs with whip handle:

“‘No,’ is something I use a lot,” Mr. [Lou] Schultz said, “‘and when you start using it, you have a whip in your hands. You don’t lash the dogs, you use the handle.'”

– Wayne King, The New York Times, March 15, 1980

Bitches in heat fool weary dogs

“I had heard of using a dog in heat to your advantage, the philosophy being that hormones can give a weary dog team something else to think about. I decided to try it and unhooked Nickel from her tug line.”

– Frederic, Lisa. Running with Champions, Anchorage: Alaska Northwest Books, 2006

“She [Dolphin] came in heat about half way through the race.”

“I simply put her in front instead of the back. It worked. We went like a pack of mad rats for 500 miles with those boys chasing Dolphin and her trying her best to run away.”

– Seavey, Mitch. Lead, Follow or Get Out of The Way!, Sterling: Ididaride Publishing Company, 2008

“Revelation, the female in heat tied to the stanchion in Ruby was Canon, a main leader. Jeff [King] says the dog is really keeping his male team dogs moving.”

– Runyan, Joe. Winning Strategies for Distance Mushers, Sacramento: Griffin Printing Co., 1997

Putting the squeeze on dead tired dogs

“I wanted to leave right behind Rick [Swenson], as I knew my dogs would be tired and would be a little more eager to go if they had another team to chase.”

– Bomhoff, Burt. Iditarod Alaska: The life of a Sled Dog Musher, Anchorage: Publication Consultants, 2013
– Burt Bomhoff served on the Iditarod’s board of directors, as Iditarod president for many years, and ran dogs in the race seven times.

Dogs have inborn desire to run:

“A dog’s desire to chase moving things is simply a display of predatory instinct.”

– Jenna Stregowski, Registered Veterinary Technician, about.com, 2013

“Dogs chase by instinct….”

– VeterinaryPartner.com, 2013

This dog is exhausted from racing in the Iditarod.

This sled dog is exhausted from racing in the Iditarod.

Mushers sleep on their sleds while dogs race

Paige Drobny sleeps while her dogs run:

“For most of the first 385 miles of the race, teams traveled long stretches of flat, frozen river. Musher Paige Drobny says the easy-going trail has been good for her.

‘I don’t really mind it,’ she said. ‘I’ve gotten more sleep than I ever have before, because of being able to sit on my sled and being able to sleep while the dogs are running.'”

– Emily Schwing, Alaska Public Radio Network, March 13, 2015

It’s easy for mushers to be lulled to sleep:

“It’s easy to get lulled to sleep by the constant bump-bump-bump of the sled as it travels down a well-packed trail.”

– Zack Steer, Alaska Dispatch News, March 10, 2014

Lance Mackey sleeps while dogs run mile after grueling mile:

“He [Lance Mackey] dozed off while riding his sled after leaving the Shageluk checkpoint on the way to Anvik, about 500 miles from the finish in Nome. When he awoke, he was up a slough without a trail marker in sight.”

– Mary Pemberton, Associated Press, March 13, 2009

Mitch Seavey twice fell asleep and fell off his sled:

“[Mitch] Seavey did himself no favors on that run — he twice fell asleep and fell off his sled, according a Facebook post by his son Danny Seavey.”

– Kyle Hopkins and Beth Bragg, Anchorage Daily News, March 12, 2013

Martin Buser slept on his sled while racing his dogs:

“Between Golovin and White Mountain my body began to give in as I battled back one of the most intense sleep attacks ever felt. No matter how hard I tried, no matter what I did, I couldn’t stay awake. Trust your dogs.

‘D-2 I’m going to have to sign off for a little bit, you are in charge,’ I said.

I tied myself securely to the sled and allowed my eyes to close.”

Buser, Martin. Dog Man, Durango: Raven’s Eye Press, 2015

Mike Williams, Jr. sleeps on the sled while his dogs race:

Laureli Kinneen: “Besides the art of feeding dogs, the Iditarod also requires the art of resting. Williams said he was able to catch up on that in Takotna, but he only got a few winks getting to McGrath, 283 miles into the race.”

Mike Williams, Jr.: “I took a lot of catnaps going up those hills and on the flats. I closed my eyes and woke up in a different spot. A couple of times I woke up the dogs are stopped. I’d get them going again and not long after start dozing off a little but we were moving pretty good.”

– Laureli Kinneen from KYUK, Alaska Public Radio interviewed Mike Williams, Jr. on March 8, 2012, KYUK website

Wade Marrs slept standing up:

“‘I [Wade Marrs] even fell asleep standing once or twice.'”

– Casey Grove, Alaska Dispatch News, March 9, 2014

Newton Marshall slept while his dogs raced:

“Exhausted, he [Newton Marshall] sometimes found himself falling asleep on his moving sled.”

– James Bone, The Times, March 23, 2010

John Baker sleeps, falls off sled and loses dogs:

“Baker reported falling asleep on his sled, tumbling off and losing the team in minus-30 cold. It was the second time this race the team has gotten away. The first time, Baker hit a tree outside of the Rohn checkpoint in the Alaska Range and the gangline snapped, leaving him with only two dogs.”

– Kevin Klott and Craig Medred, Anchorage Daily News, March 16, 2009

Mushers known to sleep and fall off their sleds during Yukon River portion:

“The Yukon River portion of the nearly 1,000-mile Iditarod is dreaded by many mushers because of its long, boring stretches of nothingness. Mushers have been known to be so sleep-deprived and so bored by this section of trail that they simply fall off their sleds.”

– Associated Press, March 9, 2012

Karin Hendrickson sleeps on her sled:

“I doze off repeatedly, only to snap awake just before crashing into trees.”

– Karin Hendrickson, Iditarod 2009, her website article

Susan Butcher sleeps on her sled while her dogs run:

“Driving up the river [Susan] Butcher dozed on the back of her sled, dropping into sleep now and again.”

– Jones, Tim. The Last Great Race: The Iditarod, Mechanicsburg: Stackpole Books, 1988

Jeff King sleeps while racing his dogs:

“King passed Mackey while he was camped.

The 90-mile run from Kaltag to this point, the first of the villages of along the Bering Sea, was long and slow, King said, as his dogs broke trail on fresh snow that fell days ago. Some times, he said, he dozed off and missed large parts of it.

He claimed not to even have gotten a good look at Mackey’s team when he passed.

‘To tell you the truth, I was sound asleep,’ King said. ‘I just barely saw one of (Mackey’s) dogs.'”

– Kevin Klott and Craig Medred, Anchorage Daily News, March 9, 2008

“The only injury in the last couple of days I’ve had is when sitting on my tail-dragger I nodded off and my nose hit the and handle bow and got a bloody nose.”

– Jeff King’s interview with Knom’s David Dodman on March 19, 2015

While Martin Buser sleeps, his dog gets loose:

“He hooked up a burly dog named Quebec in the lead to help Luna, a smaller female, power through an overnight storm.

But Buser kept dozing off. So when he shone his headlamp on his team to make his regular check on them, he thought, ‘Ah, Luna is doing a really good job in single lead.’

That’s when his tired brain jolted awake with, as he says, a ‘doy-oy-oying.’

Where was Quebec?

He didn’t know when Quebec got loose from the line, but knew the dog had to be either ahead or behind.”

– Nicole Tsong, Anchorage Daily News, March 19, 2005

Rachael Scdoris falls asleep while navigating a treacherous cliff:

“While navigating the treacherous cliff, the legally blind musher fell asleep then crashed into a thick spruce, snapping her guideline. The dogs ran away.”

– Outdoor Life Network announcer talking about Rachael Scdoris
– Outdoor Life Network (OLN), Iditarod coverage, aired March 25, 2006

Rachael Scdoris falls asleep again and dogs veer off trail:

“Scdoris said she had fallen asleep on the sled, as many mushers do, and veered off the trail.

‘It was so flat and so early in the morning, it was hard not to doze,’ Scdoris said. ‘I woke up in jumbled ice and no other dog tracks.’

As it turned out, Scdoris was close enough to Koyuk to make out the lights of the village and guide her dog team there.”

– Jeannette J. Lee, Associated Press, March 19, 2006

Questions:

Why didn’t Scdoris fall off the sled when she fell asleep? Was she tied on?

Jeff King sleeps, falls off his sled, and his dogs run away:

“King’s sled was getting a lot of attention from the other mushers. The sled, which King calls a tail dragger, allows the musher to sit down. Part of the load is carried behind the driver. King said the sled is so comfortable he actually fell asleep, and then fell off the sled, losing his team in an area near Rohn.”

– Mary Pemberton, Associated Press, March 12, 2004

Heather Siirtola sleeps and falls off sled:

“She [Heather Siirtola] fell asleep and fell from her sled…”

– Editorial, The Bismarck Tribune, April 2, 2007

Joe Redington Sr., “Father of the Iditarod” slept on his sled and his dogs ran off:

“I was traveling between Kaltag and Unalakleet at night, and I fell asleep on the sled. I hit a tree and it knocked me off the sled, broke my light, and the dogs took off.”

– Joe Redington, Sr., co-founder of the Iditarod
– Sherwonit, Bill. Iditarod, Seattle: Alaska Northwest Books, 1991

Jonrowe worries about falling off sled when her dogs are racing and she’s sleeping:

“You doze on the back of your sled, hoping you don’t fall off if you hit a bump, or get hit in the head by a tree branch when you’ve got your eyes closed.”

– Musher DeeDee Jonrowe
– Freedman, Lew and Jonrowe, DeeDee. Iditarod Dreams, Seattle:Epicenter Press, 1995

Buser tied himself onto the sled to avoid falling off while his dogs raced and he slept:

“Martin Buser became physically exhausted and decided to tie himself on to the sled for a quick nap.” “Having told lead-dog D-2 that he was in charge until White Mountain, Buser entrusted the whole team to D-2 and co-leader Dave, totally relinquishing control for a period of twenty to thirty minutes.”

– Hood, Mary, A Fan’s Guide to the Iditarod, Loveland:Alpine Publications, 1996

Martin Buser sleeps on sled and his head bounces around:

“Buser said he kept nodding off during the 25-mile run from Shageluk to Anvik. ‘He looked like a bobblehead,’ [Lance] Mackey told Kyle [Hopkins]. Mackey said he shouted to Buser as he passed him, yelling at him to wake up.”

– Iditarodblog, Anchorage Daily News, March 11, 2011

Mushers sleep tied to sled while the dogs race:

“Sometimes mushers tie themselves to the handlebar, and it is not uncommon for a lead dog to arrive at a checkpoint with its musher doubled over the handlebar asleep.”

– Mattson, Sue. Iditarod Fact Book, Seattle: Epicenter Press, 2001

“His [Ramey Smyth] remedy for averting a sleep-induced mishap on the trail? Tying himself to his sled with one of the team’s neck lines.”

– Jill Burke, Alaska Dispatch, March 13, 2011

Author Gary Paulsen sleeps on his sled while the dogs race:

“The night drags on forever as the dogs keep trotting and I reel in and out of half-sleep on the back of the sled, but at long last it is dawn.”

– Paulsen, Gary. Woodsong, New York: Macmillian Publishing Company, 1990

Brian Patrick O’Donoghue sleeps while his dogs race:

“I kept dozing, repeatedly catching myself in the process of falling off the sled.”

– O’Donoghue, Brian Patrick. My Lead Dog was a Lesbian, New York: Vintage Books, 1996

Ken Anderson slept on sled seat:

“He [Ken Anderson] also was driving one of the so-called tail dragger sleds – one with a seat on the back – and said he spent a lot of time sitting down, occasionally sleeping.”

– Jon Little, Cabela’s website, March 19, 2005
– Little formerly wrote for the Anchorage Daily News

Aliy Zirkle slept on sled while racing her dogs:

“‘I fell asleep for a while. They feel asleep for a little while. You’re not supposed to do that while you’re mushing,’ the musher said. Zirkle, who gained the lead by rocketing through checkpoints and resting along the trail instead, lingered nearly six hours before leaving for Unalakleet and the windy Norton Sound coast.”

– Kyle Hopkins, Anchorage Daily News, March 11, 2012

Gerry Willomitzer slept and fell off his sled:

“A veteran of both the Yukon Quest and the Iditarod, [Gerry] Willomitzer knows to keep a security line in hand, and he said he usually does, but as fate would have it, at the very moment it would have come in handy, it wasn’t within his grasp. He woke up as he was tumbling off the seat of the sled, with his team fading at a good clip into the distance. He tried to run after them, but the heavy clothing mushers bundle into against the harsh cold turned his effort to sprint into futile fumble.”

– Jill Burke, Alaska Dispatch, March 19, 2010

Herbie Nayokpuk slept and fell off his sled:

“Herbie Nayokpuk, one of the most seasoned of all the veterans, fell asleep on the next leg of the race and fell off his sled.”

Iditarod The 1000 Mile Marathon, New York: Crescent Books, New York, 1985

Jim Lanier slept and fell off his sled:

“I’m moving in an uncomplicated fashion, so uncomplicated that I fall not only asleep but off the sled, to be jarred awake when I land in the snow.”

Jim Lanier. Beyond Ophir: Confessions of an Iditarod Musher, An Alaskan Odyssey, Anchorage: Publication Consultants, 2013

C. Mark Chapton slept on his sled while the dogs raced:

“I was sitting on my sled seat watching the dogs run, getting tireder and tireder.”

“I know I was going under and I knew the dogs would take care of me.” “It was with a smile on my face that I tied a line around my back and put my head down. Four hours later, I opened my eyes 200 yards out of Koyuk.”

– Chapoton, C. Mark. A Tale of Two Iditarods, Big Lake: CMC, 2008, pages 93-94.

“An hour later, by the time we regained the trail, we were all happy and the dog team was smoking down the trail, again toward sea level and Golovin.

That takes another hour and a half or so, and I became very tired. It was one or two in the morning, clear and cold. My team was running well, and I climbed into my sled bag, head first, and dozed. Soon we came into the Golovin checkpoint.”

– Chapoton, C. Mark. A Tale of Two Iditarods, Big Lake: CMC, 2008, page 97.

Sleeping on the sled is thought to eliminate boredom:

“To take over any boredom along the trail mushers either listen to music or read a book, or even take a nap, provided they don’t fall off the sled.”

– Wendt, Ron. Alaska Dog Mushing Guide, Wasilla: Goldstream Publications, 1999

Mushers injured when they slept on their sleds as the dogs raced:

“…(Dewey) Halverson fell off his sled.” “‘I usually rope in, but I didn’t last night,'” he explained. “‘I fell off and the dogs kept running.'” “Falling off the sled is not the only hazard, however. Over the years several mushers have received nasty injuries when they’ve banged into low-hanging branches while sleeping on the run.”

– Sherwonit, Bill. Iditarod, Seattle: Alaska Northwest Books, 1991

“Ramey Symth says he was nodding off on his sled when he collided with a tree and maybe fractured some verterbrae.”

– Gabriel Spitzer, Alaska Public Radio Network, website, March 10, 2006

Sleeping musher gets thrown off of sled and the dogs run away:

“…Lisa [Moore] who is casually hiking up the trail after her wayward puppies. She laughs after I pull up and sheepishly admits she dosed off and got deposited on the sidelines when the sled hit a bump.”

– Bowers, Don. Back of the Pack, Anchorage: Publication Consultants, 2000

Emmitt Peters sleeps as the dogs keep running:

“He [Emmitt Peters] made a nest in his sled bag, fastened his marten hat and slipped on his beaver mitts and fell asleep as the dogs kept running.”

– Jon Little, Cabelas website, March 13, 2004
– Little was a reporter with the Anchorage Daily News and was an Iditarod musher

Lavon Barve sleeps on his sled as the dogs run:

“Lavon Barve is still moving, but he is asleep on his sled.”

– National Geographic Channel, May, 2005

Paul Ellering sleeps while dogs race in minus 50 below temperature:

“Out on the trail passing through the vast nothingness from Ophir to Cripple, with the thermometer flirting with 50 degrees below, Ellering dozed on his sled.”

– Craig Medred, Anchorage Daily News, April 9, 2006

Sleeping on the sled while dogs race is thought to eliminate boredom:

“To take over any boredom along the trail mushers either listen to music or read a book, or even take a nap, provided they don’t fall off the sled.”

– Wendt, Ron. Alaska Dog Mushing Guide, Wasilla: Goldstream Publications, 1999

Boredom makes mushers fall asleep (and sometimes they fall off their sleds):

“I was having trouble staying awake. It was long and flat and boring.” “Oh my God, I was too. If I’d realized you were catching up to me, I would have woken up.”

– Mushers Ramy Brooks and Tim Osmar talking about their trips between Shaktoolik and Elim checkpoints.
– Doug O’Harra, Anchorage Daily News, March 19, 1998

“[Katie] Davis said she dozed off a lot early and late in the race, such as during one night when her team traveled along a flat stretch of the Yukon River that was about 150 miles long, 1.5 miles wide and monotonous as could be.”

– Paul Strelow, Spartanburg Herald-Journal, April 6, 2006

“The trail on the river is dreaded by many Iditarod mushers because of its long, boring stretches of nothingness. Mushers have been known to be so sleep-deprived and so bored by this section of the trail that they simply fall off their sleds.”

– Mary Pemberton, Associated Press, March 11, 2011

Mushers sit or lie down on sleds while dogs run

(and sometimes fall asleep)

King redesigns sled to make sitting more comfortable:

“But the real beauty of the design is the rear compartment, which makes a comfortable place to sit.

‘Riding in comfort is the number-one goal,’ he [Jeff King] said.”

– Joel Gay, Anchorage Daily News, March 5, 2004

“‘Riding in comfort is the number-one goal,'” he said

– Iditarod musher Jeff King
– Joel Gay, Anchorage Daily News, March 5, 2004

King adds seat belt after falling asleep and falling off sled:

“Musher Jeff King has developed a new, sit-down sled that some have labeled the Iditarod Barcalounger. King said it helps him get more rest, although he almost lost his team this year when he got to resting so well he went to sleep and fell off. He’s since added a seat belt.”

– Craig Medred, Anchorage Daily News, article published in Duluth News Tribune, March 18, 2004

Other mushers adopt King’s comfortable seat:

“Following a trend started exactly a year ago by Jeff King, several mushers – maybe a dozen – adopted King’s revolutionary “tail dragger” design. The sleds have short bags up front, and small storage areas in back that double as seats.”

“King calls his sled a tail dragger, and Buser calls his an O.M.S, or Old Man Sled. Other names include caboose and bark-o-lounger.”

– Jon Little, Cabela’s Iditarod website, March 6, 2005
– Little formerly reported for the Anchorage Daily News.

“Swingley was smiling and chipper, and happy to show off his redesigned sled, modeled largely off Jeff King’s successful tail-drapper design.” “Frustrated last year by a sit-down sled that jack-knifed like a poorly loaded semi when he got on glare ice, this one is trimmed down and tricked out….”

“A good third of the field of 82 mushers has some version of the seated sled, or tail-dragger…”

– Jon Little, Cabelas Iditarod website, March 4, 2007

— Mitch Seavey copied Jeff King’s sled:

“Still later was the Jeff King tail-dragger sled which I pretty much copied except unlike his, mine is the ‘all time perfect’ sled.”

– Seavey, Mitch. Lead, Follow or Get Out of The Way!, Sterling: Ididaride Publishing Company, 2008.

Gebhardt and Buser have seats:

“The sled’s main feature is a storage compartment behind the musher that doubles as a seat.”

– Jon Little discussing Paul Gebhart’s sled
– Jon Little, Cabela’s website, March 14, 2004
– Jon Little formerly wrote for the Anchorage Daily News

“Buser invented a pop-up seat that lifts out of the way…”

– Jon Little, Cabela’s website, March 14, 2004
– Jon Little reports formerly wrote for the Anchorage Daily News

“His sled bag loaded and dogs getting a few last minutes of rest in their boxes, four-time Iditarod champion Martin Buser reclined on the padded seat of his sled and joked with friends and well-wishers.”

– Bob Roth, Anchorage Daily News, March 7, 200

Buser: riding in the back is so easy

“In many ways, the race is easier than the preparation, [Charlanne]Cress said.

‘He considers the race his vacation,’ she said. ‘It’s so easy just to ride in the back.’”

– Charlanne Cress is talking about her brother-in-law Iditarod musher Martin Buser
– Charles Lussier, The Advocate, March 9, 2006

Steve Madsen and Paul Ellering sat on bike seats:

“I just sit back on this little bicycle seat I have on the sled, the dogs are kind of in a rhythm, you’ve got about 30 miles of ocean to cross, and I just sit back and watch the Northern Lights take it all in.”

– Iditarod musher Steve Madsen
– Kay Richardson, The Columbian, April 16, 2006

“I anticipated traveling the river with a sense of excitement because I had a bicycle seat put on my sled.”

– Ellering, Paul. Wrestling the Iditarod, Bend: Maverick Publications, 2005

Ken Anderson sat a lot and sometimes slept:

“He [Ken Anderson] also was driving one of the so-called tail dragger sleds – one with a seat on the back – and said he spent a lot of time sitting down, occasionally sleeping.”

– Jon Little, Cabela’s website, March 19, 2005
– Little formerly wrote for the Anchorage Daily News

Mushers spend a lot of time sitting:

“‘It’s a very strong wind so you cannot stand on your sled,’ Sorlie said. ‘I must sit all the time.'”

– Rachel O’Oro, The Associated Press, March 11, 2003

“And the sleds are technological wonders, some with fancy seats….” “I put down the seat on my sled and settle in for a long ride.”

– Bowers, Don. Back of the Pack, Anchorage: Publication Consultants, 2000

“Martin Buser installed a bicycle seat just behind the handlebar on his sled so that he could sit down comfortably…. During the 1993 Iditarod, front-runners Rick Swenson, Martin Buser, and Jeff King all traveled up the Yukon River in comfort sitting on their bicycle seats. Swenson sat facing backward, because, as he explains, ‘the scenery is prettier behind you.'”

– Hood, Mary. A Fan’s Guide to the Iditarod, Loveland: Alpine Publications, 1996

Martin Buser lies down on sled while the dogs run:

“Occasionally I lay flat on top of the load, melting into it to stay aerodynamic, but all steering ability was lost this way and inevitably the sled would run off trail into even deeper snow.”

– Buser, Martin. Dog Man, Durango: Raven’s Eye Press, 2015

Mitch Seavey lies down on sled while his dogs race:

“In 2004 early on the race was really cold and I was able to lie back and take it easy and still enjoy a good, hard trail without it getting destroyed by a lot of teams ahead of me.”

– Mitch Seavey, Chapter 4, Iditarod Adventures: Tales from Mushers Along the Trail
– Freedman, Lew. Iditarod Adventures: Tales from Mushers Along the Trail, Portland: Alaska Northwest Books, 2015

Mushers fall asleep, fall off seat and dogs run away:

— Jim Lanier falls asleep, falls off seat and his dogs run away:

“Jim Lanier was firmly planted on his sled’s seat this morning as the sun rose over the Yukon River on the way to Grayling. ‘It was a bright, sunny, windy morning,’ Lanier said. ‘I was so relaxed, I fell asleep on my sit-down sled, and the next thing I know I’m off it, and the dogs are gone.'”

– Jon Little, Cabela’s Iditarod website, March 10, 2007

— Gerry Willomitzer falls asleep, falls off seat and his dogs run away:

“At three a.m., about two miles outside Shaktoolik, temperatures had dipped to 30 degrees below zero, and as [Gerry] Willomitzer was closing in on the checkpoint, sleep deprivation was closing on him.”

“He woke up as he was tumbling off the seat of the sled, with his team fading at a good clip into the distance. He tried to run after them, but the heavy clothing mushers bundle into against the harsh cold turned his effort to sprint into futile fumble.”

– Jill Burke, Alaska Dispatch, March 19, 2010

— Ramey Smyth falls asleep, falls off sled and his dogs run away:

“He [Ramey Smyth] fell asleep early in the race, causing him to fall off his sled and lose his team.”

Alaska Dispatch, March 13, 2012

Mushers have comforts of home

King is very comfortable while racing dogs in the Iditarod:

“‘I will say this — I have a couple of things to help my comfort. I was out testing new prototype gear just yesterday, and I had to laugh out loud. It’s almost unfair to be this comfortable.'”

– Jeff King quoted in Joe Runyan’s Forward to Jeff King’s book Cold Hands Warm Heart: Alaskan Adventures of an Iditarod Champion
– Jeff King. Cold Hands Warm Heart: Alaskan Adventures of an Iditarod Champion, Denali: Husky Homestead Press, 2008

Jeff King felt like he was home in front of the fireplace:

“Undoubtedly, many of you have heard my latest invention is a handlebar heater which involves an open flame that vents heat up through the handlebars,” he [Jeff King] said. He set it aflame, and as he went along, noticed,”There was a three-quarter moon shining brilliantly, and it was a fewhours from the first hours of dawn.” He shut off his headlamp and turned on a smaller LED light on the collar of his leader, creating a small glow from the front of the team. “To have the moon overhead, and the aurora beside the moon, the gentle dawn bracing over the mountains and the little flicker of light in the heater in my handlebar made me feel like I was sitting in front of the fireplace back home.”

– Jon Little, Cabela’s Iditarod Coverage, Cabela’s website, March 22, 2006
– Jon Little former wrote for the Anchorage Daily News

Jeff King cooks food:

“‘It’s a heated handle-bar,'” [Jeff] King said with gusto as he waved at a small home-built cooking unit hanging like a lantern from the grips of his dog sled. It’s fueled by a small can of Sterno-like gelled fuel, which lights like a candle. The exhaust is vented straight into the handlebar, made of hollow metal. The handlebar IS the stovepipe, open at the ends, and it actually vents wafting smoke as King moves down the trail. It sounds far-fetched, but it’s not a joke. King has tested the device and says his handlebar heats up to 200 degrees – hot enough that he better wear gloves or he’ll burn his hands. On a 20-below night with wind blowing against the pipe, the temperature should be just right, he said. ‘It’s hot enough you’ll want to wear gloves but not hot enough to catch anything on fire.'”

“He also hopes to slow cook some meals while the dogs are running by sliding foil packets next to the combustion chamber. He was packing some chicken and mushroom shish kabobs at the starting line. “

– Jon Little, Cabela’s Iditarod Pre-Race Coverage, Cabela’s website, 2006
– Jon Little former wrote for the Anchorage Daily News

Doug Swingley’s gizmo makes coffee while the dogs race:

“He (Doug Swingley) has a gizmo called a Jet Boil that will let him brew instant coffee on the fly, while he’s moving down the trail.”

– Jon Little, Cabelas Iditarod website, March 4, 2007

[From the Sled Dog Action Coalition: The dogs suffer from frostbite. For more information, click FROSTBITE.]

Dogs are forced to race in the Iditarod

Andrea Floyd-Wilson: “I’ve had people say, humans participate in these same kinds of sports. There is the Eco-Challenge that is a very long and grueling race across a lot of different terrains for humans. I’d love to see the statistics on how many humans die in that event. The difference to me is the humans can sit there and reason out well I’m going to take this risk and the dog doesn’t understand the risks at the beginning of the race.”

Dr. Paula Kislak: “Well, that’s correct. The human is making his own choice to participate in athletic events. They do their risk versus benefit assessment. If the benefits in terms of self-esteem or product promotion or financial gain warrant it, they can choose to participate. They also can know their own limits and drop out before it becomes life-threatening. We don’t know when it becomes life-threatening to these dogs. Of course, they do not get their own free will and their own choice to participate, nor do they get rewards of participating. We can’t tell when dehydration or excessive exertion or cardiomyopathy, problems with the heart muscle, are occurring. They can’t tell us. We don’t know, and that’s a big reason why there is such a high death rate. And, in the half that does finish there is a great deal of internal injury even though we don’t perceive it on the outside.”

– Andrea Floyd-Wilson is the host of the All About Animals Radio Show. On February 23, 2003, she interviewed Paula Kislak, DVM, President of the Association of Veterinarians for Animal Rights.

Mushers throw dogs into freezing water:

“I had this little, bitty thing of a leader named Dolly. I told her to go and she looked at me as if to say, ‘No.’ I picked her up and tossed her in the water, and on we went.”

– Diana Dronenburg Moroney, Iditarod musher
– Freedman, Lew. More Iditarod Classics, Kenmore: Epicenter Press, 2004

“When I got to a creek crossing, mushers Tom Daily and Barry Lee were trying to figure out what to do because it was rushing open water. There were jagged sticks sticking out.” “One person threw the lead dogs in the water….”

– Brian O’Donaghue, Iditarod musher and former Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reporter
– Freedman, Lew. More Iditarod Classics, Kenmore: Epicenter Press, 2004

Tom Daily drags dogs:

“He [Tom Daily] grabbed Bogus by the collar and dragged the team forward. It was a struggle, but he got the dogs moving.”

– O’Donoghue, Brian. My lead dog was a lesbian, New York: Random House, 1996
– Brian O’Donaghue, Iditarod musher and former Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reporter

Jerry Riley drags dogs:

“Those who saw him [Jerry Riley] leave said the dogs hadn’t wanted to go; they had tried to run into the armory, and when he dragged them off the step and turned out of town, they ran under a house.”

– Jones, Tim. The Last Great Race: The Iditarod, Mechanicsburg: Stackpole Books, 1988

Harmony Baron drags dogs:

“Harmony’s team must have balked at the climb, veering downstream in the river. It was horrifying seeing them straining to continue down into the abyss. She had flipped her sled to add resistance, and she looked tiny trying to crawl with the leaders. Every inch seemed to be painstakingly gained as she tried to grip small brush with one hand, dragging her lead dog with the other.”

– Lisa Frederic. Running with Champions, Anchorage: Alaska Northwest Books, 2006

Don Bowers drags dogs:

“He [Bear] actually won’t get up when the team starts. I have to stop even before we get moving and haul him upright by his harness. Then he will go maybe 50 yards and fall down, allowing himself to be dragged like a sack of rice until I stop the team again.”

– Bowers, Don. Back of the Pack, Anchorage: Publication Consultants, 2000

Dog vanishes, goes to sleep, but is back racing:

“It [Buser’s dog Quebec] had vanished from his gangline while he was on the move – and Buser had failed to notice.”

“But he had to turn the team around for an hour before they tracked down Quebec, who had curled up in the snow to nap, probably right where he’d come loose.”

“He [Buser] looked at Quebec, now running in wheel [position on the sled]….”

– Jon Little, Cabela’s website, March 12, 2005
– Little formerly wrote for the Anchorage Daily News.

Dogs would rather rest than run:

“There are reports he [Robert Sorlie] had a hard time leaving Shaktoolik, and I believe them. But that happens sometimes. Lance Mackey and Aliy Zirkle were slow to leave Grayling, back on the Yukon River, but their teams obviously have perked up considerably since then.”

– Jon Little, Cabela’s website, March 14, 2005
– Little formerly wrote for the Anchorage Daily News and was an Iditarod musher.

Phil Morgan pulls unwilling dogs:

“The 44-year-old pilot for Alaska Airlines felt happy but more relieved that the race from Anchorage to Nome was finally done. He spent the final day trudging his dilatory lead dogs through a blizzard that began near White Mountain.”

“[Phil] Morgan was the only musher around, and he’d been pulling his lead dog on a leash for about five miles. He said driving his dogs from Unalakleet to Nome was a struggle the entire way.”

– Kevin Klott, Anchorage Daily News, March 22, 2005

James Warren drags lead dog:

“He (Swen) ran with no problems for 3 or 4 miles. Suddenly he did a U-turn and brought the whole team back to me on the sled. He laid down on the snow and turned over on his back like a puppy, scared.” “Scared or not, tired or rested, bewildered or not, I expected him to ‘lead’ and take this team over the mountains.” “I scolded Swen and grabbed him by the collar and ran, dragging him 80 feet back to the front of the string of dogs. He knew he’d better not do that again.”

– James Warren, Iditarod ’06 Journal, published on the Internet

Jerry Riley pushes sled into his dog:

“[Jerry] Riley, crossing with only six dogs, pushed had to keep up. When [Sonny] Lindner saw him he thought maybe the team was done. ‘Saw him out on the ice pushing his sled into one of his dogs.’ he said.”

– Jones, Tim. The Last Great Race: The Iditarod, Mechanicsburg: Stackpole Books, 1988

Dogs are forced to race:

“Not one single human is forced to run the Boston Marathon. Those same humans choose how often they train, how hard they train, where they live, what they eat, and what they do with their time when they’re not racing or training. Of course they do, they’re humans. Iditarod dogs, well, they’re just dogs.

What would [Craig] Medred, a pretty fair runner, think about this scenario: Stuff Medred into a small, wooden box, with 15 teammates not of his choosing, on the back of a pickup for a long drive to a race he doesn’t even know he is going to run. Forcibly hook him up in a harness to run with his teammates.

Don’t tell him how far the race is, don’t tell him about the terrain, don’t tell him what the weather will be, put his shoes on only when you think he needs them, feed him and rest him only when you think he needs it…and run him for at least 1,000 miles. If he backpeddles at crossing some freezing water, grab his harness and drag him through it anyway. If he wants to curl up in a snowbank to get out of the brutal weather, grab his harness and drag him back on the race course.

When the race is over, put him on a short chain, next to his runner’s mansion, out in the yard with a hundred other runners, where he will spend most of his time when he’s not training or racing. Is he having fun yet?”

– Craig Medred is an Anchorage Daily News columnist and Iditarod supporter
– Jim Thorson, resident of Anchorage, letter to the editor, Anchorage Daily News, March 21, 1999

“Libby is one of my originals. …This is her last go at it, whether she wants to go again or not.”

– Lance Mackey is talking about his dog Libby.
– Kyle Hopkins, Anchorage Daily News, March 3, 2011

Doug Swingley’s dogs don’t want to run:

“Robert [Sorlie] does also report that Doug Swingley had to make several stops before he managed to get out of Takotna. He managed to do so, but, as one may understand, the team was not straight forward crazy about leaving now.”

– Robert Sorlie’s report, Team Norway website, March 8, 2006|
– Robert Sorlie won the 2005 Iditarod.
– Takotna was a checkpoint in the 2006 race.

“Swingley has mentioned for the last couple of days that his leaders don’t like ice. At least at this point of the race some 900 miles along, they’re scared of it or fed up with it. Either way, they stop and the team balls up when they hit a patch.”

– Jon Little, Cabela’s Iditarod Coverage, Cabela’s website, March 13, 2006

– Jon Little formerly wrote for the Anchorage Daily News.

Without pre-paid phone card, Judy Currier won’t scratch:

“Right off the bat, Currier found out that her leader corps wasn’t as strong as she’d hoped going into the race. She only had one reliable dog running up front. Also, her team wasn’t accustomed to camping out, especially in the 40-below cold that pressed in on mushers leaving Takotna. She skipped Ophir and Cripple checkpoints on her way to Ruby, which obviously took the starch out of her dogs.”

”It [The wind] just knocked us right off the trail,’ Currier said. There, she started losing time on other mushers because she was often stopping and putting in new leaders, trying to find the magic combination that would spark the team forward. But there were no takers. ‘My dogs aren’t used to that kind of wind, even if it is from behind.”

“Her main leader, a dog named Dale, spent the next couple of days breaking trail through soft snow, to Kaltag and up the hilly portage over to Unalakleet. There, she had more bad news. Dale had broken a toenail on one of his back feet, which isn’t critical but it was annoying the dog. There were still 200 miles of wind-swept coast yet to go. It looked so bleak that Currier would have scratched, but she couldn’t find her pre-paid phone card to call her husband. ‘At that point, I figured we’d go checkpoint to checkpoint.'”

– Jon Little, Cabela’s Iditarod Coverage, Cabela’s website, March 21, 2006
– Jon Litte formerly wrote for the Anchorage Daily News.
– Iditarod transports scratched mushers and their dogs:

“Rule 9 — Scratched Mushers: ITC [Iditarod Trail Committee] will provide transportation to either Anchorage or Nome for any musher who scratches from the race, including his or her dogs and accompanying gear.”

– Iditarod rule, Iditarod website, 2006

Dog fell asleep while racing but must continue racing:

“What [Kathie] Davis hadn’t expected was seeing one of her dogs go to sleep in the middle of the run. ‘He just fell flat on his side, got up, looked around and went on,’ she said.”

– Paul Strelow, Spartanburg Herald-Journal, April 6, 2006

Would the dog rather be sleeping or racing? Did the dog continue to run only because he was attached to the sled?

Dog starts to fall asleep while running but is forced to continue:

“‘She started leaning up on the gang line — she was starting to fall asleep while she was running,'” he [Zack Steer] said.

“Then she’d sort of stumble and wake up.”

– Zack Steer is talking about his dog named Envy.
– Kyle Hopkins, Anchorage Daily News- The Sled Blog, March 17, 2010

Harmony Baron forces dogs to cross bridge:

“A bit later I had passed Harmony as well. Her team had balked crossing a small bridge outside Farewell Lake, forcing her to take the dogs across one at a time.”

– Frederic, Lisa. Running with Champions, Anchorage: Alaska Northwest Books, 2006

Jon Korta forces dogs to race in violent head winds:

“But he [Jon Korta] and the others who took off into violent head winds recounted an ordeal trying to get balking leaders to push into the blasting wind in temperatures near 20 below.”

– Jon Little, Cabela’s Iditarod race coverage, March 7, 2007
– Jon Little formerly wrote for the Anchorage Daily News

Heather Siirtola pushes her dogs to race:

“Siirtola thought about pulling out of the race after the intestinal virus forced her to use only eight dogs for the second half.

‘There were a lot of injuries and illness this year. Things I just couldn’t do anything about except take them off the team,’ she said.

‘I was down to eight dogs by the halfway mark and I really did give a lot of thought about dropping out,” Siirtola said. “But I’m really glad I kept at it. I didn’t know if I should push them any farther.'”

– Associated Press, March 17, 2008

John Baker pushes his dogs to run in warm weather:

“[John] Baker confessed the run was tough due to warmer weather. Ideally, he would have liked temperatures of 5 below.

He indicated that his dogs labored, but he kept pushing them on.”

– Tamar Ben-Yosef, The Cordova Times, March 20, 2008

Rachael Scdoris picks up dog to throw across open water:

“But Jovi, one of my leaders, was afraid of open water and refused to jump across the span. I ventured out onto the ice bridge and picked up Jovie to toss him across.”

– Scdoris, Rachael and Steber, Rick. No End in Sight: My Life as a Blind Iditarod Racer, New York: St. Martin’s Griffin, 2007

Small dog teams pull mushers and heavy sleds huge distances

8 dogs to pull musher and heavy sled 677 miles:

“Jerry Riley of Nenana left Ophir in sixth place at 10:15 a.m. after dropping three dogs, leaving with just eight.”

[From the Sled Dog Action Coalition: Ophir is 677 miles from Nome, where the race ends. This figure comes from Sports Ticker, March 8, 2000. According an article by Miami Herald sports columnist Greg Cote, the sleds weigh more than 400 lbs. Gerald Riley was once banned from the Iditarod but was later reinstated.]

– Mark Downey, Great Falls Tribune, March 7, 2002

6 dogs to pull musher and heavy sled 453 miles:

On March 9, 2002, Jerry Riley left the Galena checkpoint with only 6 dogs to pull him and his heavy sled the 453 miles to Nome where the race ends. Sleds can weigh more than 400 lbs.

– Information on the number of dogs Riley left Galena with and the mileage comes from Joe Runyan, Cabela’s Iditarod website, 2002.
– Information on sled weight: Greg Cote, Miami Herald, March 5, 2002

8 dogs to pull musher and packed sled 401 miles. They get 9 minute rest:

On March 9, 2002, DeeDee Jonrowe left the the Nutalo checkpoint with just 8 dogs to do the back breaking job of pulling her and her packed sled 401 miles to Nome. Jonrowe only rested these dogs for 9 minutes at Nutalo.

– Information on the number of dogs Jonrowe left Nutalo with, the time she rested her dogs and the mileage comes from Joe Runyan, Cabela’s Iditarod webite, 2002

8 dogs to pull musher and heavy sled sled 617 miles:

On March 9, 2002, Keith Aili left the Cripple checkpoint with only 8 dogs to do the arduous job of pulling him and his heavy sled 617 miles to Nome. Sleds can weigh more than 400 lbs.

– Information on the number of dogs Aili left Cripple with and the mileage come from Joe Runyan on Cabela’s Iditarod website, March 9, 2002.
– Sled weight comes from Greg Cote, Miami Herald, March 5, 2002

Sled with musher on-board weighs 500 pounds:

“My sled weighed at least 300 pounds. The total load had to be closer to 500 pounds with me added.”

– O’Donoghue, Brian Patrick. My Lead Dog was a Lesbian, New York: Vintage Books, 1996
– O’Donoghue was a reporter with the Fairbanks News-Miner

Sled weighs more than 600 pounds:

The dogs were “…pulling their 600-pound-plus load….”

– Bowers, Don. Back of the Pack, Anchorage: Publication Consultants, 2000

Sick and injured dogs pull sled weighing 300 lbs:

“Among them was 38 lb Utah who was still sick and hardly pulling. There was 35 lb Spelaman who even when pulling hard she isn’t much capability. So ignore Utah and Spelaman, I have seven dogs pulling a sled weighing 300 lbs.”

“I decided to return to Takotna and assess the situation there.”

“At Takotna the vets checked the dogs. Falcon, Duke and Soap Here had to be dropped.”

“Carter too had to be dropped because of a foot problem. Utah was feverish and marginal at best.” Raven’s shoulder was sore….” “They advised me that Spelaman was too skinny and would likely to be dropped for his safety down the trail.”

– James Warren, Iditarod ’06 Journal, published on the Internet

Dogs mashed up against 300 to 400 pound sled:

“His dogsled missed a curve at the top of the hill and went off a snow-covered cliff.

The only thing that kept it from rolling 75 feet to the bottom was the cottonwood tree. [Spenser] Thew ended up with his team partially on the trail, and his sled hanging from its gangline around the tree with his wheel dogs mashed up against it and yelping.”

“‘The problem is, I’ve got an awful lot of stuff in the sled,’ Thew said.

That was a bit of an understatement. The sled must have weighed 300 to 400 pounds.”

– Craig Medred, Anchorage Daily News, March 9, 1993

Every musher’s sled is too heavy:

“Every musher’s sled is too heavy from the restart to at least Nikolai. You need a truck to haul the necessities of life on the trail…”

– Craig Medred, Anchorage Daily News, March 7, 2004

Sled weighed 400 pounds:

“My sled didn’t break. Nothing broke. My 400-pound operation must have hit that tree at 20 mph.”

– Chapoton, C. Mark. A Tale of Two Iditarods, Big Lake: CMC, 2008

Sled weighed 500 pounds:

“With five-hundred-pound loads in the sled-the same kind of loads we’d haul between some of the distant Yukon Quest checkpoints-I want to go about the same speed as traveling light with an empty sled.”

– Mackey, Lance. The Lance Mackey Story, Fairbanks: Zorro Books, LLC, 2010

Sled felt like it weighed 1,000 pounds:

“On top of everything else, the wet, warm snow on the trail was sticking to the runners like glue, adding to the drag and making the dogs’ burden worse. My sled felt like it weighed a thousand pounds.”

– Riddles, Libby and Tim Jones. Race Across Alaska, Harrisburg: Stackpole Books, 1988

Whip used on sled dogs, photo attributed to wikimedia

Whip used on sled dogs, photo attributed to wikimedia

Mushers ENJOY themselves while racing dogs into the ground

(Shouldn’t mushers pay attention to their dogs?)

“Travelling a thousand miles by dog team can be exciting, but many of those miles can also be repetitive, so many mushers carry iPods stocked with music, audio books, and even movies.”

“[Brent] Sass likes to listen to movies on his iPod as he travels down the trail.

‘I have Karate Kid, I’m pretty stoked about that and what else do I have on there?” he said. “The Big Lebowski is always a favorite and what else do I have on there? I have Dumb and Dumber Too, just because.”

– Emily Schwing, Alaska Public Radio Network, March 11, 2015

Kyple Hopkins: Are you listening to music on the dog sled this year?

John Baker: I did listen to music the other day coming into Nikolai.

Kyle Hopkins: What do you like?

John Baker: I enjoy rock. Some country. Older country. But I enjoy rock and roll from the ’80s and late ’70s. I love dancing and I dance a lot on the sled when listening to music. And I probably use up a lot of energy.

Kyle Hopkins: How much can you dance on a dog sled?

John Baker: Oh, you’d be surprised.

– Kyle Hopkins, iditarodblog, Anchorage Daily News, March 7, 2012

iPod. Mushers enjoy listening to music while running their Iditarod dogs into the ground. Photo attributed to yuichir on wikimedia.

iPod. Mushers enjoy listening to music while running their Iditarod dogs into the ground. Photo attributed to yuichir on wikimedia.

“Rookie Dennis Kananowicz obviously planned to spend as little time as possible at the Takotna checkpoint last week, during what some mushers call a ‘hit and run.'”

“Just when he looked ready to call out for his team to leave, Kananowics did what may mushers do: pondered his next musical selection.”

“Many [mushers] find solace inspiration and rejuvenation easing out of their disc players, iPods and Walkmans.”

“‘I’ve always got a Walkman or something,’ said Martin Buser.”

“Rookie Ellie Claus said she’s listening to audio books.”

“She [Karen Ramstead] has five audio books not to mention every CD in her home collection installed on her iPod.”

– Joel Gray, Anchorage Daily News, March 16, 2004

“Martin Buser leaves Anvik with a headset that will hopefully fill his head with a melody of diversions.”

– Outdoor Life Network (OLN), Iditarod, 2005

iPod. Iditarod mushers watch movies while racing their racing their dogs into the ground. Photo attributed to Havarhen on wikimedia.

iPod. Iditarod mushers watch movies while racing their sled dogs into the ground. Photo attributed to Havarhen on wikipedia.

“‘I’m always looking around (while mushing),’ Mackey explained. ‘I know what the trail looks like and I know what the butt of a dog looks like, so I’m always looking at the scenery.'”

– Kyle Hopkins, Anchorage Daily News, March 17, 2010

“[Martin] Buser wore an iTouch tucked into his fleece headband. He finished a book on tape — Adam Carolla’s In Fifty Years We’ll All be Chicks — just as he arrived in Takotna.

The MP3 player is stuffed with country and classic rock, among other tunes, Buser said.”

– Kyle Hopkins, Anchorage Daily News, March 9, 2011

“I remember listening to a Star Trek novel on tape during that run.”

– Chapoton, C. Mark. A Tale of Two Iditarods, Big Lake: CMC, 2008

“She [Libby Riddles] pushed a button on her radio to block out the racket of the wind.”

– Cellura, Dominique. Travelers of the Cold: Sled Dogs of the Far North, Anchorage: Alaska Northwest Books, 1990

“My radio picked up the local radio reception.”

“I’m in the lead. Apparently we had passed twenty teams while they rested in Nikolai, and none had left before we did. The radio also broadcasted which teams comprised the rumba line of chasers and how far back they were.”

Buser, Martin. Dog Man, Durango: Raven’s Eye Press, 2015

“Just before she left, Colleen Robertia of Kasilof handed [Kelley] Griffin an emergency stash of batteries. Griffin’s iPod had died and she coudn’t get Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive” out of her head.”

Alaska Dispatch, March 13, 2012

Dogs do all the work in the Iditarod

Dogs work hard in a blizzard. Musher rides! Photo attributed to mdheightshiker on flickr

Dogs work hard in a blizzard. Musher rides on sled! Photo attributed to mdheightshiker on flickr

Iditarod is not a human athletic event:

“‘It’s grueling but it’s not athletic,’ he says to our group. ‘The dogs are the athletes.'”

– Shawn Sidlinger, who participated in the Iditarod four times and now works for Iditarod race winner Jeff King.
– Deborah Reinhardt, AAA Southern Traveler Magazine, Jan/Feb 2004

Hank DeBruin said he was “just there for the ride”:

“’I was just there for the ride,’ he [Hank DeBruin] said.

What a ride it was. There were numerous sheets of ice to cross, dangerous mountain passes, breathtaking Northern Lights that defied science as they crackled, blinding blizzards and arctic temperatures. Much of which wouldn’t have been navigated without the aid of other back markers in the race.”

“[Hank] DeBruin started with 16 dogs, but finished the race with 10 dogs and completed the race in 12 days 22 hours 13 minutes 50 seconds.”

– Darren Lum, The Echo, April 3, 2012

Dallas Seavey says he loves to ride:

“I love to ride.”

– Dallas Seavey, video made by Dallas Seavey, posted on youtube on July 18, 2015

Laura Allaway tagged along:

“‘They’re truly the athletes. I’m there to tag along and to direct them onto the correct trail, lead us to checkpoints, to feed them and properly care for them, massage them and make decisions for them, said Laura Allaway.”

– Jim Stingl, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, March 26, 2015

Mushers kick dogs – Dogs do all the work – Mushers portrayed as big heroes:

“‘Talk about cruelty to animals, they just kick ’em and boot ’em. Then, when they get to Nome, the mushers are the big heroes. The dogs do all the work and the mushers get all the credit,'” said Margaret Mespelt.

– Margaret Mespelt came to Alaska in 1929.
– Earl Gustkey, Los Angeles Times, 1986

Mushers ride! A small number of dogs work to pull them to Nome. Photo attributed to mdheightshiker on flickr.

Mushers ride! A small number of dogs work to pull mushers to Nome. Photo attributed to mdheightshiker on flickr.

Mushers hang on while dogs do the work:

“‘They (the dogs) just pour it on, and you’re like a rag doll hanging on to the sled.”

– Jeff King is a three-time Iditarod race winner
– Associated Press, March 6, 2001

“This has been kind of a hang on, enjoy the ride, kind of a ride.”

– Lance Mackey talking to Alaska Public Radio Network’s interviewer Steve Himmel
– Alaska Public Radio Network website, March 18, 2009

“I clung so tightly to my sled’s handle bar that my arms cramped. I was so happy to be physically fit because the trail was ridiculous.”

– Aliy Zirkle, SP Kennel Dog Log.blogspot.com, April, 1, 2014

“Running up the Yukon, I held on and watched them [the dogs] work as we neared the last of the river villages.”

– Buser, Martin. Dog Man, Durango: Raven’s Eye Press, 2015

Swingley and Swenson admit that mushers do not do the work:

“‘Luckily, he said, “‘we don’t do the work.'” “The dogs do nearly all that….”

– Doug Swingley, the year 2000 Iditarod race winner
– Craig Medred, Anchorage Daily News, March 14, 2000

“Because I don’t care what anybody else says, the DOG is the number one athlete.”

– Swenson, Rick. The Secrets of Long Distance Training and Racing, 1987

Iditarod is a gruesome ordeal for dogs:

“The Iditarod amounts to an illegal sweatshop for dogs.”

– George Diaz, Orlando Sentinel, March 5, 2000

The Iditarod is a “chain gang” for dogs:

“The dogs moved stiffly. I’d never seen them looking so disouraged. Even Raven hung her her head…. Life in a chain gang obviously wasn’t something she cared to bark about.”

– O’Donoghue, Brian Patrick. My Lead Dog was a Lesbian, New York: Vintage Books, 1996
– O’Donoghue was a reporter for the Fairbanks News-Miner and participated in the Iditarod.

What is required of Iditarod dogs:

“Imagine carrying a twenty-pound pack while running two or three marathons daily for two weeks or three marathons daily for two weeks. No flat-lander marathons, mind you, but endless cross country races over hill and dale, river and bog. Cover it all with foot-galling ice, snow and wet dangerous overflow, and for good measure run in your socks.”

– Special Advertising Supplement, The Official 1991 Iditarod Race Program, Alaska Magazine, March, 1991

How does a roaming wolf compare to a dog running in the Iditarod?

Photo of a wolf. Sled dogs are forced to run in the Iditarod and work relentlessly with few breaks for rest. Wolves set their own pace, traveling only 4 to 28 miles a day. Photo attributed to Martin Cathrae on flickr.

Photo of a wolf. Sled dogs are forced to run in the Iditarod and work relentlessly with few breaks for rest. Wolves set their own pace, traveling only 4 to 28 miles a day. Photo attributed to Martin Cathrae on flickr.

[In the Iditarod, dogs are forced to run over 100 miles a day pulling a heavy sled. The Iditarod is about 1,000 miles depending upon which route is used. The race lasts between 8 to 16 days.]

Wolves set their own pace, agenda, covering 4 to 28 miles a day:

“Wolves can cover lots of ground when they’re hunting or roaming — Treves co-authored a 2009 study on wolf dispersal patterns around the Great Lakes, which included several accounts of wolves roaming hundreds of miles in relatively short periods. One young male traipsed 428 miles during a five-month span in 2003.

‘Canids (the dog family) in general are adapted to coursing pursuit of prey (long-distance running),’ Treves writes in an email to MNN [Mother Nature Network], explaining that this distinguishes them from cats, ‘who stalk and sprint short distances to take prey.’ L. David Mech, an internationally renowned wolf expert from Minnesota, adds that wild wolves average about four to 28 miles daily, and can travel up to 46 miles in a day if needed.

Still, Treves says races like the Iditarod are different. ‘The Iditarod and other races are relentless long-distance races with few breaks for the dogs, compared to long-distance dispersal,’ he writes. ‘[Dispersal] is meandering and includes frequent breaks, because it is not goal-directed but a process of searching, we believe.'”

– Russell McLendon, Mother Nature Network, website, March 2, 2012