Mushers mistreat their dogs during race

Dogs are exhausted at the start of the Iditarod.

Sled dogs are exhausted at the start of the Iditarod.

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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, 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:

“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.

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

Iditarod mushers bite sled dogs on their ears to force them to race. Photo attributed to willowmina on flickr

Iditarod mushers bite sled dogs on their ears to force them to race. Photo attributed to willowmina on flickr

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

Iditarod mushers bite sled dogs on their noses 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

Dogs are run into the ground

“‘Those sons of bitches, I don’t care if we run those dogs into the ground, we’re not going to be forgotten,’ [Jerry] Austin told his friend [Duane Halverson].

Sure enough, Austin and Halverson powered into Rohn, some 270 miles into the race, with a six-hour lead.”

– Mike Campbell, Anchorage Daily News, June 4, 2010

– Fast dog teams are like drugs to mushers:

“‘Fast dog teams are like drugs to mushers,’ [Jeff] King said in Unalakleet. We love it and we want more and we want them to go faster.”

– Kyle Hopkins, Beth Bragg, Kevin Klott, Anchorage Daily News, March 11, 2013

– Forcing dogs to race like they’re going drop dead after crossing finish line:

“‘From here they’re going to do in two and a half days what it took them five to do coming out of Anchorage fresh,’ [Dick] Mackey said. ‘From here on, you’ve got to drive the dogs like they’re going to cross the finish line in Nome and drop dead.'”

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

Iditarod ignored eyewitnesses accounts of dog abuse

Investigative report consistent that Ramy Brooks kicked his dogs:

The board received a 21-page report from Anchorage attorney Bob Stewart that detailed interviews with six Golovin residents who witnessed what happened. Reports of witness were consistent that Brooks kicked his dogs.

One of them, Maude Paniptchuk, “saw Ramy try to kick a dog or dogs in the middle of the team,” according to the report.

Robert Moses, another witness quoted in the report, said that after hearing dogs crying he ‘turned around and saw Brooks kicking his leaders. … Some of the dogs were lying on their side.’

Another Golovin resident, David Amuktoolik Jr., also said Brooks kicked his dogs.”

– Craig Medred, Anchorage Daily News, May 18, 2007

“Witness Maude Paniptchuk told the investigator that Brooks was yelling obscenities, pulling on the dogs’ harnesses, and eventually hit and kicked some and then hit some with a ski pole. She estimated this went on for 10 minutes before the team began moving again.

Witness Robert Moses, Sr., told the investigator that he was out gathering wood when he heard “dogs crying as if they were in pain.” He reported that Brooks kicked his lead dogs three or four times. He did not see him hit the dogs with either a ski pole or the wooden lathe.

David Amuktoolik, Jr., said he was coming home from getting wood when he saw Brooks kicking his dogs and punching them with his fists. He said he saw Brooks three times kick and punch his dogs. He did not see Brooks hit the dogs with a ski pole.”

– Mary Pemberton, Associated Press, May 18, 2007

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

One of Brooks dogs died the day after the incident:

“One of Brooks’ dogs died the day after the incident.”

– Mary Pemberton, Associated Press, May 18, 2007

[The Iditarod claims it could not determine the cause of the death]

Ignoring eyewitnesses, Iditarod suspends Brooks only for what he admits doing:

“Stan Hooley, executive director of the Iditarod Trail Committee, said whether Brooks actually hit and kicked his dogs remains in dispute. He said the board did not base the two-year suspension on the Golovin accounts. Instead, the suspension was for the severity of what Brooks had already acknowledged hitting his dogs with the wooden trail marker.

‘The board did not feel they could act on those allegations,” Hooley said, of the eyewitness accounts.'”

– Mary Pemberton, Associated Press, May 18, 2007

[From the Sled Dog Action Coalition: By ignoring eyewitness accounts of abuse and only suspending Ramy Brooks for actions he admitted, isn't the Iditarod encouraging animal abuse? Knowing that eyewitness accounts are disregarded, aren't mushers more likely to beat, kick and slug their dogs and then lie about it? ]

Before investigation, Iditarod warned mushers not to speak against Brooks:

“The announcement [of an investigation] came just days after Burmeister [President of Iditarod Board of Directors] sent a separate letter to most former Iditarod finishers warning them to “be careful what you say” about the accusations against Brooks.

‘Don’t go making announcements that will bring (this) issue back to the attention of the press,’ he wrote. ‘Be careful of what you do and what you say. …What we should be doing is supporting Ramy as a friend, even though we do not agree with his actions. We should not be trying to dig a hole and putting him there.'”

– Richard Burmeister is President of the Iditarod Board of Directors

– Craig Medred, Anchorage Daily News, March 31, 2007

Dog abuse is not rare:

“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

Mushers ate their dogs

“To the musher, a sled dog is a workmate and sometimes a meal. Snowmobiles may be faster, even more reliable – but when you’re trapped in a blizzard or lost on the taiga, try eating a fan belt. More than one stranded Alaskan has survived such an ordeal by converting loyal Sashka into stringy stew.”

– Colin Nickerson, Boston Globe, February 5, 1984

Debunking the big sled dog myth

[From the Sled Dog Action Coalition: Mushers have promoted the myth that sled dogs are the only dogs who love to run. However, the love of running is inborn in all dogs. A recent study in The Journal of Experimental Biology* found that dogs' bodies release a marijuana-like substance when they run for a long period of time. This substance encourages them to run. But, just like us, dogs don't want to run when they're exhausted sick or injured. Mushers beat, kick and bite dogs to force them to run or to run faster.]

The love of running is inborn in all dogs:

“Searching, retrieving, running and chasing are all natural forms of work and play for dogs.”

– Bethel Mill Animal Hospital, New Jersey, website article 2013

“Running is very high on most dogs’ lists of favorite things to do. He’ll do it as often as you’ll let him. Dogs are exuberant creatures.”

– Petcentric.com, website article, 2013

“Dogs love to run….”

Orchard Animal Clinic’s advertisement in The Loveland Reporter-Herald, July, 2013

Nature rewards dogs who run with euphoria-inducing buzz, which encourages more running:

“Researchers at the University of Arizona have found that dog’s bodies release a chemical similar to one found in marijuana when they run for a prolonged period of time.

David Raichlen and his team studied endocannabinoids and found that “‘a neurobiological reward for endurance exercise may explain why humans and other cursorial mammals habitually engage in aerobic exercise.'”

“Dogs are considered to be cursorial animals, meaning that they have legs adapted for running.”

- Jennifer Viegas, News.Discovery.com, May 14, 2013
- Oregon State University Vet Gazette, May 31, 2013
*Raichlen, David A.; Foster, Adam D.; Gerdeman, Gregory L.; Seillier, Alexandra and Giuffrida, Andrea. “Wired to run: exercise-induced endocannabinoid signaling in humans and cursorial mammals with implications for the ‘runners high.’” Journal of Experimental Biology, April 15, 2012, pages 1331-1336

Iditarod mushers hallucinate

A musher's hallucinations come when they're awake and appear to be completely real. While a musher enjoyed the orchestra he was hallucinating, who was watching or taking care of the dogs?

Hallucinations come when mushers are awake and appear completely real to them. While a musher enjoys the orchestra he hallucinated, who watches or takes care of his dogs? Photo attributed to foilman on flickr

Mushers hallucinate:

“[DeeDee] Jonrowe has had 3 1/2 hours of sleep since the race started on Sunday — was causing her to have audio hallucinations. She keeps hearing someone coming up behind her on the trail and calling out her name.”

– Mary Pemberton, Associated Press, March 11, 2009

“She [Anna Bondarenko] said she was perfectly fine, that she was in a movie, that she would push the fast-forward button and be transported, effortlessly and electronically, to the checkpoint.”

– Anna Bondarenko is Jim Lanier’s wife.
– Jim Lanier. Beyond Ophir: Confessions of an Iditarod Musher, An Alaskan Odyssey, Anchorage: Publication Consultants, 2013

“The Nenana musher has been suffering a severe head cold that robs him of sleep.”

“The Nenana musher has been hallucinating along the trail – likely because he’s sick, he said.

‘Every time I close my eyes,’ [Aaron] Burmeister said. ‘Trains were coming at me. The dogs were a bunch of cars. I thought I was going the wrong way.'”

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

“More than the dogs, [Emmitt] Peters says mushers have to watch out for hallucinations from their own lack of sleep.

‘All mushers do that,’ Peters said. ‘They just hate to say that, but I know — it runs through my experience.’

He remembers a time when he ran going from Shaktoolik to Koyuk, and he thought he was meeting up with a snowmachine.

‘So I turned my light on to see who was there, but there I am — talking to a chunk of ice,’ Peters said.”

– Emmitt Peters won the Iditarod in 1975
– Jason Lamb, KTUU-TV, KTUU.com, March 12, 2010

“Fatigue can do funny things to long-distance mushers, [Lance] Mackey said. On Thursday night, he was riding the sled and saw a girl sitting by the side of the trail doing something, probably knitting.

‘She laughed at me, waved, and I went by her and she was gone,’ Mackey said of his hallucination.”

– Mary Pemberton, Associated Press, March 13, 2009

“I was exhausted and had already begun to hallucinate during the last hour of traveling, seeing the small people of the woods, hearing low-flying airplanes in the middle of the night.”

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

“Trailworn, sleepless mushers often hallucinate, especially at night. They see wolves, dogs, people, lights, buildings.”

-Editorial staff, Anchorage Daily News, March 4, 2000

“Ghost dogs, freight trains and even phantom orchestras are among the bizarre images of the hallucinations that Iditarod mushers see because of sleep deprivation and fatigue.

Race leader Martin Buser Sunday was on the part of the trail where he has faced some of his strangest Iditarod moments. ‘I’ve seen villages, freight trains and cabins that were not there,’ Buser said before the race.”

– Mark Downey, Great Falls Tribune, March 16, 2002

“I am now incredibly tired and drift back into my on-again, off-again dance with reality. The next 12 miles or so are a confused jumble of images. At one point I’m flying for the race and watching myself down below. Then I’m driving a car along the wide, smooth road and am suprised when I turn the steering wheel and nothing happens.”

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

“And then I began to hallucinate. I saw people standing beside the trail, never anyone I recognized. They talked and laughed among themselves like they were waiting for my arrival at a nonexistent checkpoint. I turned and as the light of my headlamp swept over them they stopped talking and turned their heads to stare at me as we passed. Sometimes they were back from the trail and I only heard voices, catching snippets of conversations, never any intelligible words, but I assumed they were talking about me.”

“Then once again, it happened. I began hallucinating. This time it was not something as benign as people standing beside the trail. I saw animals-a rick pile became a bison, a stump became a moose.”

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

“Some time later during the same run the hallucination took me to a different setting. I was home from school, about 7 years old, standing in my grandmother’s kitchen with my chin just about counter height, watching, smelling while Granny slathered a slice of homemade bread with bacon grease.”

– Warren, James and Warren, Christopher. Following My Father’s Dream, James and Christopher Warren, 2005

“When I got to Safety I found out I was 2 ½ hours behind the next closest team. I was just really, really tired and getting a little discouraged. I was hallucinating, too.”

– Brian O’Donaghue, Iditarod musher
– Freedman, Lew. More Iditarod Classics: Tales of the Trail Told by the Men & Women Who Race Across Alaska, Kenmore: Epicenter Press, 2004

Iditarod mushers can't tell where the dream leaves off and the real begins. There's nothing to stop a musher from deciding  to jump the passing freight train he hallucinated, leaving his dogs behind. Photo attributed to amtrak_russ on flickr

Iditarod mushers can’t tell where the dream leaves off and the real begins. There’s nothing to stop a musher from deciding to jump the passing freight train he hallucinated, thereby leaving his dogs behind. Photo attributed to amtrak_russ on flickr

“Emmitt Peters, 43, a cagey Indian driver known as the ‘Yukon River Fox, yanked a frozen beaver carcass from a burlap sack and began methodically hacking it into bite-size chunks for his team.

‘You know, I was mushing along out there and kept drifting in and out of sleep,’ [Emmitt] Peters said softly, pausing between strokes of the hatchet. ‘When I slept, I dreamed about mushing dogs. And then I’d wake up and be mushing dogs.

After a while, it got all jumbled together: dream dogs, real dogs. Dream race, real race. Until it got so I couldn’t tell the difference no more. Couldn’t tell where the dream left off and the real began,’ said the Yukon Fox. ‘I was just floating.'”

– Emmitt Peters won the Iditarod in 1975
– Colin Nickerson, Boston Globe, February 5, 1984

“‘This time, I [Lance Mackey] saw a woman ahead of me. She was sitting beside the trail and not really doing anything except staring at me. The closer I got, the more real she was, and when I passed, she smiled. But when I turned around to wave good-bye, she was gone. I felt I was really awake and had no doubt she was there. It was such a strange experience that it rattled me.'”

– Helen Hegener is quoting Lance Mackey from his book, The Lance Mackey Story.
- Helen Hegener, Alaska Dispatch, March 12, 2010

“Hallucinations have taken many strange forms in the isolation of the Iditarod. Some mushers have ‘seen’ lights under the feet of the dogs. After many hours on the trail, others have imagined the dogs running up in the air.” “And one musher constantly found a strange man riding in his sled.”

– Dolan, Ellen. Susan Butcher and the Iditarod Trail, New York:Walker Publishing Co., 1993

“Sleep deprivation catches me and I start hallucinating.” “They come while you are awake, come with your eyes open and are completely real.” “I see my dogs all running in flame, their feet and lower legs on fire.” “The hallucinations do not go away. Indeed they get more complicated. Often I nearly get lost by going up rivers that aren’t there, following lights that do not exist.”

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

“The Iditarod is commonly called a sleep deprivation test for the humans who enter it and [Joe] Garnie had a classic hallucination mushing into Elim.

He was convinced a man was riding in his sled bag. First, he politely told the man he didn’t belong there and had to leave. When the man didn’t move, Garnie patted him on the shoulder and asked again. Finally, Garnie just swatted the guy.”

– Lew Freedeman, Anchorage Daily News, March 19, 1993

“My acute lack of sleep, aggravated by the increasing pain in my hands despite the naproxen, isn’t helping matters and I’m starting to hallucinate. At least once I stop the team and try to pull them onto the shoulder to let an imaginary truck by. Another time I find myself carrying on a conversation with someone walking alongside the sled; the dogs slow and stop wondering what strange commands I’m giving them.”

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

“Twice in past races, [John] Barron has experienced similar hallucinations, where his dog teams glowed eerily like the luminescent dial on a watch.”

– Lew Freedman, Anchorage Daily News, March 17, 1995

“Mushing on her merry way, weary a bleary-eyed [Peryll] Kyzer watched her top-notch Iditarod dogs turn into lobsters right before her eyes.

– Freedman, Lew. Iditarod Silver, Fairbanks: Epicenter Press, 1997

“The Big Lake, Alaska, musher [Lynda Plettner] was so sleep-deprived once that she saw a large gray African elephant in the distance trudging in the snow toward a metal building that had no doors or windows.”

– Rachel D’Oro, Associated Press, March 8, 2013

“When extreme fatigue sets in hallucinations are common. Zirkle sometimes watches Roger Rabbit characters suddenly appear beside the side of the trail. DeeDee Jonrowe says she starts ducking from branches that aren’t really there.”

– Annie Feidt, Alaska Public Radio Network, March 13, 2006, website

“’I think everybody probably hallucinates,’ [Celeste] Davis said. ‘It’s funny. You’re totally with it, but then I’m seeing daisies in a tree. And I’m thinking, ‘That took a lot of work. It’s really nice they hung daisies in the tree.’

There followed a tree trunk made of horseshoes.”

– Kim Briggeman, The Missoulian, April 24, 2010

“Not too far into the run after snacking the dogs, I started getting dizzy and trembly. It seemed like the trail was going on forever as I got weaker and weaker. It got so that all I could do was hang on the sled and watch the hallucinations. As I slipped in and out of consciousness, trees, shrubs and rocks became couches, quarterbacks, toasters and all kinds of things.”

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

“I had the sense that a pack of wolves was following me.”

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

Many causes of hallucinations, including:

“Being drunk or high, or coming down from such drugs as marijuana, LSD, cocaine (including crack), PCP, amphetamines, heroin, ketamine, and alcohol

Delirium or dementia (visual hallucinations are most common)

Epilepsy that involves a part of the brain called the temporal lobe (odor hallucinations are most common)

Fever, especially in children and the elderly

Narcolepsy

Psychiatric disorders, such as schizophrenia and psychotic depression

Sensory problem, such as blindness or deafness

Severe illness, including liver failure, kidney failure, AIDS, and brain cancer”

– Medline Plus, website article, March, 2013

“Beginning to hallucinate is among the more common symptoms of sleep deprivation. A hallucination is the perception of something that is not really present in the environment, as opposed to an illusion, which is the misinterpretation of something that is present. “

– Brandon Peters, M.D., About.com Guide

How are mushers like drunks?

Mushers who get five hours of sleep or less for even a few nights have the impaired reactions of people who are legally drunk. Photo attributed to aoln on flickr

Mushers who get five hours of sleep or less, even for a few nights, have the impaired reactions of people who are legally drunk. Photo attributed to aoln on flickr

Reactions of tired mushers are the same as people who are legally drunk:

“Eventually it [the need for sleep] takes over, impairing their judgement, forcing their eyes shut while riding the runners, and sometimes causing hallucinations.” “The situation can be hazardous.” “A person who gets five hours of sleep for just a few nights has the impaired reactions of someone who is legally drunk.”

– Anne Morris, medical director, Sleep Disorder Center, Providence Alaska Medical Center
– Staff and wire reports, Anchorage Daily News, March 6, 2000

Moderate sleep deprivation produces impairments in cognitive and motor performance equivalent to being legally drunk:

“This study shows that commonly experienced levels of sleep deprivation depressed performance to a level equivalent to that produced by alcohol intoxication of at least a BAC of 0.05%”

– Williamson A M, Feyer Anne-Marie, Moderate sleep deprivation produces impairments in cognitive and motor performance equivalent to legally prescribed levels of alcohol intoxication. Occup Environ Med 2000;57:649–655

Some mushers are sleep deprived at start of Iditarod:

“I haven’t had more than three hours sleep a night since sometime last week. I’m already reacting like someone on the verge of sleep deprivation which isn’t a good sign so close to the race.” “Race day.” “If I wasn’t a zombie from lack of sleep, I’d certainly be wondering if I wasn’t finally in over my head.”

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

“Most first-time Iditarod dog drivers can find themselves weak and tired well before they reach the first checkpoint at Yentna. I couldn’t sleep for four or five days. Boy, I’ve been a nervous wreck,” said Carmen Perzechino of Sterling, Alaska.”

– Jon Little, Cabelas website, March 7, 2004
– Little is a former reporter with the Anchorage Daily News and was an Iditarod musher

“‘I [Patty Friend] just wanted to run the race and have fun doing it and do the best job I could. But even when we started we were exhausted, me and the dogs.'”

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

“As the days counted down (to the start of the race), Sagoonick slept less and less. Four hours one night, three the next.”

-Lew Freedman, Anchorage Daily News, March 4, 2001

“Race day.” “If I wasn’t a zombie from lack of sleep, I’d certainly be wondering if I wasn’t finally in over my head.”

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

Mushers are sleep deprived during the Iditarod:

“At this point, [Aliy] Zirkle is likely battling a severe case of sleep deprivation. All mushers do at some stage in the race. But consider this: Since leaving her 24-hour break in Takotna, Zirkle has traveled roughly 180 miles and has logged only 35 minutes of rest at a total of four checkpoints.”

– Kevin Klott and Beth Bragg, Anchorage Daily News, March 8, 2013

“I was out with the team of dogs in nerve-wracking conditions that demanded common sense and good judgment and at the same time I was nearly delirious from exertion and lack of sleep.”

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

“He’s slept three hours since leaving Willow, he said, and struggled to remember which day he left Nikolai as he ate forkfuls of omelet and ketchup.”

– Hopkins is talking about Iditarod musher William Pinkham.
– Pinkham left Willow on March 7, 2010.
– Kyle Hopkins, Anchorage Daily News – The Sled Blog, March 10, 2010

“I kept a log once showing that in thirteen days of mushing, I slept nineteen hours.”

– Terry Adkins, Iditarod musher
– Freedman, Lew. Iditarod Classics: Tales of the Trail Told by the Men & Women Who Race Across Alaska, Seattle: Epicenter Press, 1992

“[Doug] Swingley said he figured that during a competitive race he got about 20 hours of sleep over a nine-day period.”

– Mark Downey, Great Falls Tribune, March 16, 2002

“Normally, she [DeeDee Jonrowe] averages three hours of sleep every 24 hours during the race.”

– Beth Bragg, Anchorage Daily News, March 2, 2003

“He [Jeff King] said that since the start he’s only had four hours of sleep, and he’s feeling serious exhaustion.”

– Suzanna Caldwell, Alaska Dispatch News, March 5, 2014
– The Iditarod started on March 1, 2014.

“‘I have slept only six hours since the race began.'”

– Musher Robert Sorlie
– Rachel D’Oro, Associated Press, March 7, 2003
(The race restart was March 3, 2003)

“Sorlie, the 2003 winner, looked mighty weary, saying he hadn’t slept in two days.”

– Steve Wilstein, Associated Press, March 8, 2005

“DeeDee Jonrowe of Willow, fourth this year, said she probably slept only six or seven hours over the duration of her 9-day, 11-hour, 24-minute race.”

– Lew Freedman, Anchorage Daily News, March 17, 1995

“[Rick] Mackey, who had slept less than two hours in the past four days, swayed on his feet and blinked painfully into the lights.”

– Colin Nickerson, Boston Globe, February 5, 1984

“Only then did [Eep] Anderson, who had had perhaps 12 hours’ sleep in the past six days and who was suffering from a cold verging on pneumonia, gobble a candy bar and stagger down to the ice-bound Iditarod River.”

– Colin Nickerson, Boston Globe, March 15, 1983

“I get about 20 hours of sleep throughout the Iditarod.”

– Lance Mackey said this to Dennis Zaki during an interview.
Anchorage Daily News website video, March 6, 2011

“Trent Herbst sleeps about 5 hours in 5 days “By the time he [Trent Herbst] got to Iditarod he said he had only had about five hours of sleep.”

(From the Sled Dog Action Coalition: According to the Iditarod’s website Herbst left Anchorage at 10:04:00 on March 5, 2011 and arrived at the Iditarod checkpoint at 5:29:00 on March 10, 2011)

– Jill Burke, Alaska Dispatch, March 11, 2011

“As he talked, someone wished [Ramey] Smyth a happy birthday.

When was it?

‘Today I guess,’ Smyth said.

It’s hard to think straight when you’ve slept roughly five hours in six days.”

– Kyle Hopkins and Beth Bragg, Anchorage Daily News, March 15, 2011

“I just want to watch Jeff ramble on and not make any sense,’ said [Martin] Buser [watching Jeff King's victory on television], well aware of the fogginess of sleep deprivation after nine days on the trail with little rest.”

– Craig Medred and Doug O’Harra, Anchorage Daily News, March 18, 1998

Hazards facing sleep deprived mushers

What are the effects of sleep deprivation?

From Susan E. Conner, Ph.D., Caltech, Assistant Director, Counseling Center:

  • Mood shifts, including depression, increased irritability
  • Stress, anxiety and loss of sense of humor
  • Reduced immunity to disease and viral infection
  • Impaired memory functioning
  • Reduced ability to handle complex tasks
  • Reduced ability to think logically, critically
  • Reduced ability to analyze new information
  • Reduced decision-making skills and vocabulary
  • Reduced motor skills and coordination—more likely to have an accident
  • In more severe cases of sleep deprivation, individuals may become disoriented, hallucinate or become psychotic.

– Caltech website, 2002

Lack of sleep makes it difficult to do even mundane acts:

“A lack of sleep makes it difficult to carry out even mundane acts, such as conversing intelligibly or calculating a waiter’s tip.”

– B. Bower, Science News, February 12, 2000

“Sleepy Iditarod mushers stumbled around the White Mountain checkpoint Tuesday afternoon, making preparations for the final push to Nome.”

“And then there was Jeff King. He slurred his words and dragged his feet, asking for help to read the numbers on the microwave when he warmed his vacuum-sealed lasagna.”

Alaska Dispatch, March 12, 2013

After day seven, it’s hard to make a rational decision:

“By day seven, your body is run down from sleep deprivation. You can’t hardly make a rational decision.”

– Musher Ed Iten talking about his Iditarod experience
– Hannah Guillaume, The Northern Light, March 7, 2006

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

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

Pushing dogs to race faster is dangerous

Compare the current speed record of 9 days with the speed record for the first Iditarod:

“Dick Wilmarth wins the inaugural in just over 20 days.”

Anchorage Daily News website, March, 1999

Iditarod rule 36 encourages mushers to race dogs faster:

“A team may be withdrawn that is out of the competition and is not in a position to make a valid effort to compete. The Race Marshal may consider, but is not limited to, weather, trail conditions and the overall pace of the Race when invoking this rule. A musher whose conduct, constitutes an unreasonable risk of harm to him/her, dogs or other persons may also be withdrawn.”

– Iditarod rule 36, Iditarod website

Dick Mackey advises driving dogs like they’re going drop dead in Nome:

“‘From here they’re going to do in two and a half days what it took them five to do coming out of Anchorage fresh,’ [Dick] Mackey said. ‘From here on, you’ve got to drive the dogs like they’re going to cross the finish line in Nome and drop dead.'”

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

Hank DeBruin told he’s not going fast enough and must quit:

“Nordman wanted to know why the 47-year-old DeBruin and his 13 Siberian huskies had taken more than nine hours on the 50-mile run from Galena. DeBruin explained that it had been 40 below and that the team was fighting a headwind on the wide-open river.

Nordman, according to DeBruin, wasn’t buying that excuse. He told DeBruin he was too far behind the nearest mushers down the trail. Jane Faulkner, of Kenai, and Celeste Davis, from Montana, were closing on Kaltag, the next checkpoint, as DeBruin was leaving Nulato.

DeBruin argued that though his team was slow, it was still on pace to finish as the fastest-ever red lantern in the Iditarod. Nordman wasn’t buying that, either, DeBruin said

The race marshal announced he was imposing Rule 36, the “competitiveness” rule.”

“DeBruin was well within all of these time limits. He had cleared McGrath with days to spare and reached Galena less than 72 hours behind the arrival of then-race leader Jeff King from Denali. By DeBruin’s reckoning, he was a full day ahead of Iditarod doomsday.

Still, Nordman decided DeBruin was too far out of contact with Davis and Faulkner, who teamed up for most of the 150-mile push up the Yukon to the Kaltag Portage. In the race marshal’s eyes, that apparently put DeBruin in the “unreasonable risk” category, although DeBruin appears as comfortable traveling on the trail as most Iditarod veterans. He has spent a long time around dogs and in the Bush, and it shows in his trail skills.”

– Mark Nordman is the Iditarod Race Marshall.
– Craig Medred, Alaska Dispatch, March 17, 2010

Rob Loveman removed from Iditarod for not going fast enough:

“And Rob Loveman, a rookie musher removed from the race because he wasn’t traveling fast enough, has protested his withdrawal as unfair and cited pressure on back-of-the-packers to keep moving as a possible contributing factor in dog deaths.”

– Craig Medred, Anchorage Daily News, May 15, 2009

Musher wants to accelerate pace of Iditarod:

Martin Buser says that “he wants to accelerate the pace [of the Iditarod race] even more.”

– Doug O’Harra, Anchorage Daily News, February 23, 1997

No limit on how fast mushers will push the dogs:

“‘In the old days,'” said Martin Buser of Big Lake, “‘we use to drool over a 10 mph average. (Now) we don’t really know where the limit is.'”

– Staff and wire reports, Anchorage Daily News, March 13, 2000

“We went 14 hours nonstop,” Sorlie said earlier at Eagle Island, 420 miles from the Nome finish line.

– News Staff, Anchorage Daily News, March 13, 2005

Dogs run from 100 miles to 200 miles a day:

“They run 100 miles to 200 miles a day for 10 straight days.”

– Iditarod veterinarian Dr. Harvey Goho

– Tarah Holland, The News & Record, March 18, 2007

Increased speed makes for sleepy mushers and more hazards:

“The speed record for the Iditarod is 9 days, which is less than half the time it took to run the first race. Mushers push their dogs beyond their abilities by depriving both the dogs and themselves of sleep. Just as sleepy automobile drivers are more likely to fall asleep behind the wheel and have accidents, mushers who operate their sleds while half asleep create more hazards for both the dogs and themselves.”

– Roland Windsor Vincent, Last Chance for Animals, September, 1999

Increased speed results in two dogs spraining their backs:

“‘Our speed required all my strength to manhandle the sled. I hit a tree, breaking the sled’s main runner. This made it impossible for me to steer properly, resulting in two dogs spraining their backs.'”

– DeeDee Jonrowe talking about an incident in the 2000 Iditarod

– Grace Fox, The Salvation Army War Cry, February 16, 2002

A musher’s desire to win by going faster outweighs any concern for dogs’ health and safety:

“That’s the nature of today’s Iditarod: The fast want to go faster.”

-The Anchorage Daily News, March 7, 1998

“I’m still working off my high starting position, of course. We’re 41 and 62 so that, of course, that was a bit of a drawback on this Iditarod I think. The trail got progressively worse and we’ve had snow and snow and snow, so we had to jump on the bandwagon and short rest and get up here a little faster than we wanted. So sometimes those high starting numbers don’t work in your favor.”

– Iditarod musher Martin Buser, Anchorage Daily News, website, March 6, 2012

“[Musher DeeDee] Jonrowe…is aiming for as many long runs and short rests as possible.”

– Associated Press for Fairbanks News-Miner, undated 1998 article on website

“As mushers drive closer to the finish line, most said they are racing their dogs more and resting less than earlier in the race.”

– Jolie Lewis, Fairbanks News-Miner, undated 1998 article on website

“If she left, I would have followed, even though it wasn’t the best for either of our teams. We both were ready to race each other to the finish.”

– First place Jeff King referring to second-place musher Dee Dee Jonrowe

“King ran the race the way he wanted” by Casey Ressler, Outside Online Event Coverage, March 17, 1998

“I got my puppy team here. I went a little too hard, I guess. I kind of ran the legs off the dogs a little bit.”

– Rick Swenson, five-time Iditarod winner who finished 11th in the 1998 race

– Jolie Lewis, Fairbanks News-Miner, March 19, 1998

Accidents hurt dogs and mushers:

“Mushers had to maneuver sleds over tree stumps, logs and tussocks. They darted between trees. Sometimes they made it; other times they didn’t.” “In Nikolai, mushers shared horror stories about their crashes…”

– Elizabeth Manning, Anchorage Daily News, March 7, 2001

“We got wrapped around a couple of trees. It was hard to distinguish where the trail was.”

– Musher Dee Jonrowe – Los Angeles Times, March 11, 1998

Sleep deprived dogs suffer from extreme stress and sickness:

Margery Glickman: “Dogs like to sleep a lot. And, maybe Dr. Kislak would like to speak about it. My understanding is that the average dog likes to sleep anywhere from 14 to 18 hours a day.”

Dr. Paula Kislak: “Yes, that’s correct. If we are going all the way back into the instinctual behavior of dogs, they sleep all day and hunt for maybe two to four, maximum six hours in the evening. The rest of the time is spent in the cave cleaning and sleeping. I certainly have found in my practice and with my own animals that that’s probably an overestimation of the amount of time they’d really like to be sleeping. They’d really like to be sleeping much more, obviously, since they don’t have to hunt. They’ll typically sleep anywhere from 14 to 20 hours in a day. Which brings up the point that when the musher is sleeping [while the dogs race], of course, the dogs are not able to sleep. Not only does that create extreme stress and exertion on the dogs, but, also leads to accidents where the dogs do get strangled by the towlines and gouged by the sleds. It’s completely irresponsible behavior.”

– On February 23, 2003, Andrea Floyd-Wilson, the host of All About Animals Radio Show, interviewed Margery Glickman, Director of the Sled Dog Action Coalition, and Paula Kislak, DVM, President of the Association of Veterinarians for Animal Rights.

“Runyan’s thinking was that if the teams did their 24-hour rests there [at the Ruby checkpoint], they would be able resume the race with so much energy restored that they could catch any teams that might pass during the layover. The strategy didn’t work. Runyan took so much out of his dogs that they ended up getting sick.”

– Craig Medred, Anchorage Daily News, March 12, 2004

“A veteran of four Iditarods, including the second-ever race in 1974, [Rudy] Demoski Sr. said he made a long run to Skwentna without rest, overheating his dog team.”

– Kyle Hopkins, Anchorage Daily News, March 7, 2013

“The run through Kaltag portage had slowed the dogs down, he [Aaron Burmeister] said. Sickness had overtaken his team and trying to push them to the coast had only weakened them.”

– Suzanna Caldwell, Alaska Dispatch, March 11, 2013

Mushers force sick, injured and tired dogs to race

Mushers start race with sick dogs:

“Aberdeen’s presence on the team is even more of a surprise. He was a standout yearling last year, but in the spring we found a large lump on his hind leg. We had the cancer removed, but the vet said it was sure to come back and would likely result in him losing his leg. He also said that the tumor had been growing around the tendons and hock joint, and there had been some damage in removing it, so he would likely have joint problems. The lump did start to reappear…”

– Karin Hendrickson, Iditarod 2009, article on her website

“As soon as we hit the warmer weather in Anchorage, however, I was confronted with canine health problems. With the warmer temperatures, and possible exposure to a hundred teams and fifteen hundred dogs, many from the Lower 48, I started having digestive episodes, some of them a real drag on the team.”

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

“He [veterinarian Terry Adkins] saw very little diarrhea along the trial from the ceremonial start Saturday, he said, adding though that John Barron of Helmville told him his dogs had it. Loose stools are a sign of ill health. Sled dogs relieve their bowels on the run.”

[From the Sled Dog Action Coalition: Because the dogs "relieve their bowels on the run," it is likely that the dogs in back of those who were stricken with diarrhea inhaled this fecal material. The bacterial material it contains could cause infection and death. Sick dogs should be pulled out of the race.]

– Mark Downey, Great Falls Tribune, March 4, 2002

“Last year, I started my run in the Iditarod swinging for a homerun right out of the starting gate. We did well for a while, but a gift basket assortment of nagging injuries left over from the Beargrease the month prior knocked me back somewhat, and a wicked nasty case of the doggy flu pretty much finished me off by the time I reached the Yukon.”

“Oh well–that’s just the way it goes sometimes. I met some pretty neat people while I was limping along–Pete Kaiser was one of them.”

– Jason Barron, Jason Barron’s blog, March 2011

“One of his dogs caught a virus three days before the start and it went dog-to-dog through his team through the first two-thirds of the race, he [John Barron] said.”

– Mark Downey, Great Falls Tribune, March 14, 2002

“Zirkle, of Two Rivers, limped along the trail Tuesday morning with an ailing dog team. A few of her dogs got sick just before the race, and the bug has spread through her entire team she said.”

– Aliy Zirkle, musher in 2001 Iditarod

– Elizabeth Manning, Anchorage Daily News, March 8, 2001

“Two of his [Bartlett's] veteran dogs were unable to keep running.” “Bartlett suspects the dogs were suffering from a virus. They had not wanted to eat since the ceremonial start Saturday in Anchorage…”

– Rachel D’Oro, Associated Press, Wednesday, March 5, 2003

[In 2003, the Iditarod restart was in Fairbanks on Monday, March 3, two days after the Anchorage ceremonial start. According to the AP report, Barlett's dogs raced for at least three days even though they were too sick to eat.]

– Schnuell, Anderson, Gatt, Willomitzer and Land start race with dogs who have kennel cough:

Kyle Hopkins: “So you have a little bit of illness also on your team?”

Sebastian Schnuelle: “Oh yah, for sure I had that stupid kennel cough like big time. It started like two days before the race.”

Kyle Hopkins: “Do you think they got it on the Quest?”

Sebastian Schnuelle: “Oh yeah for sure, Ken [Anderson] had it, Hans [Gatt] had it. So I guess we three kind of stuck together there. So I guess we all got it.”

– iditablog, Anchorage Daily News, March 9, 2011, Takotna checkpoint

– Kyle Hopkins is a reporter for the Anchorage Daily News.

– The 2011 Iditarod started on March 5.

[From the Sled Dog Action Coalition: Sebastian Schnuelle won the Iditarod's 2010 Humanitarian Award.]

“As the race got underway, [Hans] Gatt said about half of his team was battling kennel cough.”

– Jill Burke, Alaska Dispatch, March 9, 2011

“He [Ken Anderson] did drop 2 dogs, including Pikea because his kennel cough was getting worse and he didn’t want it to progress to something more serious, like pneumonia.”

– Gwen Anderson, journal, Forest Lake Times, March 9, 2011

– Gwen Anderson is Ken Anderson’s wife.

– The 2011 Iditarod started March 6.

“Disappointment in the Iditarod. After contacting Kennel Cough before the race I had hopes the team would recover in time. Unfortunately only some of them did. By McGrath I was down to 9 dogs from the 16 that started, due to a combination of illness & injury. The remaining dogs were still showing strong symptoms of the cough, and with only one leader remaining I decided it was in the best interest of the dogs to end the race at this point.”

– Iditarod musher Gerry Willomitzer, www.gerrywillomitzer.com, March, 2011

“One dog had a cough the day the race started and that illness spread through the team, he said.”

– Terry Adkins, DVM, discussing musher Karen Land’s dogs

– Mark Downey, Great Falls Tribune, March 8, 2003

- Dogs start race not eating well:

“This was a very arduous race. We started slow, pushing through 3 inches of soft snow. The dogs worked hard and didn’t eat well.”

- Dogs not eating well when race starts

– Eric O. Rogers, Ph.D. personal blog, March 30, 2009

“For now, his [Lance Mackey] dogs have what he believes are the early symptoms of kennel cough. A wheel dog named Pat ‘hasn’t eaten probably a pound of food since the starting line,’ he said.”

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

- Dog allowed to start race with open sore on foot pad:

“He’s [Don Bower's dog Batman] had an open sore on one of his front footpads since before the race and even with booties and lots of ointment, it’s not improving.”

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

– Mushers force sick, injured and tired dogs to continue racing

Rachael Scdoris forces sick dogs to race:

Rachael Scdoris’s dog Karelan was sick at the Rainy Pass Checkpoint. Scdoris raced this sick dog for 322 miles before dropping her at the Iditarod checkpoint. Dutchess was also sick at the Rainy Pass Checkpoint. Scdoris raced this sick dog for 490 miles before scratching at the Eagle Island Checkpoint.

Rainy Pass Checkpoint

“I noticed Dutchess and Karelan had picked up a bug and now had runny diarrhea.”

Rainy Pass to Rohn – 48 miles

“Their diarrhea had not improved, and I could tell they were not as healthy as at the start of the race.”

Rohn to Nikolai – 80 miles

“Dutchess and Karelan nibbled at their food.”” Dutchess and Karelan and Kitty still suffered from diarrhea and a couple of others had sore wrists….”

Nikolai to McGrath – 48 miles

“The veterinarian expressed her concern about the virus sweeping through my team. She said I needed to keep a close watch on Dutchess and Karelan…”

McGrath to Takotna – 18 miles

Takotna to Ophir – 38 miles

Ophir to Iditarod – 90 miles

“When we were ready to leave [Iditarod] I dropped Karelan.”

Iditarod to Shageluk – 65 miles

“I started crying because my dogs were sick and skinny and I had lost the bootie bag.”

Shageluk to Anvik – 25 miles

Anvik to Grayling – 18 miles

“There were long stretches when nothing seemed to change. I knew that for a team of sick dogs this might prove to be our undoing.”

Grayling to Eagle Island – 60 miles

“Angel was the only dog in my team that seemed the least bit interested in leading and she was now my thinnest dog.” Bernard, Ned and Dutchess were nearly as skinny.”

“It was obvious from the thinness of the dogs, but the veterinarian was trying to make conversation and asked if the diarrhea medicine had helped. I was honest. There was really no sense in trying to be deceitful. My team was in trouble.

‘I haven’t been able to keep weight on them, not since Tokotna. That’s were the diarrhea started getting bad and they began losing weight.'”

“When I saw my spent team and saw the way they were curled up on the straw, how skinny they had become from the diarrhea-causing virus, my decision was made for me.”

“All that remained of my 2005 Iditarod run was to make it official. Jim got a piece of paper and a Sharpie. He wrote my name and the words ‘Scratched in Eagle Island.’ I signed it.”

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

Lance Mackey’s dog in awful pain from ripping out his own toenails forced to race:

Annie Feidt: “He’s [Lance Mackey] further back in the race than he was at his point last year when he finished 16th and he’s leaving with nine dogs, one of whom has a minor injury. But he’s too stubborn to drop the dog.”

Lance Mackey: “Because it was kind of a self-inflicted wound keeping this female in heat and it’s caused other issues that are fixable. This particular little issue is he’s been working hard to get to that female in front of him. He ripped off his toenails. He’s still able to walk with no toenails. It’s just kind of painful.”

– Annie Feidt from Alaska Public Radio interviewed Lance Mackey on March 12, 2012, APRN.org website

– Ripped off toenails are extremely painful:

“The worst type of broken toe nail is called an avulsed toe nail. This is when the nail is actually pulled off. This type is also extremely painful and tends to bleed a lot.”

– Dr. Ellen Leonhardt, DVM, Animal General of East Norwich, East Norwich, NY, website article, 2012

“Any toenail ripped or cracked at the base will be very painful and may bleed-sometimes LOTS!”

– Dr. Emily R. Roberson, DVM, Animal Hospital of East Davie, Advance, NC, website article, 2012

Lance Mackey forces sick dogs to race:

“‘I’m still dealing with some diarrhea issues that I can’t seem to get control of for whatever reason,’ said [Lance] Mackey, speaking about his dog team’s health and performance.”

– Kevin Wells, KTUU-TV, March 7, 2008, web site article

Lance Mackey forces dog to race who’s having groin chafing:

“He’s down to only nine of the 16 dogs with which he left Willow on Sunday, and he’s worried he might have to drop Rev. The dog is having problems with harness chafing in the area of his groin. [Lance] Mackey said veterinarians told him it’s because Rev has a ‘bigger package.’ I don’t at all know how it feels, but I can imagine. I’m sure it’s not comfortable. I’m deathly scared he is not going to make it too much past Grayling.”

– Jill Burke, Craig Medred, Alaska Dispatch, March 11, 2011

– Lance Mackey was at the Anvik checkpoint.

According to the Iditarod’s website, Lance Mackey still had a nine dog team when he arrived in Unalakleet on March 13, 2011 at 16:04:00.

Lance Mackey forces dogs with kennel cough to race:

“At about 8:30 p.m., hours before Mackey was scheduled to leave, he stood in the dark as a vet checked one of his leaders, Rev. The dog made a hacking sound.”

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

– Mackey and Hopkins were at the Takotna checkpoint

“Some of his [Lance Mackey]dogs were coughing and one is in heat.”

– Associated Press, March 12, 2008

Jessie Royer’s dogs in pain from cracked webbing forced to race:

“Jessie Royer, who trains in Montana where it’s often warm, said she was worried about the condition of her dogs’ feet. Wet all the time, the webbing was cracking. She described it ‘like having you hands in dish soap all the time. My dogs are used to the (warm) weather, but this is even too much for them,’ she said.”

– Suzanna Caldwell, Alaska Dispatch, March 8, 2013

– Cracked webbing on paws is very painful:

“Cracked webbing of the feet, especially in warm weather, would make the dogs vulnerable to bacterial or fungal infection of the damaged areas. The other issue is pain, which would be substantial with this type of damage regardless whether there is infection. Although booties might reduce the incidence of damage, once the foot is damaged, they would not help much with the pain even if they reduced the potential for infection.”

- Dr. Nedim C. Buyukmihci, V.M.D., Professor Emeritus of Veterinary Medicine at U.C. Davis, email to the Sled Dog Action Coalition on July 20, 2013

Martin Buser forces dogs with infected paws to race:

“Asked by a KNOM reporter in Nome if he ‘messed up’ by starting so fast over the first four days, [Martin] Buser said no. The problem, he said, was that he ran in the heat of the day and ran without booties, which allowed his dogs’ feet to get infected, leaving the musher to nurse sore paws the rest of the way.”

– The KNOM interview with Martin Buser was on March 18, 2011.

- Alaska Dispatch, March 4, 2013

Heather Siirtola forces sick dogs to race:

“The intestinal virus that was plaguing the team earlier continues.

But, after talking to friend and fellow dog owner Kathleen Holden, [Heather] Siirtola apparently decided to keep going.”

– Tony Spilde, Bismarck Tribune, March 11, 2008

DeeDee Jonrowe forces injured dogs to race:

Veterinarian: “Get some povidone-iodine. Beta iodine.”

DeeDee Jonrowe, holding a dog’s leg: “OK.”

Veterinarian: “Beta iodine. Then I think it would probably be better to wrap it. It’s been cold all this time so it doesn’t stiffen up on him while he’s going to be racing.”

DeeDee Jonrowe: “OK.”

Veterinarian: “Wrap it.”

DeeDee Jonrowe: “Wrap it with a hot pack?”

Veterinarian: “Yes.”

DeeDee Jonrowe, taping the dog’s leg: “OK.”

Veterinarian: “Tape it more.”

[Sound of the dog crying.]

– Outdoor Life Network (OLN), Kaltag checkpoint, Iditarod, 2005

DeeDee Jonrowe arrived at the Kaltag checkpoint with 12 dogs and left with 12 dogs.

– Iditarod website, 2005

Kelly Maixner forces sick dogs to run:

“He [Kelly Maixner] should have done better this year, but one dog got sick the first day and it just spread through the rest of the dogs.”

– Joel Maixner is speaking about his son Kelly Maixner.

– Royal McGregor, The Dickinson Press, March 28, 2013

Ramey Smyth forces injured dogs to race:

“Ramey Smyth is nursing a dog team that’s been whittled down to a meager seven. Aches and pains have just taken their toll this year, he said.”

– Jon Little, Cabela’s website, March 14, 2005

Little formerly wrote for the Anchorage Daily News

Greg Parvin forces sick dogs to race:

“Many of his dogs [Greg Parvin] were stricken with diarrhea early on, he’s crashed his sled more times than he could count and a lack of sleep has shrunk his eyes into slits.”

“By Friday afternoon, his dogs were rebounding, thanks to numerous visits with volunteer race veterinarians.”

– Rachael D’Oro, Associated Press, March 12, 2005

Aliy Zirkle forces dogs with kennel cough to race:

“It was my first Iditarod; I had to finish the ding-dang thing. The dogs all had fevers. The vets gave them a powerful antibiotic.

“Every time I came into a checkpoint, the vets knew about me and asked how the dogs were doing.” “They [the dogs] had a virus with a fever, and they were coughing mucus.”

– Aliy Zirkle, Iditarod musher

– Freedman, Lew. More Iditarod Classics, Kenmore: Epicenter Press, 2004

“The run from TAKOTNA to OPHIR is short, but hilly. I gauge my team by the time interval we take to cover this distance. A good time is 2 and a half hours. I always think back to my first Iditarod. My entire dog team had kennel cough and were moving slowly right here.”

– Aliy Zirkle, SP Kennel Dog Log, Iditarod Trail Notes, 2010

– According to the Iditarod’s website, Aliy Zirkle’s first Iditarod was in 2001.

Burt Bomhoff forces dogs with kennel cough to race:

“On top of the spoiled food, the dogs developed some kennel cough during the race.”

– Bomhoff, Burt. Iditarod Alaska: The life of a Sled Dog Musher, Anchorage: Publication Consultants, 2013

Vern Halter, John Baker and many others force sick dogs to race:

“Two of the MANY (emphasis added) mushers who battled viruses in their dog teams and placed well below their expectations were Vern Halter…and John Baker….”

– Lew Freedman, Anchorage Daily News, March 17, 2000

Doug Swingley forces sick dogs to race:

“… (The dog’s) recovery in the checkpoints was slowed by some sort of virus.”

– Doug Swingley, the 2000 Iditarod race winner

– Craig Medred, Anchorage Daily News, March 14, 2000

“Around Nikolai, about 350 miles into the race, some of his dogs caught a virus.” “‘They had some bad discomfort'” said Swingley. “‘It was hard for me to manage them.'”

– Doug Swingley, the 2000 Iditarod race winner

– Lew Freedman, Anchorage Daily News, March 15, 2000

Lindwood Fieldler forces sick dogs to race in 2000:

“COAXING SICK DOGS: Linwood Fiedler, DeeDee Jonrowe’s Willow neighbor, finished just ahead of her in 19th and had to nurse sick dogs much of the time.”

– Staff report, Anchorage Daily News, March 17, 2000, article on website

Jason Halseth forces sick dogs to race:

“I just couldn’t keep fluids in them,” the musher said. “I’d get in the checkpoints, and they’d look good, and I’d get out and they’d lose their hydration.”

– Jason Halseth, musher in 2001 Iditarod

– Craig Medred, Anchorage Daily News, March 15, 2001

Ramy Brooks forces sick dogs to race:

“Although one or two dogs in his [Ramy Brooks] team attacked their food bowls with gusto, most poked at their chow or ignored it.”

[From the Sled Dog Action Coalition: According to the Iditarod website, Ramy Brooks was at the Unalakleet checkpoint with nine dogs. The race ends in Nome which is 260 miles from this checkpoint.]

– Joel Gay, Anchorage Daily News, March 11, 2003 report from Unalakleet

Lindwood Fiedler in 2003 forces sick dog to race:

“With another, he [Lindwood Fiedler] opened its [the dog's] mouth and fed it antibiotics to fight an infection. ‘Better mushing through pharmacy,’ he quipped.”

Joel Gay, Anchorage Daily News, March 12, 2003

Rick Swenson forces injured dog to race:

[Sound of a dog crying]

Rick Swenson: “Oh yes, your foot is so sensitive.”

Annie Feidt: “Swenson rubs a clear gel on the lower leg of one of his lead dogs and wraps it in it a red neoprene-like material. He holds up the tiny bottle and calls it the magic ointment.”

Rick Swenson: “That’s like 25 bucks. We buy it by the case– about like drinkin scotch, good scotch.”

– Rick Swenson was a musher in the 2006 Iditarod

– Annie Feidt interviewed him for the Alaska Public Radio Network, March 16, 2006, website

Ed Iten forces sick dogs to race in 2006:

“I guess my hiccup is how it seems like it’s always early in the race coming for a remote kennel here about three days into the race we get massively sick and then so I felt I was, you know I, I actually stopped at Ophir and then I stopped at Rainy and then I stopped again at Rohn, which was unplanned and then I stopped at Salmon River and I stopped at McGrath and I stopped at Ophir and then I camped again on the way to Iditarod just trying to keep my team together because they were just really throwing up, really sick.”

“It was hard to get them to eat, because they couldn’t keep anything down.”

– Musher Ed Iten talking about his dogs

– Interview with Steve Heimel, Alaska Public Radion Network, February 28, 2006

Ed Iten forces sick dogs to race in 2007:

“Considering his dogs struggles with diarrhea from Day 2 of the Iditarod all the way to his 24-hour stop in the ghost town of Iditarod, he’s [Ed Iten's] pleased.

‘I saw my first turd today,’ he said.”

– Kevin Klott, Anchorage Daily News, March 11, 2007

[The 2007 Iditarod started on March 3.]

[After the 2007 Iditarod, the veterinary staff gave Ed Iten its Humanitarian Award. - Iditarod website, 2007]

Jamie Nelson forces dogs with kennel cough to race:

“Jamie [Nelson] said her team had come down with what the vets thought was kennel cough.”

– Iditarod musher Karen Ramstead, North Wapiti Iditarod 2000 Journal – Finger Lake to Rainy Pass, northwapiti.com

Paul Ellering forces sick dogs to race:

“The diarrhea had taken the spark out of the team.” “I hoped the medicine the vets gave me would work….”

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

Zack Steer forces sick dogs to race:

McGrath checkpoint person near Steer’s dogs: “Do you have any meds on you?” Musher Zack Steer: “Yeah, they’re all medicated.”

– KTUU website video taken March 6, 2007

[The video showed pools of fresh diarrhea under Steer's dogs.]

Robert Sorlie forces sick dogs to race:

“And two-time champion Robert Sorlie of Norway, lagging much of the race with dogs suffering from diarrhea…”

Anchorage Daily News, March 10, 2007

Aaron Burmeister forces sick dogs to race:

“He’d [Aaron Burmeister] been battling canine diarrhea for days, then his dogs got depressed plowing through the rough tundra over to Iditarod.”

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

– Little formerly wrote for the Anchorage Daily News.

Slim Randles forces dog with kennel cough to race:

“It’s the first Saturday in March, 1973, and more than 40 dog mushers are ready to leave the semi-pro baseball stadium in Anchorage and drive their teams more than 1,100 miles to Nome.”

“The dog I borrowed had kennel cough and I had to stop every couple of hours and dose him with cough syrup, which he hated and caused him to run all out in panic when he saw me coming with the bottle. I still think I’d have won that race if all my dogs had kennel cough.”

– Slim Randles, Magic City Morning Star, March 2, 2005

James Warren forces staggering dog to race:

“One mile out of Nome, Harley began staggering. I stopped the team for about 10 minutes. He stood motionless with his head low but wagged when I called his name. I showed him the lights of Nome across the ice covered sea. We pressed on. I was hoping he could make it. As we neared the snow ramp up onto Front Street he was staggeringly badly.”

– James Warren talking about his dog Hartley in the 2004 Iditarod

– Warren, James and Warren, Christopher. Following My Father’s Dream, James and Christopher Warren, 2005

[From the Sled Dog Action Coalition: Warren could have carried Hartley on his sled.]

James Warren forces ailing dog to race:

“Jim: Rohn: Both King and Cookie had been ailing since the ‘snow holes’ and to make matters worse several other dogs were ailing which shifts the burden to the others.”

“Jim: Nikolai: After 6 1/2 hours we left for Nikolai. King was ailing even more and now we were pulling him.”

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

Mitch Seavey forces sick dogs to race:

“I’ve a really nice team and was threatening to charge to the front. And yesterday they all got diarrhea and got sick on me, not all of them but a bunch of them. Lance is out of reach for me so I’m doing something else now.”

– Mitch Seavey talking about his sick dogs

– KTUU-TV, KTUU.com website, March 17, 2009

[From the Sled Dog Action Coalition: According to the Iditarod's website, Seavey dropped one dog before leaving the Unalakleet checkpoint on March 16 and dropped one dog before leaving Shaktoolik on the same day. On March 17, Seavey didn't drop any dogs.]

Joe Runyan forces sick dog team to run:

“[Joe] Runyan’s dogs developed an illness early in the race with forced him off the pace set by leaders King, DeeDee Jonrowe, Rick Mackey and Susan Butcher the first four finishers and some of Runyan’s usual companions on the trail.”

– Lew Freedman, Anchorage Daily News, March 19, 1993

Jeff King forces tired dogs to race:

“He’s feeling good, he [Jeff King] said moments before stepping on the runners of his sled, but his dogs are tired.”

– Kyle Hopkins, Anchorage Daily News – The Sled Blog, March 13, 2010

Martin Buser forced tired dogs to race (dogs rested only 79 minutes in 169 miles of racing):

“Since leaving as the first musher out of the starting chute yesterday in Willow, the 54-year-old from Big Lake [Martin Buser] has kept his lead by resting his dogs at checkpoints for a total of only 79 minutes in 169 miles of driving.”

– Kevin Klott, Anchorage Daily News, March 4, 2013

Martin Buser’s 14 dogs with diarrhea forced to race on bread and water:

Martin Buser: “I had 14 squirting leaving Iditarod….”

Lance Mackey: “I did hear that.”

Martin Buser: “Mine were just leaving Iditarod. But I could see, so I put them on bread and water.”

Anchorage Daily News, video, partial transcript, March 8, 2013

[From the Sled Dog Action Coalition: According to the Iditarod’s website, Martin Buser left the Iditarod checkpoint with 14 dogs.]

Jaimee Kinzer forces tired dogs to race:

“It was 6 to 12 inches deep so my guys are pretty tuckered right now.”

– Iditarod musher Jaimee Kinzer, Anchorage Daily News website video, March 7, 2012

John Baker forces tired dogs to race:

“As [Ryan] Redington paused for a smoke, [John] Baker kneeled nearby, rubbing ointment into the foot pads of a charcoal-colored husky. The dog whined.

The team is tired Baker said. It’s unlikely he’ll capture a second-straight win unless the mushers ahead of him falter, he said.”

– Kyle Hopkins, Iditarodblog, Anchorage Daily News, March 12, 2012

GB Jones forces tired dogs to race:

“It’s a long haul to Cripple. The day wore on and the dogs were getting tired.”

– Jones, GB. Winning the Iditarod: The GB Jones Story, Wasilla: Northern Publishing, 2005

Eep Anderson forces tired dogs to race:

“I watched Eep [Anderson] leave. You could tell his dogs didn’t want to go. They’re tired.”

– Rick Mackey, Iditarod musher

– Freedman, Lew. Iditarod Classics: Tales of the Trail Told by the Men & Women Who Race Across Alaska, Seattle: Epicenter Press, 1992

Rick Swenson forces tired dog to race:

“‘He [Rick Swenson] weaved out there, untangled the dogs and shook the handle bar to go and the wheel dog did one of these Laugh-In things, just keeled over. He went back and set the dog up and went back and shook the handlebar and the dog fell over the other way. He looked at me and he said, ‘You know, Joe [May], that’s the third time that guy has fell over on me.'”

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

C. Mark Chapoton forces tired, injured dogs to race:

“It was a long slow haul along the beach in the sunshine. The dogs were tired, and we were passed by a few of the teams that we have been traveling with since the shelter cabin. Along the coast, and around the headlands; all afternoon, slower and slower we mushed.”

“Little Foot, Orca and a few others who had been running with sore wrists got some different salve massaged in.”

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

Collen Robertia forces injured dog to race:

“[Colleen] Robertia was worried she’d have to leave the dog here in Ruby because Crumb has been ailing with a shoulder injury.”

– Kyle Hopkins, Anchorage Daily News – The Sled Blog, March 13, 2010

[According to the Iditarod's website, Robertia did not leave her dog Crumb at the Ruby checkpoint.]

Judy Currier forces dogs with kennel cough to race 223 miles:

“‘(Pebbles) started coughing in McGrath. We put her on drugs right away, but it’s getting down into her lungs,’ [Judy] Currier said.”

– iditablog, Anchorage Daily News, March 12, 2011, Anvik checkpoint

– According to the Iditarod’s website, there are 223 miles between the McGrath and Anvik checkpoints

Newton Marshall forces injured dog to race:

“Musher Newton Marshall arrives in Galena over the weekend.” “Marshall reported that Larry is limping a bit, but wasn’t sure he would need to be dropped.”

– Alaska Public Radio, March 15, 2010

[According to the Iditarod's website, Marshall did not drop any dogs in Galena.]

Aliy Zirkle forces exhausted dog to race:

“Pud started to show his fatigue even more.”

– Aliy Zirkle is talking about her dog Pud before he reached the Koyuk checkpoint.

– Aliy Zirlke, SP Kennel Dog Log, July 31, 2010

Aliy Zirkle forces exhausted dogs to race:

“The dogs nodded off even as they ran the frozen river.”

– Aliy Zirkle is talking about her dogs.

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

Lisa Frederic forces tired dogs to race:

“The dogs were tired and I could barely keep my eyes open from depression.”

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

Kelly Maixner forces injured puppies to race:

“During a training run Wednesday, [Kelly] Maixner noted a few dogs having some trouble.

‘I got a few little banged-up dogs,” said Maixner. “They are doing pretty good, but a little bit gimpy. There (are) two of them, so we will see how they do.”

– Robert DeBerry, Frontiersman, March 6, 2011

[From the Sled Dog Action Coalition: Kelly Maixner started the 2011 Iditarod with these "banged-up," "gimpy" dogs as part of his team of 16 dogs. His team consists of one and two-year old dogs.]

Jessie Royer forces dogs with kennel cough to race:

“Kate was also coming down with kennel cough which was going around the other teams too. My team had managed to not get it before the race but once we got around the other dog teams it was hard not to get.”

– Jessie Royer, Jessie’s Sled Dog Page, Iditarod 2004

– Royer and her team were near the Finger Lake checkpoint which is 194 miles from Anchorage.

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

How can sick, injured or exhausted dogs love running?

Craig Medred, outdoors columnist for the Anchorage Daily News, told Weekly Reader Current Events (3/3/06), “It’s pretty hard to imagine the enthusiasm these dogs have for racing…”

But dogs feel pain just like humans do. They are not machines.

How can dogs be enthusiastic about running when they’re sick, injured or exhausted?

For more information about dog sickness and injuries, click SICK.

Myth of effective drug testing

Bath salts. Drug tests only catch a tiny number of people who use banned substances. There are hundreds of bath salt compounds but  there are only tests for 40 of them. Photo attributed to DEA

Bath salts. Drug tests only catch a tiny number of people who use banned substances.  For example, there are hundreds of bath salt compounds and only tests for 40 of them. The Iditarod isn’t testing for every drug mushers may use. Photo attributed to DEA

[When it's been so difficult to develop effective drug tests for humans, you know the same difficulties also occur with dogs.]

“Doping experts have long known that drug tests catch only a tiny fraction of the athletes who use banned substances because athletes are constantly finding new drugs and techniques to evade detection.”

– Tim Rohan, The New York Times, August 23, 2013

“You can test for designer drugs, but only if you know what you’re looking for, says Jon Danaceau, an associate toxicologist at the University of Utah’s Center for Human Toxicology.

‘If somebody comes up with a completely novel drug that we don’t know to look for it, yeah, it’s possible that we can miss it,’ Danaceau says.

Another problem is that dopers are using synthetic versions of stuff the body already makes — like human growth hormone and erythropoietin (EPO), which boosts red blood cells. Even sophisticated tests can’t always tell the difference.

And there are so many new drugs that it’s hard for testers to keep up. [Dr. Charles] Yesalis say these drugs are intended for people with potentially deadly diseases such as cancer or muscular dystrophy.

‘But there are these unethical medical scientists that are sitting up in the trees like vultures waiting to pounce on them for their use in athletics,’ Yesalis says. ‘And some of these drugs work well.’

Even knowing what drugs to test for might not be enough. Future dopers are likely to try gene doping, which will be almost impossible to detect.

Lee Sweeney from the University of Pennsylvania is working with a gene that can be injected into a muscle to make the muscle larger. It works on rodents and dogs.”

– Jon Hamilton, NPR, All Things Considered, July 10, 2008

“‘We are not testing for everything that may be out there,’ said Dr. Barry Logan, one of the nation’s leading toxicologists.

That’s because they can’t.

Clandestine labs are using more than 100 chemical compounds to make synthetic marijuana, but even the most sophisticated lab can only test for 17, said Logan, director of Forensic and Toxicological Services at NMS Labs in Pennsylvania….

Bath salts, also known as synthetic amphetamines, are also hard to track for the same reason.

There are hundreds of bath salt compounds out there, but toxicologists can only test for 40, Logan said.

‘This is always a moving target,’ Logan said. ‘As soon as a test exists for something, there are new compounds waiting in the wings. We are always a step behind.'”

– Susannah Bryan, Sun Sentinel, July 6, 2012

Iditarod won't commit to punishing drug and alcohol users

Intoxicated mushers may race dogs in the Iditarod. The rules do not require the Race Marshall to discipline mushers who are half in the bag. Photo attributed to Ranger Cord on flickr

Intoxicated mushers may race dogs in the Iditarod. The rules do not require the Iditarod’s Race Marshall to discipline mushers who are half in the bag. Photo attributed to Ranger Cord on flickr

The Iditarod’s policy and program of testing mushers for drugs is a total sham. Iditarod officials don’t even get the results of the drug tests until many days after the race has ended. As a result, mushers who used banned substances can’t be disqualified from the race when they tested positive. Under Iditarod “Rule 29-Use of Drugs and Alcohol,” (Rule #30 in 2012) violators of the race’s drug and alcohol policy may be ineligible to participate for a specified period of time in future races. It’s important to note that the Iditarod didn’t commit to punish violators of its rule, and it didn’t commit itself to report illegal activity to local authorities.

Iditarod Rule 29 (Rule #30 in 2012 and 2013):

“Alcohol or drug impairment, the use of prohibited drugs by mushers, and positive results on drug or alcohol tests administered during a Race are each prohibited. Violations of this policy shall result in disqualification from a particular Race, and may result in ineligibility from participation for a specified period of time in future Races.”

Mushers beat their dogs with quirt whips. A quirt whip has two falls or tails at the end. The core of the quirt is normally filled with lead shot. The handle is braided leather. 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 their pockets.

Iditarod won't identify or sanction mushers who tested positive for drugs in 2010

“Two mushers in the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race have tested positive for THC, the pyschoactive compound in marijuana, race officials said Thursday.

But Iditarod Trail Committee executive director Stan Hooley said a new rule calling for drug testing isn’t clear enough to allow them to impose sanctions against the mushers, who were among the back-of-the-packers in the 1,000-mile race.”

“When discussing the new testing policy before the March 6 start of the race, Iditarod officials said any positive results would be announced along with the names of those testing positive for banned substances.”

“Without sanctions, it would ‘not be prudent’ to release the names, Hooley said. But he acknowledged they were among the last 15 competitors to reach the finish in Nome.”

– Rachel D’Oro, Associated Press, May 7, 2010

Mushers who tested positive were among the last 15 competitors to reach Nome:

“Without sanctions, it would ‘not be prudent’ to release the names, Hooley said. But he acknowledged they were among the last 15 competitors to reach the finish in Nome.”

– Rachel D’Oro, Associated Press, May 7, 2010

According to the Iditarod’s website, the following 15 mushers were the last to reach Nome in 2010: Cindy Gallea, Sam Deltour, Blake Freking, Tamara Rose, Arthur Church, Jr., Wattie McDonald, Lachlan Clarke, Newton Marshall, Billy Snodgrass, Trent Herbst, Chris Adkins, Dave DeCaro, Ross Adam, Jane Faulkner and Scott White.

All mushers not tested for drugs

Iditarod said all mushers would be tested:

“The tests will take place somewhere along the trail, but race officials will not say where or when. [Stan] Hooley also says every musher will be tested, not just certain mushers.”

– Stan Hooley is the Iditarod’s Executive Director.

– Megan Baldino, March 5, 2010, KTUU-TV, KTUU.com

Top mushers tested for drugs at White Mountain, others after reaching Nome:

“This is also the first place I’ve seen drug testing of mushers on the trail. The checkpoint is in the village city hall building, and Mackey spent a few minutes behind a door with a hand-made “Work Safe” sign.”

– Kyle Hopkins, Anchorage Daily News – The Sled Blog, March 15, 2010

– Kyle Hopkins is at the White Mountain checkpoint, which is 77 miles from Nome.

“As mushers arrive in White Mountain, they’re being pulled aside for testing. Mackey was the first.”

– Kyle Hopkins, Anchorage Daily News, March 16, 2010

“Top mushers were tested in the Eskimo village of White Mountain, the second-to-last checkpoint where competitors take a final mandatory eight-hour layover. Others were tested after reaching Nome.”

– Rachel D’Oro, Associated Press, May 7, 2010

“The Iditarod Trail Committee on Thursday said tests conducted on the first 40 race finishers came back with no sign of drug use.” “Results on the other seven Iditarod finishers are expected next week.”

– Mike Campbell, Anchorage Daily News, March 24, 2011

[From the Sled Dog Action Coalition: The drug test results on the seven other finishers hasn't been published.]

Mushers who didn’t finish the Iditarod were not tested for drugs:

– 2010 Iditarod:

The 16 mushers who dropped out of the 2010 Iditarod were not tested for drugs. According to the Iditarod’s website, the following mushers scratched: John Stewart, Hank Debruin, Ryan Redington, Warren Palfrey, Judy Currier, Emil Churchin, Tom Thurston, Linwood Fiedler, Justin Savidis, Karen Ramstead, Kathleen Frederick, Karin Hendrickson, Soya DeNure, Michael Suprenant, Pat Moon and Kirk Barnum.

– 2011 Iditarod:

The 15 mushers who didn’t finish the 2011 Iditarod were not tested for drugs. According to the Iditarod’s website, they are the following mushers: Mitch Seavey, Karin Hendrickson, Robert Bundtzen, Mike Santos, Kris Hoffman, Judy Currier, Newton Marshall, Brennan Norden, James Bardoner, Gerry Willomitzer, Paul Gehbardt, Jessica Hendricks, Zoya DeNure, Melissa Owens and Bob Storey.

– 2012 Iditarod:

The 13 mushers who didn’t finish the 2012 Iditarod were not tested for drugs. According to the Iditarod’s website, they are the following mushers: Tom Thurston, Wade Marrs, Jeff King, Michael Suprenant, Pat Moon, Gerry Willomitzer, Jake Berkowitz, Kirk Barnum, Zoya DeNure, Silvia Furtwangler, Josh Cadzow, Lachlan Clarke and Ryan Redington.

– 2013 Iditarod:

The 11 mushers who didn’t finish the 2013 Iditarod weren’t tested for drugs. According to the Iditarod’s website, they are the following mushers: Robert Bundtzen, Charley Bejna, Jason Mackey, Rudy Demoski, Sr., Cindy Abbott, Jan Steves, Gerry Willomitzer, Michael Suprenant, David Sawatzky, Newton Marshall and Scott Janssen.

Mushers smoked marijuana

Mushers smoking marijuana:

“[Lance] Mackey, a throat cancer survivor who has a medical marijuana card, admits to using marijuana on the trail….”

– Matias Saari, Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, December 5, 2009

[Should the Iditarod have allowed Mackey to risk the safety of the dogs and of himself due to impaired judgment?]

“Alaska was no longer a pot smoker’s haven. As a result of the recriminalization measure adopted during the November general election, possession of small amounts of marijuana was now punishable by a $1,000 fine and up to 90 days in jail. But cops weren’t patrolling the Iditarod Trail as [Tom] Daily and I shared a few puffs on the crest of a barren hill.”

– 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

“While mushers have been known to blow marijuana smoke near their teams to calm the dogs, some suggest the testing program is aimed at the wrong group.

‘We joke that they should test more mushers than dogs,’ [Martin] Buser says.

– Douglas Robson, USA Today, March 10, 2008

Musher who tested positive for marijuana isn’t banned from Iditarod:

“Juneau musher Matt Giblin has been stripped of his 38th-place finish in the 2012 Iditarod after testing positive for THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, race officials said Thursday.”

“An appeals board found that the veteran racer must repay the $1,049 he earned for finishing this year’s race, said Race Marshal Mark Nordman.”

– Kyle Hopkins, Anchorage Daily News, July 6, 2012

From the Sled Dog Action Coalition: The Iditarod could have made Matt Giblin ineligible from participating in future races, but they did not do so. Rule 30-Use of Drugs and Alcohol says “Alcohol or drug impairment, the use of prohibited drugs by mushers, and positive results on drug or alcohol tests, administered during a Race are prohibited. Violations of this policy shall result in disqualification from a particular Race, and may result in ineligibility from participation for a specified period of time in future Races.”

Mushers sleep on their sleds while dogs race

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

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 Alaska News Dispatchhis 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 is sound asleep:

“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

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

Iditarod co-founder slept on his sled and lost control:

“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 comfortably on seats while the dogs race

(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

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 cook food and make hot coffee while dogs race

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 in heat are forced to race

Lance Mackey allowed his dog Maple to be bred 17 times in three days:

Kari Bustamante: “Hey Lance, tell us how things been going for you so far.”

Lance Mackey: “One word I’d say: Entertaining.”

Kari Bustamante: “Yeah”

Lance Mackey: “Oh not too bad. You know we’ve had little obstacles like everybody else. The biggest obstacle I’ve had since starting line is my main leader Maple has been in heat and I’m not exaggerating when I say she’s been bred 17 times.”

– Kari Bustamante of KTUU-TV interviewed Lance Mackey at the McGrath checkpoint on March 7, 2012, KTUU-TV website

– The Iditarod officially started in Willow on March 4, 2012.

Lance Mackey is “entertained” by dogs repeatedly breeding with Maple:

Tim Bodony: “So I imagine there’s a variety of issues that you’re dealing with on dog care. Would you like to just list some of them?”

Lance Mackey: “I have 10 dogs here, but in all reality I have seven again. It’s kind of like déjà vu from last year with new issues.

It’s kind of a self-inflicted wound. I started with a female in complete heat and I’m too damn stubborn to leave her at home and let them get their way basically. So, by being stubborn I completely destroyed my dog team not only mentally but a lot of them physically.

What happens when females are in heat is first they stop eating then with no eating comes dehydration or more cold. With dehydration comes issues of wrist, shoulders, backs, hips, cramping legs. I could go through three vet books in injuries right now. I mean they’re full. Toenails blown off. I have a dog that has one toe nail left. I mean stupid stuff.”

Tim Bodony: “I’m sorry if I missed it. But what happened to Maple? Maple was the leader in heat.”

Lance Mackey: “She is still the leader.”

Tim Bodony: “Still?”

Lance Mackey: “She is still the leader in heat. She’s been leading every step of the way. The majority of it in single lead because they can’t… She’s just about out now. There’s only a couple of dogs who really want to mess with her. She’s so tired of being messed with now. If her shadow gets too close she’ll attack it. [Sound of Mackey's laughter.] It’s kind of entertaining. That’s what my one word for the whole trip has been: Entertaining. Every run is a half hour or forty-five minutes longer than it should be from a breeding.”

– Tim Bodony of Alaska Public Radio interviewed Lance Mackey on March 10, 2012 at the Galena checkpoint, Alaska Public Radio website

Dogs in heat mate during Iditarod:

“While traveling through the Burn, Jeff [King] stopped for a break and got Suspect and Rebel a Honeymoon Suite… wooo wooo! A little love on the Iditarod trail! (Look for a puppy update in say… about oh, lets just go with early May!)”

– Husky Homestead Crew, Husky Homestead blog, Takotna to Cripple, 2012

“For four-time champ Lance Mackey the trouble wasn’t as much about the trail as it was a lead dog named Mayor looking for some tail.

The frisky boy and another lead dog, Maple — a champion runner in heat who was driving the guys crazy — had been going at it a lot, enough to slow Mackey’s run in from Rohn and stop the team cold on its way out of town.”

– Jill Burke, Alaska Dispatch, March 6, 2012

Almost 100 line tangles and at least 100 crashes:

“Phil Morgan is running with dogs in heat….” “We had close to a hundred tangles,” Morgan said. “It’s not an exaggeration to say we’ve crashed at least 100 times.”

– Rachael D’Oro, Associated Press, March 12, 2005

Males don’t want to race when a female is in heat:

“One of [Rick] Swenson’s female dogs is in heat. The allure of mating throws a hard curve into the social structure of the team. If not managed properly, the effect can weaken a team’s concentration on the race. [Joe] Runyan intimated that Swenson had not been able to overcome the obstacle.”

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

Jason Barron races eight female dogs in heat:

“Jason Barron made incredible time to Rainy Pass, considering he had a whopping eight female dogs in heat.”

– Jon Little, Cabela’s Iditarod coverage, Cabela’s website, March 6, 2006

– Jon Little formerly wrote for the Anchorage Daily News.

Males on the team show behavioral problems:

“All eight females in her team have gone into heat since the Iditarod began Saturday, causing the six males in the team, including Willow [the lead dog], to display ‘behavioral problems, said Gould.

Lured by hormonal scents, Willow refuses to lead and keeps cranking his head around to sniff. He is also refusing to eat.”

“If the musher detects the heat early enough, he or she can administer drugs to stop the cycle. But the medications can cause other problems…., Bowser [veterinarian] said.”

– Melanie Gould, musher

– Tim Bowser, veterinarian, Soldotna, AK

– Paula Dobbyn, Anchorage Daily News, March 6, 2002

“I forgot to mention that all my females were in heat; so that only added to the mess of unruly dogs.”

– Jessie Royer, Jessie’s Sled Dog Page, website, 2004

“He made it through the storm and into Rohn, where a pack of females in heat caused his team trouble.”

“‘They were worked into a breeding lather,’ [Kevin] Morlock said.”

– Steve Begnoche, Ludington Daily News, March 12, 2007

Martin Buser races dogs in heat:

“He [Martin Buser] has one female in heat….”

– Jon Little, Cabela’s Iditarod website, March 6, 2007

– Little formerly wrote for the Anchorage Daily News.

“Celine is in heat and created a ruckus when Buser’s team came upon Newton Marshall outside of Rainy Pass. Marshall had stopped at a tight spot on the trail, Buser said.

The dogs jumped on Celine. ‘So to save her, I turned everybody loose. Or a lot of them loose,’ Buser said.”

– Kyle Hopkins, Anchorage Daily News, March 8, 2011

“Martin Buser just blasted in and out of Nikolai, spending just 7 minutes at the checkpoint. Told checkers he has dogs in heat.”

– Kyle Hopkins, Anchorage Daily News, Tweet, March 6, 2013

Sue Allen races with two dogs in heat:

“Throw in one dog that started the race in-heat as well as another that reached that stage a bit into the race, and the impediments grew increasingly daunting.”

– Sue Allen talking about the dogs she raced

– Kevin Stevens, Press & Sun Bulletin, March 26, 2008

Celeste Davis races with three dogs in heat:

“Thelma (there was no Louise in the string) was one of [Celeste] Davis’ three females that came into heat during the race.”

– Kim Briggeman, The Missoulian, April 24, 2010

Libby Riddles races with two dogs in heat:

“Two of the females were in heat and that didn’t help.”

“Sure enough, the first time my dogs found a chance to bunch up a little, one dog jumped on another, and I had a five-dog fight going.”

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

Newton Marshall races two dogs in heat:

“”He faced an unforeseen problem with his 16 animals. ‘I had two female dogs who were on heat.'”

– James Bone, The Times, March 23, 2010

– Mr. Bone quoted Newton Marshall.

Lance Mackey races with dogs in heat:

“Some of his [Lance Mackey] dogs were coughing and one is in heat.”

– Associated Press, March 12, 2008

“I have three females in heat.”

– Lance Mackey talking about the dogs he raced

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

Kyle Hopkins: “Which female is in heat?”

Lance Mackey: “Zena.”

– Kyle Hopkins, Anchorage Daily News – The Sled Blog, video interview with Lance Mackey, March 14, 2010

Emil Churchin races a dog in heat:

“There was a female in eat in the team, and everyone seemed to want in on the action. [Emil] Churchin stopped the team repeatedly….”

– Medred, Craig. Graveyard of Dreams: Dashed Hopes and Shattered Aspirations Along Alaska’s Iditarod Trail, Anchorage: Plaid Cabin Publishing, 2010

“The last straw, however, was a female in heat, which left the rest of the dogs distracted and then confused.”

– Thomas Feran, The Plain Dealer, March 20, 2010

– Mr. Feran is talking about Emil Churchin’s dogs.

Heather Siirtola raced dog in heat:

“‘I thought the female was out of heat, because she’d been in heat for three weeks,’ [Heather] Siirtola said. ‘Well, she surprised me. She snuck one in there, and so did he. With a lot of people taking pictures.’ From that union came Marlon, who is black with a white bib, and Brando, who is brown and white.”

– Beth Bragg, Anchorage Daily News, March 5, 2011

Ed Stielstra raced dog in heat:

“The males are distracted by a female in heat named Ayn, as in Ayn Rand.

The dog was born in a truck about three years ago on a drive from Alaska to Michigan, [Ed] Stielstra said.”

– Kyle Hopkins, Anchorage Daily News, March 11, 2011

C. Mark Chapoton raced dog in heat:

“The team was in a big ball back by the sled, and my pups had bumped me awake tangling themselves on top of me. My young leader, Tatters, was busy practicing making babies with little brown Christie who I had put way back in wheel just because she was in heat.”

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

Mitch Seavey raced dog in heat:

“As the race progressed she and I just clicked. Well, what clicked really was her biological clock. She came in heat about half way through the race.”

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

Karen Ramstead raced seven dogs in heat:

“Alberta musher Karen Ramstead said recently in Nikolai, where she reported seven of her Siberian huskies were in heat.”

– Kyle Hopkins, iditarodblog, Anchorage Daily News, March 14, 2012

Mushers forced pregnant dogs to race

Pregnant sled dogs have been forced to race in the Iditarod.

X-ray of a dog’s uterus with multiple puppies. Pregnant sled dogs have been forced to race in the Iditarod.

“In the past, dogs that were too thin and dogs that were in the last trimester of pregnancy have made it to the starting line.”

– Stu Nelson, DVM, Iditarod website letter, June, 2007

Paul Gebhardt forced pregnant dogs to race:

“[Paul] Gebhardt’s scratch from the Iditarod last season shocked many, particularly since it came following a victory in the Kuskokwim 300 just a month earlier. He said his bad luck with his dogs had to do with the birds and the bees.

‘It was a combination of things stemming from having 17 females in the kennel in heat right before the race. I bred some of them up, which I normally wouldn’t do until after the race, and I think that really messed with them. They didn’t eat or drink like usual and several cramped up and had to be carried or dropped,’ he said.”

– Joseph Robertia, The Redoubt Reporter, February 29, 2012

Jeff King forced two of his pregnant puppies to race with Dave DeCaro:

“Schilling (F) – Dollar X Solomon (J. Little) 1 Year; 46 lbs; Intact & currently pregnant – bred by ‘Coltrane’ Dave’s [DeCaro] “B” Team Iditarod Finisher I just ran this beauty 40 miles this morning. Gorgeous gait, beautiful coat, calm disposition. Awesome, fast trotter and according to Dave [DeCaro] ‘seemed completely at home on the race trail. Ate a ton and was always looked like a playful pup. Never once did I see a slack tug-line on Schilling.’ Her pups are due in early May and are part of the deal.” [Emphasis added.]

“Opel (F) – Berkeley X Viper 2 Years; 43 lbs; Intact & currently pregnant – by ‘Suspect’ Dave’s [DeCaro] “B” Team Iditarod Dropped in Shaktoolik [Iditarod checkpoint], Opel has been a stand-out from early on. She finished the Kusko 300 in 2009 with Dave [DeCaro]and ran on my team in the 2009 Stage Stop Race. According to Dave ‘she ate great and was a happy dog. She was coming out of heat and had been bred a few days before the race, and it seemed to affect her performance.’ Her pups are due in early May and are part of the deal.” [Emphasis added.]

– Jeff King had had Dave DeCaro race Jeff King’s puppies in the 2010 Iditarod.

– HuskyHomestead. blogspot, March 28, 2010

Strenuous activity is bad for ALL pregnant dogs

“Moderate exercise is good for a pregnant dog. But avoid strenuous activity and excessively stressful situations, [Debbye] Turner advises.”

– Debbye Turner is the Saturday Early Show’s resident veterinarian.

– Rome Neal, CBSnews.com, April 3, 2004

A normal level of exercise, but not strenuous, is recommended for pregnant dogs.

– Linda Mar Veterinary Hospital website, 2010

“Regular exercise and walks will help your pregnant dog keep her muscle tone and general health. Working the working breeds, intensive training or taking the dog on a show circuit is not a good idea.”

– Dr. Ron Hines, veterinarian, 2ndchance.info, 2010

“Moderate exercise is recommended. Neither forced rest nor strenuous exercise is a good idea.”

– Dr. Debra Primovic, Phoenix Road Animal Hospital, South Haven, Michigan, website article, 2012

“Gentle regular walking is the best activity for pregnant dogs.”

– Quarry Hill Park Animal Hospital, Rochester, MN, website article, 2012

“Moderate exercise is best for the pregnant dog. Neither forced rest or strenuous exercise is a good idea. Short periods of gentle play and short walks are good.”

– Lakewood Veterinary, Rushford, NY, website article, 2012

“I don’t usually advise strict rest during a dog’s pregnancy. I wouldn’t recommend doing regular super strenuous activity like long agility trials or marathon running, but jumping on or off of the furniture is not going to cause any harm to developing babies.”

– Dr. Marie, DVM, AskAVetQuestion.com, website article, 2012

“The bitch should continue to have regular, but not strenuous, exercise to help her maintain her muscle tone and not become overweight.”

– Veterinary & Aquatic Services Department, Drs. Foster & Smith, website article, 2012

“Your dog needs regular, though not strenuous, exercise during her pregnancy to help maintain muscle tone.”

– vetinfo.com, website article, 2012

“Strenuous exercise for a pregnant animal may be harmful, but a moderate amount is recommended. Moderate exercise includes short walks and short periods of gentle play.”

– Durango Animal Hospital, Las Vegas, Nevada, website article, 2012

“Moderate exercise is the proper approach. Neither forced rest or strenuous exercise is a good idea. Short periods of gentle play and short walks are good.”

– Peach Grove Animal Hospital, Cincinnati, OH, website article, 2012

Mushers override vets and force sick and injured dogs to race

“…I’ve been able to keep a couple of dogs in the team the vets thought I should drop.”

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

– Iditarod rules, Iditarod website

“The checkpoint’s vet has recommended sending Pig [Land's lead dog] back to Anchorage, too. ‘He yanked on my dogs’ joints and poked hard at their muscles,’ Land gripes. ‘But he just doesn’t have the sensibility to tell me what I can do with Pig.” “… Land decides she will chance it [keeping Pig in the race].

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

“Peryll Kyzer is nursing her dogs along, including one vets advised her to drop in Nikolai.”

– Alaska Public Radio Network, 1997 Iditarod audio files

No rest and no vet care for the dogs

(Veterinarians are stationed at the checkpoints.)

Mushers spending little time at checkpoints is evidence dogs don’t get check-ups:

Andrea Flyod-Wilson: “And, that brings up the question, and I’ve looked through the Iditarod rules pretty closely. There is a whole bunch of stuff there about veterinarian checks before the race and during the course of the race.”

Dr. Paula Kislak: “My understanding is that the Iditarod Trail Committee rules do not require veterinarians to give the dogs physical examinations at the checkpoints Many of the mushers spend less than five minutes at the checkpoints. This would certainly be inadequate time and evidence of the fact that they’re not getting check-ups. The veterinary care that’s being required by the Iditarod Trail Committee is completely inadequate.”

– 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.

Aliy Zirkle admits she doesn’t go to checkpoints a lot:

Tim Bodony: “This is your first checkpoint since Takotna.”

Aliy Zirkle: “Yeah.”

Tim Bodony: “Have you missed checkpoints or this part of the fun for you?”

Aliy Zirkle: “I’m standard not in checkpoints a lot. Actually I’ve run Iditarod 12 times now and this year is the first time I went to Skwentna.”

– Tim Bodony of Alaska Public Radio interviewed Aliy Zirkle on March 9, 2012, APRN.org website.

Musher’s prerogative to race through checkpoints:

“When they come through real quickly we’d like to get our hands on each one of them and examine them, but that is their prerogative to go ahead and continue– continue through if they feel their dogs are doing well.”

– Veterinarian Harvey Goho talking about mushers racing their dogs through checkpoints

– Interview with Gabriel Spitzer, Alaska Public Radio Network, website, March 8, 2006

Mushers may spend even less time at checkpoints than is reported:

“Remember, Iditarod rules say mushers must sign into every checkpoint, but are not required to sign out (except for timed mandatory layovers). This allows mushers to sneak out without having to notify any race official or fellow competitor.”

– Zack Steer, Alaska Dispatch, March 4, 2012

– Zack Steer is a five-time Iditarod finisher.

Teams skip a checkpoint:

“Most of the 87 dog teams in this year’s race apparently opted to skip the first checkpoint, Yentna.”

– Jon Little, Cabelas website, March 8, 2004

– Little was a reporter for the Anchorage Daily News and was an Iditarod musher

Musher speeds through checkpoint without getting physical examinations for his dogs:

“Buser reached Nulato at 4:30 a.m. Saturday. He paused for 2 minutes, just long enough to drop a dog at the checkpoint.”

– Maureen Clark, Associated Press, March 9, 2002

“The Buser boys made things interesting Wednesday morning in Takotna. Four-time champion Martin and son Rohn, winner of January’s Kusko 300, roared through the checkpoint, stopping only long enough to check in and check out.”

– Beth Bragg, Anchorage Daily News, March 7, 2012

“I don’t think anybody did more than set their hook in Golovin, sign the check sheets, maybe throw the dogs some cold snacks and go.”

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

“I went into Anvik, signed in and signed out, and went on to Grayling, thinking those guys were pulling away from me.”

– Freedman, Lew. More Iditarod Classics: Tales of the Trail Told by the Men & Women Who Race Across Alaska, Kenmore: Epicenter Press, 2004

“Rick [Mackey] was on a dead run. He signed into the checkpoint and was gone.”

– Mackey, Dick. One Second to Glory, Alaska: Epicenter Press, 2001.

Musher thinks about blowing through checkpoints:

“One [rookie] cornered me recently and peppered me with questions like, ‘What happens if I want to blow through a checkpoint: Will the dogs just want to lie down?’ Answer: Not if they are trained to run through checkpoints.”

– Jon Little, Cabelas website, March 7, 2004

– Little is a former reporter with the Anchorage Daily News and was an Iditarod musher

Martin Buser and Jeff King spend three minutes at checkpoint:

“Buser, 48, running in his 24th Iditarod, spent just three minutes at the checkpoint on the Kuskokwim River, about 770 miles from the finish line at Nome.”

– Mary Pemberton, Associated Press, March 7, 2007

“King was also the first musher to reach McGrath, and stayed there just three minutes.”

– Andrew Hinkelman, KTUU.com, March 9, 2010

Martin Buser spends under a minute at checkpoint:

Four-time Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race champion Martin Buser breezed through the tiny town of Takotna, spending less than a minute Wednesday before jumping on his sled runners and snatching the lead.

– Mary Pemberton, Associated Press, March 11, 2009

Barely stopping, mushers force dogs to run 95 miles:

“Pushing hard through the afternoon and into the cool of Monday night, barely stopping to snack their teams and shift dogs, the three leaders in the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race moved into position to threaten the race record today.

They did it mainly by cutting rest.

For a distance of about 95 miles, from Koyuk to White Mountain, along the coast of the Bering Sea through Monday night into the wee hours today, their teams barely stopped.”

– Craig Medred, Anchorage Daily News, March 17, 1993

Barely stopping, Dallas Seavey forces dogs to run 80 miles at 9 mph:

“Dallas [Seavey] made an aggressive push into Kaltag during the night, arriving at 4:56am. To do this he ran 80 miles without stopping. Amazingly, he was able to maintain 9 mph speeds the entire run.”

- Dallas Seavey’s Facebook page, March 8, 2014
- According to the Iditarod’s website, Dallas Seavey spent five minutes in Nulato, the checkpoint before Kaltag.

Fewer rests for dogs because mushers wear ‘Pee Pants':

“No Bathroom Breaks: At least 3 mushers are test-driving a product called ‘Pee Pants’ on the trail this year.”

– Kyle Hopkins, Anchorage Daily News, March 5, 2013

Jeff King bypassed checkpoint:

“[Jeff] King chose to bypass the Koyuk checkpoint, opting to make the 84-mile run from Shaktoolik to Elim in one long stretch.

– Kyle Hopkins and Beth Bragg, Anchorage Daily News, March 11, 2013

Aliy Zirkle races dogs 180 miles and rests them for only 35 minutes:

While mushers don’t like to stop, the required rest is likely to be welcome by [Aliy] Zirkle — she has traveled roughly 180 miles while stopping for a total of just 35 minutes at four separate checkpoints.”

– Ryan Hudson, SB Nation, March 8, 2013

Mitch Seavey makes dogs race nonstop for 11 and a half hours:

“He [Mitch Seavey] had run for 11 and a half hours, and the dogs needed a break.”

– Jon Little, Cabela’s website, March 14, 2005

Little formerly wrote for the Anchorage Daily News and was an Iditarod musher

Dogs tired from eight to nine hours of hard labor:

“The trail out of Kaltag should provide some windbreaks for the weary mushers and dogs, tired of slogging along the featureless plain of the Yukon River for eight to nine hours at a time.”

– Jon Little, Cabela’s Iditarod website, March 11, 2007

Jeff King forces his dogs to race for 12 hours:

“He ran for 12 hours from Takotna to Cripple….”

– Jon Little, discussing King racing his dogs to the Cripple checkpoint

– Jon Little, Cabelas website, March 12, 2004

– Little was a reporter for the Anchorage Daily News and was an Iditarod musher

Dogs go 14 hours nonstop on a soft trail:

“We went 14 hours nonstop,” Sorlie said earlier at Eagle Island, 420 miles from the Nome finish line.”

– News Staff, Anchorage Daily News, March 13, 2005

Robert Sorlie: “Fourteen hours nonstop.”

Checker: “Long run.”

Robert Sorlie: “Soft the whole way.”

– Sorlie was referring to the trail being soft.

– Outdoor Life Network, (OLN), Iditarod, 2005

[The dogs have to work harder when the trail is soft.]

Lance Mackey races dogs 16 hours and 34 minutes nonstop:

Mackey left Takotna checkpoint at 0:46:00 on 3/12/2009

Mackey arrived Ophir checkpoint at 07:24:00 on 3/12/2009

Mackey left Ophir checkpoint at 07:24:00 on 3/12/2009

Mackey arrived at Iditarod checkpoint at 17:20:00 on 3/12/2009

– Iditarod website, March, 2009

– Lance Mackey races dogs 115 miles nonstop:

Distance from Takotna to Ohir: 25 miles

Distance from Ohir to Iditarod: 90 miles

Total: 115 miles

– Iditarod website, March, 2009

Martin Buser to race dogs 24 hours without stopping:

“‘I got that new awesome schedule,’ said Buser. ‘I go all the way to Rohn take my 24 (hour mandatory break) there and just go nonstop like crazy. If they still look great maybe go to Nikolia and take my 24 there. Hopefully, I will have about a 15-hour lead by then and scare everybody off.'”

– Robert DeBerry, Frontiersman, March 6, 2011

[From the Sled Dog Action Coalition: According to the Iditarod's website, it's 209 miles from the Iditarod start in Willow to Rohn and 284 miles to Nikolai]

Dogs have 22-hour-a-day runs:

“I covered the Iditarod dog-sled race ten times. Walking out onto the ice of the Bering Sea in February, the Northern Lights dancing a spectacular show above, is a distinct memory. But watching those huskies’ paws bleed and crack during their 1100-mile, 22-hour-a-day run across the Alaskan tundra, was heartache for a dog lover.”

– Diana Nyad, The Score, KCRW Radio, November 2, 2006, website transcript

Dogs are pushed to run nonstop:

[Some dogs may have been suffering from joint and muscle pains, injuries or illnesses.]

A sample of the data from the 2013 Iditarod (Source: Iditarod website)

Name of musher Checkpoint Number of dogs arriving at checkpoint Minutes at checkpoint
Ray Redington, Jr Anik 12 0:02
Martin Buser Rainy Pass 16 0:02
DeeDee Jonrowe Finger Lake 16 0:01
Sonny Lindner Takotna 14 0:02
Jake Berkowitz Anvik 16 0:01
Jeff King Shageluk 15 0:01
Mitch Seavey Anvik 13 0:01
Dallas Seavey McGrath 14 0:02
Aliy Zirkle Finger Lake 16 0:03
Jason Ulsom McGrath 14 0:02
Robert Bundtzen Takotna 16 0:04

A sample of the data from the 2012 Iditarod (Source: Iditarod website)

Name of musher Checkpoint Number of dogs arriving at checkpoint Minutes at checkpoint
Anjanette Steer McGrath 14 0:01
Martin Buser Tokotna 15 0:02
Aliy Zirkle Finger Lake 16 0:01
Scott Janssen Finger Lake 16 0:02
Pete Kaiser Skwentna 16 0:04
Ken Anderson Finger Lake 16 0:01
Jeff King McGrath 15 0:02
Sonny Lindner Ophir 15 0:02
Brent Sass Ophir 15 0:04
John Baker Ophir 12 0:03
Paul Gebhart McGrath 14 0:02

A sample of the data from the 2011 Iditarod (Source: Iditarod website)

Name of musher Checkpoint Number of dog arriving at checkpoint Time at checkpoint
Jessie Royer Anvik 12 00:01
Sebastian Schnuelle Finger Lake 16 00:01
Martin Buser Shageluk 14 00:03
Mitch Seavey McGrath 13 00:01
Ali Zirkle McGrath 14 00:02
Hugh Neff Ophir 13 00:01
Ray Redington Jr. McGrath 13 00:01
DeeDee Jonrowe Shageluk 12 00:01
Ken Anderson Anvik 13 00:02
Dallas Seavey Finger Lake 16 00:01
Cym Smyth Skwentna 16 00:00

A sample of the data from the 2010 Iditarod (Source: Iditarod website)

Name of musher Checkpoint Number of dogs arriving at checkpoint Time at checkpoint
Martin Buser Rainy Pass 16 00:01
Sonny Lindner Ophir 15 00:03
Aliy Zirkle Skwentna 16 00:02
Trent Herbst Takotna 14 00:04
Mitch Seavey Yentna 16 00:03
Tom Thurston Rainy Pass 16 00:02
Dallas Seavey Takotna 14 00:03
Dan Kaduce McGrath 16 00:02
Sven Haltman Rainy Pass 16 00:01
Jason Barron McGrath 15 00:02
Cindy Gallea Finger Lake 16 00:02

A sample of data from the 2009 Iditarod (Source: Iditarod website)

Name of musher Checkpoint Number of dogs arriving at checkpoint Time at checkpoint
Martin Buser Nikolai 14 00:01
Sonny Lindner Shageluk 14 00:00
Rick Larson Takotna 13 00:00
Judy Currier Anvik 13 00:00
Ramy Smyth Skwentna 16 00:00
Mitch Seavey Rainy Pass 16 00:02
Aliy Zirkle McGrath 15 00:01
Matt Hayashida Finger Lake 16 00:01
Ed Stielstra McGrath 13 00:01
Sebastian Schnuelle Anvik 15 00:01
Jake Berkowitz Nikolai 16 00:01

 

Read how Iditarod officials encouraged injured musher to continue racing tired and sick dogs.

Iditarod Board rejects making mushers stop for a minimum of 15 minute at four checkpoints:

“This year, the Rules Committee recommended three major changes:

1. A musher that experiences a dog death for any reason would be stopped for 24 hours. 2. Each team must stop for a minimum of 15 minutes at each of the four checkpoints after Unalakleet (Shaktoolik, Koyuk, Elim and Golovin).”

“Recommendations 1 and 2 were rejected.”

– John Proffitt, Alaska Public Radio Network, June 1, 2007

Iditarod dogs running without booties on their paws. Booties protect paws from injuries. Photo attributed to Orloskaya on flickr

Iditarod dogs running without booties on their paws. Booties protect paws from injuries. Photo attributed to Orloskaya on flickr

Cheating

“It is true that sports and cheating go hand in hand.”

– Levitt, Steven D. and Dubner, Stephen. Freakonomics, New York, William Morrow, 2005

– Steven Levitt did his undergraduate work at Harvard and has a PhD from MIT. He teaches economics at the University of Chicago, and recently received the John Bates Clark Medal, awarded every two years to the best American economist under forty.

– Stephen Dubner writes for The New York Times and The New Yorker.

GPS could help mushers cheat:

“During last year’s Iditarod, 20 mushers were asked to carry GPS units with them for a test run of the technology. It turned out to be a success, and now all teams this year are required to carry one.”

“But some have opposed the technology, saying teams could use it to cheat.”

– Lori Tipton, KTUU-TV website KTUU.com, March 14, 2009

When mushers are sick or injured, who cares for the dogs?

Iditarod rules do not require mushers to have pre-race physicals and drug tests.

– Iditarod website

No one is allowed to help sick and injured mushers take care of their dogs:

“All care and feeding of the dogs will be done only by that teams’ musher.”

– Iditarod website, Race Rules

No medical doctors for the mushers:

The iditarod doesn’t have medical doctors at the checkpoints to treat the mushers.

The iditarod doesn’t have medical doctors at the checkpoints to treat the mushers.

Iditarod rules do not require medical doctors to be on the trail to diagnose and care for musher injuries. Mushers must rely upon veterinarians who may not be able to adequately diagnosis and treat human injuries and illnesses.

When someone who is only licensed to practice veterinary medicine practices on a human, he is practicing medicine without a license in violation of Alaska law Sec.08.64.170.

When mushers are sick, injured or in pain what kind of care do the dogs get?

– Sled Dog Action Coalition

Lance Mackey raced in Iditarod with feeding tube in his stomach:

“In 2001, as it was mentioned, Lance Mackey was diagnosed with throat cancer. He continued to run in 2002 Iditarod with a feeding tube in his stomach.”

– Representative Don Young (R-Alaska), May 25, 2010, youtube.com, video

Cindy Abbott raced with broken pelvis:

“During one especially slippery river crossing, [Cindy] Abbott fell hard. It was then she may have fractured her pelvis. The injury left her unable to bend at the waist.”

– David Whiting, Orange County Register, March 15, 2013

“It’s confirmed Cindy indeed suffered a fractured pelvis.”

– Comment made by David Whiting under his article.
– David Whiting, Orange County Register, March 15, 2013

With sprained ankle and dislocated finger, Martin Buser said he couldn’t do anything:

“‘Happy to be here,’ an emotional Buser told Iditarod Insider after finishing with a team of 12 dogs. ‘I’ve been out of control for so long.’

Three days into a race defined by treacherous trail conditions, Buser sprained his ankle. Not long after that he dislocated the pinky finger on his left hand. The four-time champion from Big Lake went from leading the race to surviving it.

‘All my bodily functions are gone,’ he said. ‘I can’t balance, I can’t steer the sled, I can’t do anything.'”

– Kevin Klott and Beth Bragg, Alaska Dispatch News, March 11, 2014

Aaron Burmeister has a severe head cold:

“The Nenana musher has been suffering a severe head cold that robs him of sleep. He soaked his cold-weather gear with cold chills as racers encountered 40-below temperatures overnight.”

– The Nenana musher is Aaron Burmeister.
– Kyle Hopkins, Iditarodblog, Anchorage Daily News, March 11, 2012

Jim Lanier raced with gouged groin:

“He [Jim Lanier] even gets hurt in the race’s ceremonial start, in Anchorage. One year, his wife was riding in the second sled that follows mushers during the 11-mile stretch from 4th Avenue to Campbell Airstrip. She was whipped into a tree during a turn, launching Lanier over his own sled.

Lanier thought he was fine until he got home and found his boots and pants filled with blood. He’d gouged his groin, he said.

Doctors dressed the wound and told him not to do anything strenuous, he said. The bandages soon began to come undone, so Lanier duct-taped his entire pelvis for the entire 1,000 mile trip to Nome.”

Kyle Hopkins, Anchorage Daily News – The Sled Blog, March 10, 2010

Jim Lanier raced with broken and sprained ankle:

“The ankle was broken and sprained but I won’t know that until several days after I hobble to Nome, 800 trail miles past the incident.”

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

Ramey Smyth gets sick and delirious, and his dogs run off:

“I kind of dropped the ball, going to Golovin I got really sick and delirious and fell off my sled, and the dogs ran off without me and I had an hour and a half run into Golovin,’ [Ramey] Smyth said.”

– Kevin Wells, KTUU-TV, KTUU.COM, March 17, 2010

Jim Lanier’s arthritic hands are hard to use:

“[Jim] Lanier is in the checkpoint, eating a pastry and drinking coffee. Temperatures over the last two days have been driving him into the ground, he said, making it hard to use his arthritic hands.

‘Came into the checkpoint — can’t even open the straw bag,’ he said.

He’ll have surgery at the Mayo Clinic on one of his hands after the race.”

– Kyle Hopkins, Anchorage Daily News – The Sled Blog, March 15, 2010

[The straw was to be used for the dogs to lie on.]

Karen Ramstead struggles with infected hand:

“She [Karen Ramstead] was struggling with a hand infected by a black spruce tree that went through it like a spear; the trail was rougher than usual; her dogs were unhappy….”

– Craig Medred, Alaska Dispatch, March 15, 2010

Bruce Linton struggles with nagging chest cold:

“With temperatures dipping to nearly 50-below, Iditarod musher Bruce Linton made the river run into Galena feeling exasperated and down. Along the way, he’d lost his warm hoody, watched seven mushers pass him, and was struggling Saturday to outrun a nagging chest cold.”

– Jill Burke, Alaska Dispatch, March 13, 2010

Celeste Davis broke her nose and probably had a concussion:

“[Celeste] Davis hit a tree head-on in the Dalzell Gorge after rolling her sled early in the race. The tree broke her nose and likely caused a concussion, though no one on the trail paid it much attention.

Not until days later — after the nurse from Deer Lodge, Mont., revealed how she identified with Nurse Ratched in Ken Kesey’s book and the movie “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” – did those traveling with her on the trail realize that the timid, withdrawn musher at Rohn was not the normal Davis.”

– Craig Medred, Alaska Dispatch, March 20, 2010

“Anyone who thinks this is easy has never cared for a pack of dogs. It’s hard work when you’re healthy. It’s extra hard work when you’re struggling to recover from a concussion. And I doubt anyone ever realized how concussed [Celeste] Davis was.”

– Craig Medred, Alaska Dispatch, March 21, 2010

“So [Celeste] Davis figures she was lucky to come away with just a badly broken nose that bled so much she feared she would “bleed out,” and a set of what she called ‘raccoon eyes.’”

– Celeste Davis is a registered nurse.
– Kim Briggeman, The Missoulian, April 24, 2010

– Celeste Davis also had icicles on her eyes; pain from cracked and split fingers:

“[Celeste] Davis’ fingers were painfully cracked and splitting in the intense cold, which formed icicles on their eyes and made even menial tasks monumental.”

– Kim Briggeman, The Missoulian, April 24, 2010

The hamstring group is shown in red. When Iditarod mushers race with painful hamstring injuries, who cares for their dogs?

The hamstring group is shown in red. When Iditarod mushers race with painful hamstring injuries, who cares for their dogs?

Allen Moore, with pulled hamstring, raced for over 500 miles on just one leg:

“Not sure how well you can hear Allen’s [Moore] speech but he tells us about his interesting experience just before the Iditarod checkpoint where, in the course of catching up with his team, he pulled a hamstring! He completed the rest of the race, over 500 more miles, on just one leg!”

– Aliy Zirkle, wife of Allen Moore, is talking about the video snippet of his speech at the Iditarod Finisher’s Banquet.
– The SP Kennel Dog Log, March 21, 2013

Aliy Zirkle had pulled hamstring, frostbite and bruises:

“Julia O’Malley: Can you talk about the toll this year on your body? You have a torn hamstring?

Aliy Zirkle: Yeah, I do. …And then I frostbit my left hand. And I have some bruises on my right hip.”

– Julia O’Malley, Alaska Dispatch News, March 15, 2014

– Pulled hamstrings are painful:

“Unfortunately, hamstring strains are both common and painful.”

– WebMD.com, website article, July 16, 2013

Jerry Austin raced with broken arm:

“He [Jerry Austin] once finished the Iditarod with a broken arm.”

– Craig Medred, Alaska Dispatch, June 10, 2010

Jerry Austin raced with broken hand:

“Jerry Austin had broken his hand on that rough section of trail and was in considerable pain.”

– Bomhoff, Burt. Iditarod Alaska: The life of a Sled Dog Musher, Anchorage: Publication Consultants, 2013

Bjornar Andersen pees and vomits blood but keeps racing his dogs:

“Bjornar Andersen suffered what appeared to be significant internal injures in a crash in the so-called Buffalo Tunnels just out of the Rohn checkpoint in the Alaska Range on Monday. He tried to keep going, but was advised by a doctor here [Takotna checkpoint] to quit.

He was peeing blood and occasionally vomiting up the same.

Interviewed at the airport here on his way to the hospital, the two-time, Top 10 Iditarod finisher said he took a pretty good beating after his sled tipped near what mushers call “The Glacier,” a series of frozen muskeg ponds that cascade down a steep hillside.

One of the first rules of mushing is to never let go of the handlebar in such a situation and Andersen hung on. Unfortunately, it took him a ways to get his dogs to stop, and he was dragged over stumps and rock-hard, frozen tussocks.”

– Mike Campbell and Kevin Klott, Anchorage Daily News, March 12, 2009

[From the Sled Dog Action Coalition: Shouldn't Bjornar Andersen have returned to the Rohn checkpoint after the accident? Why didn't he quit at the Nikolai or the McGrath checkpoints, which are after Rohn and before Takotna? According to the Iditarod's website, there's 147 miles between Rohn and Takotna.]

Hugh Neff races with pneumonia:

“I got pneumonia, too. I’ve been sick for quite a long time and now it’s really taking a toll on my body.”

– Hugh Neff is talking to a KTUU-TV interviewer at the Unalakleet checkpoint.

– KTUU-TV, KTUU.com, March, 2009

Bryan Mills breaks tibia in his leg and keeps racing in Iditarod:

“Lower leg fractures include fractures of the tibia and fibula. Of these two bones, the tibia is the only weightbearing bone.” – emedicine.com from WebMD

“Bryan Mills of Merengo, Wisc., did, however, decide to play cowboy after he broke the tibia — the small bone — in his left leg.

“‘If I lived in Alaska, then I would scratch,” Mills said. “(But) I didn’t come all the way from Wisconsin to scratch.”’

– Kevin Klott, Anchorage Daily News, March 7, 2007

Pectoral muscles. Iditarod musher Mitch Seavey was in a lot of pain. Seavey thought he tore both of his pectoral muscles. When mushers are in a great deal of pain, how can they possibly   give their dogs even adequate care?

Pectoral muscles are shown in red. Iditarod musher Mitch Seavey was in a lot of pain. Seavey thought he tore both of his pectoral muscles. When mushers are in a great deal of pain, how can they possibly give their dogs even adequate care?

Aching Mitch Seavey thinks he tore both pectoral muscles:

Asked if he still has time to catch the leaders, [Mitch] Seavey expressed his concern over his aching body. He thinks he tore both of his pectoral muscles, which makes it difficult for the 54-year-old to hold onto his sled. He’s been doing a lot of sitting.

– Kevin Klott, Alaska Dispatch News, March 8, 2014

Mushers become disoriented and keep racing in Iditarod:

“And while she’s [veterinarian Emi Berger] seen and helped treat mushers with concussion, sprains, dislocated shoulders, disorientation caused by dehydration and the occasional finger or hand infection…”

– Randi Weiner, The Journal News, March 31, 2011

– Definition of disorientation:

“A temporary or permanent state of confusion regarding place, time, or personal identity.”

– The American Heritage, Stedman’s Medical Dictionary, Houghton Mifflin Company, 2002

Musher has stomach flu:

“Barron had the rotten luck of getting the stomach flu himself, and was miserable after banging over the Alaska Range while feverish, vomiting and unable to eat.”

– Jon Little, Cabela’s website, March 9, 2005
– Little formerly reported for the Anchorage Daily News

Did this Bill Cotter have a mild concussion?

“He [Bill Cotter] mulled over the nasty bump on his forehead. Cotter said he got the injury when he encountered a log on the trail coming into the Rainy Pass checkpoint, 224 miles from Anchorage….” “‘I tipped over, landed in the snow and hit a tree.'”

– Mary Pemberton, Associated Press, March 9, 2004

- Mild concussions can have significant effects:

“Athletes with mild concussions demonstrated significant declines in memory processes that were still evident at four and seven days post-injury. Other self-reported symptoms – including headaches, dizziness and nausea – resolved by day four.”

– University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, website article, January 30, 2003

Mushers cough all night:

“In Tokotna, Ramy Brooks and I were both sick. Nobody else could sleep because we coughed all night.”

– Paul Gebhardt, Iditarod musher

– Freedman, Lew. More Iditarod Classics, Kenmore: Epicenter Press, 2004

Jeff King races with 104-degree fever and pneumonia:

“I had a 104-degree fever at the end, and they put me in the infirmary with pneumonia. I don’t remember much of the last third of the race.”

– Jeff King, Iditarod musher
– Freedman, Lew. More Iditarod Classics, Kenmore: Epicenter Press, 2004

Many mushers injured in sled crashes:

“Cotter was among the humans nursing injuries from a sled crashes.”

– Craig Medred, Anchorage Daily News, March 9, 2004

Doug Swingley freezes his corneas:

“The 50-year-old Lincoln, Mont., musher said he injured his eyes when he took off his goggles because they were fogging up going down Dalzell Gorge, he said. Subzero temperatures blurred his vision.

‘Then I took a stick in the eye because I couldn’t see it coming,’ said Swingley.

The problem has worsened since.

‘I came in here [Takotna checkpoint] blind in one eye,’ Swingley said.

– Staff and wire reports, Anchorage Daily News, March 10, 2004

Martin Buser’s finger partially amputated just before Iditarod starts:

“Four-time Iditarod winner Martin Buser underwent a partial amputation of his middle finger after he injured it in a table saw accident at his Big Lake home, Iditarod officials said Wednesday.

Buser was treated at Alaska Regional Hospital in Anchorage after injuring himself Tuesday. Buser told race managers he intends to participate in the 1,100-mile Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, which kicks off Saturday with a ceremonial start in downtown Anchorage.”

Anchorage Daily News, March 2, 2005

“The doctor amputated it just on the palm side of the middle knuckle, taking off more than 2 inches, he [Martin Buser] said.”

“The injured finger had started to hurt by Wednesday afternoon, Buser reported, though pain medication was keeping him comfortable. But the missing finger will be sensitive throughout the race, which for Buser would typically last nine or 10 days.”

– Joel Gay, Anchorage Daily News, March 3, 2005

- Martin Buser starts Iditarod with mangled hand and loaded up on painkillers:

“Fearless, foolhardy or just plain stubborn, four-time champion Martin Buser cheerfully started the 1,100-mile Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Saturday, a few days after the middle finger of his right hand was amputated above the second joint.

Buser loaded up on painkillers, antibiotics and anti-inflammatory pills, wore bandages and a special splint on his mangled hand — he also had stitches up the inside length of his ring finger and two stitches on his index finger from a table saw accident Tuesday — and stuffed it inside an oversized black mitten.”

– Steve Wilstein, Associated Press, March 5, 2005

- Martin Buser starts Iditarod using only one hand:

“Martin Buser was stoic leaving the starting line, but with his right hand propped up on his chest like Napoleon, it sure didn’t look comfortable.”

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

Don Bowers started race on painkillers from cracked rib and torn muscles:

“At the emergency room, the doctor looks at the x-rays and says I’ve probably cracked a rib, and I almost certainly have torn some muscles and other good stuff inside my rib cage. He gives me some heavy-duty painkillers and advises me to get home somehow before I start taking them” “Regardless, I’ll still be at the starting line on March 4th, even if I have to carry enough serious painkillers to require an escort from the Drug Enforcement Agency. At least I can take some comfort in knowing I won’t be the first musher to try the race with a busted something or other.”

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

Don Bowers has broken and swollen right hand:

“In the process Silvertip and Bear, who have run happily together for several hundred miles, get into a snapping match. I pull Silvertip away and Bear decides to get in his licks while he can. Unfortunately he misses and chomps my left hand, with which I’m trying to extract Silvertip.”

“I react instinctively by flailing my right arm for support, but I hit something very hard with unintended full-force karate chop. I don’t know if I’ve smashed a nearby six-inch birch trunk or the sled, but I instantly know I’ve done something bad to my hand.” “If it’s not broken, it’s a good imitation.”

“Worse, it’s my right hand, and I’m right-handed.” “My acute lack of sleep, aggravated by the increasing pain in my hands despite the naproxen, isn’t helping matters and I’m starting to hallucinate. At least once I stop the team and try to pull them onto the shoulder to let an imaginary truck by. Another time I find myself carrying on a conversation with someone walking alongside the sled; the dogs slow and stop wondering what strange commands I’m giving them.”

“I finally give up trying to snatch fragments of sleep and decide to leave at mid-morning. My right hand is even worse than last night; the swelling is so bad I can’t even make a fist.”

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

Charlie Boulding’s two knees are painful from missing cartilage:

“[Charlie] Boulding said, “All of the cartilage is out of my knees so its pretty painful…”

– KTVA-TV, Anchorage, March 7, 2005

Paul Ellering in excruciating pain from frozen eye:

“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. When he awoke, his eye was frozen.”

“‘The aftereffects you feel,” Ellering said. ‘It just weeped and weeped and weeped. At first, I didn’t bandage it, and the pain was excruciating. I had to keep my mitt up over one eye.”’

“With one good eye, holding a mitten over the bad eye for much of the time, Ellering struggled into Ruby on the Yukon River.”

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

Iditarod officials want musher with broken rib to stay in race:

“Some of the dogs had been sick with diarrhea and treated at a prior checkpoint. They showed little spark after that.

Battling the winds, Madsen could practically see their body fat melting off. Not only that, the sled hit a stump on the trail, forcing Madsen’s upper body onto the handles. An X-ray at a later checkpoint revealed a rib broken in several places.

Ruby was a convenient place to withdraw from the race because of regular air transport going in and out.

‘But,’ Madsen said, ‘a musher never makes a decision without first getting some sleep.’

So after two or three hours of sleep, some food and a pep talk from race officials, he felt he could go on.”

– Kay Richardson, The Columbian, April 16, 2006

Jim Warren crashes, pulls a hamstring and gets a severe concussion:

Nikolai to McGrath:

“Then the trail turned sharply onto a river. I saw the crash coming and kicked violently to try to miss a tree and stump. I felt the searing pain of a hamstring pull. Apparently I didn’t miss the tree.”

Takotna:

“I was able to manage the leg pain with meds. But my injuries were greater than I had first thought.”

“My leg was only of limited use.” “Another disheartening surprise was I found my left hand was numb, no feeling and I had blurred vision, obviously the result of a severe concussion.”

“I didn’t say much, even to Chris, and tried to hide my condition, because I feared the Iditarod officials might force me to scratch. I wasn’t going to scratch voluntarily.”

Ophir to Cripple to Ruby:

“I was in agony but still trying to run the team and I had no more pain meds.”

“Alone in the dark sitting on my cooler, hurting too much to get up and spread out the sleeping bag, I dug into my food bag for a dose of calories to keep me warm while I slept on top of the sled. Daughter Whitney had slipped little notes of encouragement into my food bags. I picked one out of the bag really needing a lift. To my utter dismay I discovered my blurred vision had worsened to the point I couldn’t read the note. I knew enough about closed heard injuries as a Fire Department Medical Responder to know I been taking a big risk. Closed head injuries can and do result in permanent brain damage and death.”

– Chris is Jim Warren’s son.
– Warren, James and Warren, Christopher. Following My Father’s Dream, James and Christopher Warren, 2005

Deedee Jonrowe had streptococcus infection:

“Sitting in the cramped cabin that served as the Kaltag checkpoint, Jonrowe looked in worse shape than anything the cat ever dragged in: hair spikey with grease and sweat; skin splotched by frostbite; clothes stained with the excrement of dogs. And the 28-year-old fisheries biologist croakingly admitted that she felt twice as bad as she looked. Her throat was so swollen she could hardly speak. Streptococcus had been the diagnosis of the bush doc back in Shageluk. He had pumped her full of penicillin, but so far the tenacious germs had fought the medicine to a standstill.”

– Colin Nickerson, Boston Globe, February 5, 1984

Deedee Jonrowe had pneumonia:

“Jonrowe contracted pneumonia on the trail. She spit up blood. She couldn’t catch her breath. She felt she was going to suffocate.”

– Nielsen, Nicki J. The Iditarod: Women on the Trail, Anchorage: Wolfdog Publications, 1986

Deedee Jonrowe had painful knee:

“She suffered from an injured knee, heavily taped, that both restricted her knee and pained her, and provoked thoughts of dropping out more than once.”

– Freedman, Lew. Iditarod Silver, Fairbanks: Epicenter Press, 1997

Lolly Medley races with broken kneecap:

“In last year’s race, Lolly Medley, a 33-year-old mother of three, mushed her team for 35 miles after crashing her sled into a tree stump and breaking her kneecap. She was picked up by a helicopter, taken to Anchorage for treatment, then flown, cast and all, back to Nikolai, site of the mishap, where she resumed the race with a borrowed sled, hers having been totaled in the accident.”

– Alex Ward, The New York Times, February 24, 1985

Dr. Peter Sapin races with severe infection from beaver meat:

“Dr. Peter Sapin, 36, Grand Marais, Minn., picked a “severe and very unusual” infection from the beaver meat he is using to feed his dog team. Beaver meat, considered gourmet trail food, nearly forced Sapin off the trail and into the hospital.

Sapin has to inject himself with antibiotics twice a day and his 14-dog team is down to 10 animals.”

– UPI, Ellensburg Daily Record, March 8, 1986

Aaron Burmeister races for 5 days on a busted knee:

“The Nenana musher [Aaron Burmeister], who left Shaktoolik in fifth place, is driving on a busted knee that he shredded five days ago on the snowless Farewell Burn.”

– Kevin Klott, Alaska Dispatch News, March 9, 2014

Jessie Royer and Terry Adkins race with injured backs:

“Just a couple days before the race started, I pulled my lower back muscles really bad. I had a hard time walking or bending over much less doing all my normal daily chores.”

– Jessie Royer, Jessie’s Sled Dog Page, website, 2005

“He [Terry Adkins] even ran Iditarod through a period when he was suffering from so much back pain he bobbled around like a grimacing humpback.”

– Medred, Craig. Graveyard of Dreams: Dashed Hopes and Shattered Aspirations Along Alaska’s Iditarod Trail, Anchorage: Plaid Cabin Publishing, 2010

Bruce Linton races with diarrhea, fever and pains all over:

“I had diarrhea, a fever, and aches and pains all day. The last time I snacked my dogs on the trail I could barely pull the snow hook out of the snow and when I reached down to do it my entire body was in pain.”

Bruce Linton, Diary of my Iditarod Journey 2008, website article, 2008

Kelly Maixner races with broken finger:

“Thirteen teams in the original field of 66 withdrew from the race and [Kelly] Maixner, who grew up in Golva, battled a broken sled, a broken finger and finished the race with 11 out of 16 dogs he started the race with in Anchorage on March 4.”

– Brian Gehring, Bismarck Tribune, March 16, 2012

Harry Harris races with stomach flu; Richard Burmeister with a bad throat:

“In the group bringing up the rear was Harry Harris, so sick with stomach flu he spent half his time bent over the drive bow, while Richard Burmeister, a little ahead of him, had such a bad throat by the time he reach McGrath that he couldn’t talk.”

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

Melissa Owens starts Iditarod with injured leg:

“The 21 year old musher (Melissa Owens) from Nome Alaska injured her leg before the race began, and re-injured it during her run from Willow to Rainy Pass.”

– Iditarod website, March 8, 2011

Rick Swenson races with broken collar bone:

“Refusing to quit despite breaking a collarbone Monday, the 60-year-old dog driver survived the steep, twisting Dalzell Gorge and cruised into Rohn at 9:19 p.m. Monday.”

“The gorge can be a perilous ride that requires mushers to keep both hands on their sleds. That was a challenge for [Rick] Swenson, who broke his collarbone earlier Monday when he crashed on the Happy River steps leading into Rainy Pass.”

– Kyle Hopkins, Anchorage Daily News, March 8, 2011

Liz Parrish races with injured leg:

“Liz Parrish drove the last team out of Unalakleet at 2 a.m. today. She is holding down the red lantern position on Iditarod 36. She has had a tough race. Liz had a bad fall early in the race, injuring her leg; she has been cared for by veterinarians….”

– John Schandelmeier, Herald and News, March 14, 2008

Norman Vaughn starts race with his leg in a cast:

“[Norman] Vaughan’s leg was in a cast from a training injury, and [Shelly] Gill felt sure he could make it to Nome if he could get through the deep snow areas encountered early in the race.”

– Nielsen, Nicki J. The Iditarod: Women on the Trail, Anchorage: Wolfdog Publications, 1986

Fritz Kirsch starts race with the flu:

“‘I think the most heartbreaking thing to me was after I finished a training season up in the bush. I came down here and got sick. And I had the flu…I got it right before the race. Things proceeded to get worse. By the time I hit Rohn River I lost my voice completely. I had an extremely high fever.'”

– Fritz Kirsch is talking about starting the 1983 Iditarod with the flu.
– Nielsen, Nicki J. The Iditarod: Women on the Trail, Anchorage: Wolfdog Publications, 1986

Pam Flowers continues races with a smashed hand:

“There are many experiences that Flowers remembers. One was during the first hour of the race when she smashed her hand. ‘It doesn’t work correctly yet.'”

– Nielsen, Nicki J. The Iditarod: Women on the Trail, Anchorage: Wolfdog Publications, 1986

Kelley Griffin keeps racing with ruptured MCL:

“Back home now, limping around the house, she [Kelley Griffin] remembers that she was post-holing through deep snow back to her sled after fixing a tangle in the team when the dogs decided to take off down the trail. She grabbed for the handlebar as the sled went by and tried to hop on. Unfortunately, one leg remained stuck in the snow.

Griffin was instantly in a lot of pain, and screaming a string of ‘expletives’ as her knee was pulled out if its joint. ‘It is excruciating when it first happens,’ she said. ‘It hurt like hell.'”

“Most of the time, the knee pain was manageable, only turning horribly painful when it popped out of joint.”

“She ruptured her MCL….”

– Craig Medred, Alaska Dispatch, March 25, 2013

– MCL injury:

“Medial collateral ligament (MCL) injury is an injury to the ligament on the inner part of the knee. This ligament keeps your shin bone (tibia) in place.”

– Medline Plus article, July 21, 2013

Diana Dronenburg races with sun poisoning:

“In relating her own race experience Diana [Dronenburg]talks about acquiring sun poisoning. ‘One day my cheeks began to get these small red bumps that were extremely itchy. My face then began to swell, and pretty soon I looked like a chipmunk. While on the race I didn’t know what it was or how to treat it. So I did nothing and the swelling continued. By the time I hit the finish line in Nome it looked like I had an extra 50 pounds on me.'”

– Nielsen, Nicki J. The Iditarod: Women on the Trail, Anchorage: Wolfdog Publications, 1986

Doug Swingley races with two fractured ribs:

“The 2000 race was hard because I fractured two ribs. I was on massive amounts of Aleve. It happened in the first mile between Wasilla and Knik, so I went a long ways with it.”

– Doug Swingley, Iditarod musher
– Freedman, Lew. More Iditarod Classics: Tales of the Trail Told by the Men & Women Who Race Across Alaska, Kenmore: Epicenter Press, 2004

Susan Butcher races with injured, painful hand:

“[Susan] Butcher still ended up banging her hand between a tree and her sled, and she continued on in the race in spite of the pain, even though she could only partially use her hand.”

– Nielsen, Nicki J. The Iditarod: Women on the Trail, Anchorage: Wolfdog Publications, 1986

Terry Adkins races with broken right hand:

“Once Adkins mushed most of the last thousand miles with a broken right hand suffered in a crash.”

– Freedman, Lew. Iditarod Silver, Fairbanks: Epicenter Press, 1997

This dog is exhausted from racing in the Iditarod.

This sled dog is exhausted from racing in the Iditarod.

Dogs forced to race when trail conditions are horrid

Libby Riddles drives dogs into severe storm to keep her lead at all costs:

“[Libby] Riddles opened a new era in race history that year and created one of the enduring legends of the race by driving her dogs into a severe storm that packed gusts of sixty miles per hour and whiteout conditions that obliterated the trail.

After another musher advised her that it would be impossible to go on, she plunged ahead through the storm and left Shaktoolik to cross Norton Sound. ‘I allowed only one thought – to keep my lead at all costs, taking it inch by inch if necessary,’ she wrote later in her book, Race Across Alaska.”

– Freedman, Lew. Iditarod Classics: Tales of the Trail Told by the Men & Women Who Race Across Alaska, Seattle: Epicenter Press, 1992

“For hours, Dugan, at the head of the team, struggled his utmost to find the trail. Along with his companions he now tried in vain to dig a hole in the ice where he could curl up with his back to the wind. Libby [Riddles] had covered barely 10 miles (16 km), yet she didn’t have the least idea where she was.”

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

Sled could easily run over the dogs:

“The sled bag acted like a big sail. As it was buffeted by gusts, the sled fishtailed back and forth, jerking about his dogs, some of whom did barrel rolls in the wind. The 58-year-old musher himself took a few bad falls while trying to keep the sled upright and not run over the dogs.”

- Suzanna Caldwell, Alaska Dispatch News, March 5, 2014 

Dogs ran over huge ruts made by snowmachines:

“The trail heads west from the village. It is the same route that the Iron Dog Snowmachine Race followed only weeks earlier. These 75 mph race machines jump from mogul to mogul spinning their tracks underneath. This inevitably adds to the height and width of those trail bumps. The more machines that pass by, the rougher the trail becomes. The ruts were huge this year and my sled bounced from one to the next. The dogs even got frustrated as the sled would slap up and quickly down, pulling their harness lines with it.”

– The SP Kennel Dog Log: Aliy Zirkle Iditarod Trail Notes 2011

Iditarod dogs frightened by the ferocity of the wind:

“[Jeff] King said he could tell his dogs were frightened by the ferocity of the wind. They were sometimes barking and whining as they moved forward, his leaders steering the course, trying to find a better foothold on the glare ice.”

– Suzanna Caldwell, Alaska Dispatch News, March 12, 2014

Dog don’t like heading into a strong wind:

“It was the wind, not the cold, that was raising the most concern among the mushers. That’s because dog teams do not like heading straight into a strong wind, never mind winds of 40 mph that with wind chill were driving temperatures to 40 below or more and creating a ground blizzard on the sea ice.

Even John Baker, a musher from Kotzebue accustomed to Arctic cold, said in conditions as brutal as these, no one has an advantage. Cold, strong winds work the same way on dogs, draining them of energy, no matter who is driving the sled, he said.”

– Mary Pemberton, Associated Press, March 17, 2009

“‘We probably even traveled in weather that’s even worse at times, but you never do it for such an extended period of time, like last night,’ [John] Baker said. ‘The leaders are definitely having a lot of trouble with it.'”

– Kevin Wells, KTUU-TV, KTUU.com, March 17, 2009

[From the Sled Dog Action Coalition: According to the Iditarod's website, John Baker was in third place on March 17.]

“Time went away, and all that was left was the fight crab-wise into the wind. The dogs were having a tough time with every shred of exposed fur (coats on) thoroughly frosted and sculpted to windward.”

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

Dogs made to race in hurricane-force winds:

“We had no major storms, but we had sixty- to seventy-knot winds in and out of Unalakleet.”

– Martin Buser, Iditarod musher

– Freedman, Lew. More Iditarod Classics: Tales of the Trail Told by the Men & Women Who Race Across Alaska, Kenmore: Epicenter Press, 2004

– 60 knots = 69.05 miles per hour; 70 knots = 80.55 miles per hour

“‘We hear there’s 80 mph winds and the trail’s blown away,’ [Scott] White said before leaving.”

– Kevin Klott, Anchorage Daily News, March 7, 2007

“To make matters worse, Rainy Pass which we had to go over had winds clocked at 80 mph.” “It was ‘white on white’ up there and teams of dogs were being blown off the trail.”

– Iditarod musher Bruce Linton, “Bruce’s Journal – Part I, ” Burlington Free Press website, March 26, 2007

“Category One Hurricane: Winds 74-95 mph”

– The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale, National Hurricane Center website

“‘(The winds) literally picked your whole team up and threw them off the trail.'”

– Musher Donald Smidt talking about the 2007 Iditarod

– Carlos Muñoz, Fond du Lac Reporter, December 30, 2007

Dogs spend hours and hours going through deep snow:

“Unseasonably warm weather made this year’s race a greater test than previous runs, race leaders said.”

“Seavey said the course was awful.

‘The trail was soft and punchy,’ he said. ‘We spent hours and hours and hours wallowing in deep snow.’ Sorlie finished the race with eight dogs, having dropped eight sick, sore or tired dogs at checkpoints along the route.”

– Rachel D’Oro, Associated Press, March 16, 2005

[Sorlie started the race with 16 dogs.]

DeeDee Jonrowe: “The trail has been deep. I mean deep, like to their chest deep and a little bit of wind. And like that and they just plow literally like, you know, like their own little snowplows, skidsters through the snow. You know, that makes it a tough run no matter how short the distance might be.”

– Interview with Laureli Kinneen of KNOM.org, March 7, 2012, KNOM.org’s website

Racing dogs fall into holes and trenches:

“This section of the trail is truly a steep rocky gorge with a frozen river running down the middle, We had to cross the river several times, going back and forth from one side of the gorge to the other. The catch is that the rive ice is full of holes, and the whole shebang seems to be slanted down-hill so that whenever the sled hits the ice, it slides sideways. That made for some exciting crashing and booming escapes from ice holes and one good whack right into one.”

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

“All the snowmachines and dog teams ahead of me had created deep holes in the trail snow. Many times my team would ripple-fall into those holes.”

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

“The bottom was breaking out of the hardened trail making big snow holes that sometimes were three feet deep and a hundred feet long. The dogs would fall into the holes and struggle in the deep snow to pull the load through to the far side.”

“Most of the dogs had shoulder or other muscle injuries caused by miles of snow holes.”

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

“About 10 miles past Skwentna we started to hit the potholes – up to 3 or 4 feet deep and almost as wide as the trail. Throw in a few trenches for variety and it was hard work.”

– Eric O. Rogers, Ph.D. personal blog, March 30, 2009

“Iditarod veteran Jerry Austin of St. Michael was just over the pass Tuesday morning when trailbreaker Barry Stanley of Finger Lake stopped his snowmachine in a barren ravine to report that the checkpoint stories about a big hole in the trail were wrong.

There were many big holes.”

– Craig Medred, Anchorage Daily News, March 10, 1993

“It was a warm day so the trail was very soft. In fact after a few teams went over the trail it started to break up and get big holes in it. It was hard for the dogs to keep from falling in them.”

– Jessie Royer, Jessie’s Sled Dog Page, website, 2005

“The dogs were traveling pretty slow in the heat but that was just fine because the bumps from all the snowmachine traffic were horrendous! They were so deep and big I thought I was going to get sea sick. Just kidding, but some of them were about 4ft deep.”

– Jessie Royer, Jessie’s Sled Dog Page, website, 2004

“A big tide had come in, and it was starting to freeze up. As I crossed Golovin Bay, there were maybe 2 ½ inches of ice on top of maybe 1 ½ feet of water. Every third step, we’d fall through.” “I was making only three miles an hour…scaring the hell out of the dogs as they fell through the top layer.”

– Dean Osmar, Iditarod musher

– Freedman, Lew. More Iditarod Classics: Tales of the Trail Told by the Men & Women Who Race Across Alaska, Kenmore: Epicenter Press, 2004

There’s no concern for the dogs’ welfare:

“Although trail conditions border on horrible at the moment, Jack Niggemeyer, trail manager for the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, said the Iditarod will go north for Nome, no matter what.

Iditarod race rules, he noted, clearly say the Last Great Race starts the first Saturday in March ‘regardless of weather conditions.'”

– Craig Medred, Anchorage Daily News, January 16, 2003

Dogs racing in winds up to 50 miles per hour:

“On Sunday night, winds up to 45 mph were recorded in Unalakleet, and Jonrowe’s team caught the brunt of them 30 miles before reaching the checkpoint.”

– Kevin Klott, Anchorage Daily News, March 13, 2006

“Doug Swingley’s dog team was not eager to leave Unalakleet yesterday. One veteran observer said it was painful to watch. The team stopped several times and had to be urged onward. They kept nosing back toward town, reluctant to follow the trail.”

“You can hardly blame Swingley’s team for hesitating to head up the windswept coast. It was gusting to 35 and 45 miles per hour last night in Unalakleet.”

– Gabriel Spitzer, Alaska Public Radio Network, March 13, 2006, website

“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

“Quite a few mushers have gone up the trail and once you get out onto the flats in the middle of the valley, they can hardly see their lead dogs. Dogs aren’t wanting to go, because they are going right into the wind. It’s probably blowing, gusting up to 50 miles an hour in the valley.”

– Shain Perrins, Rainy Pass Lodge, Alaska Public Radio, March 6, 2007

Dogs forced to race in temperatures as low as 130 degrees below zero:

”I remember a wind-chill factor of 130 degrees below zero in the 1974 race and in another I saw it go from 40 above one day to 40 below the next,” [Joe] Redington said.”

– Nelson Bryant, The New York Times, March 5, 1987

“We began with minus -100 chill factors heading up to Rainy Pass and continued with open water and slick ice coming out of Rohn, followed by 50-below temperatures.”

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

“The weather was atrocious, Hell a half-dozen of us got trapped there going out of Puntilla Lake. The chill factor was 130 below.”

– Dick Mackey, Iditarod musher

– Freedman, Lew. Iditarod Classics: Tales of the Trail Told by the Men & Women Who Race Across Alaska, Seattle: Epicenter Press, 1992

“He [Peter Bartlett] braved temperatures pushing 50 below on the way to Cripple….”

– Jon Little, Cabela’s Iditarod Coverage, website ariticle, March 11, 2006

– Jon Little formerly wrote for the Anchorage Daily News.

“Wind chill temperatures were pushing down to 55 to 60 degrees below zero.”

“Conditions were so grim dog teams hoping to continue down the Iditarod Trail were having a hard time just getting out of this checkpoint [Rainy Pass] Monday night and early this morning. They struggled in the dark wind and cold.”

– Craig Medred, Anchorage Daily News, March 6, 2007

“There was a 130-below wind chill at Ptarmigan Pass.”

– Rudy Demoski, Iditarod musher

– Freedman, Lew. Iditarod Classics: Tales of the Trail Told by the Men & Women Who Race Across Alaska, Seattle: Epicenter Press, 1992

“It was the 1994 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, and the temperature had plummeted to -50 degrees F [Fahrenheit]. The dogs race across the moonlit trail along Moses Point, a thousand miles into the race.”

– King, Jeff. Cold Hands Warm Heart, Husky Homestead Press, 2008

“He [Lance Mackey] increased his lead along the wind-swept western coast of Alaska. Fierce, biting winds blew in off the Bering Sea, forcing temperatures to 50 below zero.”

– Associated Press, March 18, 2009

“Deeply chilled by minus-35 temperatures that settled onto the Yukon River overnight, the top mushers in the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog race began pulling out of Nulato at sunrise Saturday, encouraged by a few warming slants of sunshine.”

– Mike Campbell, Anchorage Daily News, March 13, 2010

“With temperatures dipping to nearly 50-below, Iditarod musher Bruce Linton made the river run into Galena feeling exasperated and down. Along the way, he’d lost his warm hoody, watched seven mushers pass him, and was struggling Saturday to outrun a nagging chest cold.”

– Jill Burke, Alaska Dispatch, March 13, 2010

[Below zero temperatures expose the dogs to frostbite.]

Whiteout. Photo attributed to A. Currell on flickr

Whiteout. Photo attributed to A. Currell on flickr

Dogs forced to run in 50 to 70 mph winds and in whiteout:

“Crossing over the Range was very harsh. The 70-mph winds wouldn’t let up. Whiteout conditions prevailed.”

– Jones, GB. Winning the Iditarod: The GB Jones Story, Wasilla: Northern Publishing, 2005

“‘It’s epic,’ Warren Palfrey told the Iditarod Insider in Kaltag on Sunday. ‘This is the kind of stuff you can’t practice in a non-racing situation. There’s no trail. I’m thinking it’s gusting 50-60 mph at times and (is a) total whiteout.’

‘At times I was going as fast as I can walk.’

DeeDee Jonrowe, the two-time runner-up from Willow, agreed.

‘It was hard enough for Jessie (Royer, who was running near Jonrowe) and I and it was better than this then,’ she told the Iditarod Insider as the wind howled in Kaltag. ‘So I think it’s bad. You can ask Rick (Swenson), but I think it’s almost impassable.'”

– Mike Campbell, Anchorage Daily News, March 16, 2009

“At Tommy Johnson’s shelter cabin, 25 miles out of Safety, they [Beth Baker and Mark Chapoton] ran into a couple of snowmachiners – their faces wrapped with duct tape – who warned them of the storm ahead.

Lambert and Norm Messinger, who had been trailing the back-of-the-pack mushers by snowmachine, suggested Chapoton follow Lambert’s snowmachine and Baker follow Messinger. They headed out in the whiteout about 7 p.m., Lambert said.

But Messinger’s snowmachine iced up and died. Baker said her dogs were going fine and she wanted to push on.”

“She was only 40 miles from the finish line of the 1,100-mile sled dog race to Nome. But in a blinding storm that whirled snow around her at 70 mph she couldn’t see her lead dogs. The glare ice under her sled runner told her that her team had made a wrong turn and she was headed out on the sea ice, which was laced with deadly open water.”

‘I knew there were open leads out there,’ Baker said on Wednesday during a telephone interview from Nome. ‘I tried to lead the team back, but I was on ice. My boots didn’t have nails in them. I couldn’t stand up. I got blown over five or six times.

The dogs were blowing over.” “Her sled was tipped over on the ice. Her dogs had curled up, their fur frozen to the ice. They couldn’t move.”

– Natalie Phillips, Anchorage Daily News, March 24, 1994

Winds knock over four dogs:

“John Wood left Shaktoolik fourteen hours behind Aldrich, driving into a storm that was now abating, but the winds slammed into his team just as hard, hard enough to knock over four of the dogs.”

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

25 to 35 mph winds can blow dog teams all over hell and gone:

“Winds of even 25 to 35 mph can blow a dogsled and dog team all over hell and gone on a trail of glare ice.”

- Craig Medred, Alaska Dispatch, March 11, 2014

Wind makes dogs do barrel rolls:

“The sled bag acted like a big sail. As it was buffeted by gusts, the sled fishtailed back and forth, jerking about his dogs, some of whom did barrel rolls in the wind.”

– Suzanna Caldwell, Alaska Dispatch, March 12, 2014

Dogs race over miles of gravel, frozen tussocks, stumps, ice and crusty snow:

“The trail from Unalakleet to Shaktoolik is nasty, said Unalakleet teacher and ski coach Nancy Persons. She said it’s nothing but miles of gravel and glare ice.

‘It was dirty,’ she said. ‘There’s no snow on the tundra.'”

– Kevin Klott, Alaska Dispatch News, March 9, 2014

“Teams will continue up the Bering Sea coastline in the 1,100-mile Iditarod, sometimes traveling on the frozen ice in temperatures that were more than 30 degrees below zero early Monday.”

– Associated Press, March 15, 2010

“Between a U.S. Bureau of Land Management cabin a mile or so off the trail at Bear Creek and a bridge across the open water of Sullivan Creek, about 10 miles farther on, there was almost no snow and many frozen tussocks. It was rough and a problem for the dogs. There were an inordinate number of sprained ankles and shoulders along this stretch of trail, but there were no injured mushers and few broken sleds.”

– Medred, Craig. Graveyard of Dreams: Dashed Hopes and Shattered Aspirations Along Alaska’s Iditarod Trail, Anchorage: Plaid Cabin Publishing, 2010

Imagine the frozen tussocks or clumps of grass on the Iditarod trail in winter. Sled dogs are forced to pull mushers and heavy sleds over them. As a result, the dogs get sprains and other injuries. Photo attributed to Travis S. on flickr.

Imagine the frozen tussocks or clumps of grass on the Iditarod trail in winter. Sled dogs are forced to pull mushers and heavy sleds over them. As a result, the dogs get sprains and other injuries. Photo attributed to Travis S. on flickr.

“Crusty snow made it hard for the dogs to pull, as though they were trying to haul the sled over square marbles.”

– Jill Burke, Alaska Dispatch, March 13, 2011

“This year, it [the Farewell Burn] was more like 80 miles of gravel, frozen tussocks, stumps and slippery ice.”

– Kevin Klott, Anchorage Daily News, March 8, 2007

“I left Unalakleet and immediately hit some of the worse section of trail in the entire race. It was gravel and rocks for miles.”

– Bruce Linton, Iditarod Journals, 2007

“The trail was bad, perhaps the most physically punishing Iditarod yet, with no snow in many stretches – glare ice, gravel, grass, sand – and crusty paw-tearing corn snow for miles.”

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

– Running on dirt and gravel is very hard on feet:

“Dirt and gravel can also be very hard on feet, frozen or unfrozen. Stone bruises on pads are hard to detect but can make a dog very sore.”

– Dr. Dawn Brown, DVM, Mushing, January 1, 2010

Dogs forced to race in warm weather:

“This is a long, hot, sticky, slow run, as all my daylight runs seem to be. The snow is really wet and the dogs are miserable.”

– Karin Hendrickson, Iditarod 2009, her website article

“Some of the dogs suffered from overheating and found it tough going in what were warmish temperatures early on this year for running the 1,100-mile race — the longest sled dog race in the world.”

– Associated Press, March 13, 2008

“There is some kennel cough developing on the trail, but the main problem may be temperatures a little too warm for many of the teams.”

– Ellen Lockyer, Alaska Public Radio Network, March 9, 2011

Dogs relentlessly break trail though bottomless snow:

“The storm had dumped over two feet of new snow. Rainy was swimming in powder deeper than she was tall. Harley’s head wasn’t covered, but he was swimming just the same. Repeatedly, he looked back at me, eyes crying out for a rescue. Tough going. The team kept bunching up, tangling every few feet, and breaking through the soft crust into concealed pools of water.”

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

“Only a few miles out of the checkpoint, [Blake] Matray said, ‘we started running into drifted-over trail. We started breaking trail.’

Most of the time, the dogs wallowed belly deep. When the teams got lucky, Matray said, they might find a stretch, maybe a quarter mile, of good trail where the route went through a patch of trees.

Mainly, though, they broke trail hour after hour.”

“As it was, any time either musher’s lead dogs wandered off the narrow trail they’d get stuck in almost bottomless snow. When the mushers went to guide them back onto the firm surface hidden beneath the drifts, Matray said, “you’d sink up to your waist.”

– Craig Medred, Anchorage Daily News, March 28, 2009

“Swenson said the course took him over 12-foot deep snow, past moose, which have been known to attack sledders, over the north side of the Alaskan Range, over stretches of snowless tundra and into snow again.”

– Jim Benagh, The New York Times, April 6, 1981

Dogs made to race over soft and very punchy trail:

“‘It was a really crummy trail,’ he [Jeff King] said. ‘All the way to Tripod (a resting spot) was very punchy, soft trail.'”

– Kyle Hopkins and Mike Campbell, Anchorage Daily News, March 14, 2010

Dogs forced to race in storms:

”’When I started out across the Sound, it just really looked pathetic because you couldn’t even tell one marker from another,”she said. ‘I kept on telling myself how foolish I was being for doing this, because the weather was just miserable. But I figured if it does pan out, it might help me win the race. So I’m going to try it even if it’s crazy.”’

– Libby Riddles talking about racing her dogs

– UPI, The New York Times, March 21, 1985

“When the second storm hit toward the end of the race, [Susan] Butcher, who managed to regain the lead, again mushed on while her competitors laid back waiting for a break in the weather.”

– Robert McG. Thomas Jr., The New York Times, March 28, 1988

“That was the year of the big blow that pulled a curtain of snow across Rainy Pass in the Alaska Range. Some mushers decide to try to beat their way through it. [Scott] White — a sometimes musher whose real job is with a general contractor in Woodinville, Wash. — was one of those who tried to give it a go.

‘I went up there,’ he said Friday, ‘and I was lost up there for five hours.’

He wandered off the trail. His dog team got into deep snow and wallowed.

‘Dogs were frustrated,’ he said.’They were fighting and chewing (their lines). Four got loose.”’

– Craig Medred, Alaska Dispatch, March 19, 2010

Dogs forced to run in 100-mile-per-hour winds over bare rock:

“For the Iditarod mushers, the Burn was 36 miles of very tough sledding. Teams and rigs had to be laboriously maneuvered around charred spruce trunks and over rock formations. In places, 100-mile-per-hour winds had scoured the trail clean of snow; sled runners scraped over bare rock with the screech of fingernails raking a blackboard.”

– Colin Nickerson, Boston Globe, February 5, 1984

Dogs forced to go through water or overflow:

“Trickier for her [Cindy Gallea] over parts of the race were the small open patches of rivers or streams that she encountered. To get across them she said ‘I had to walk right in the one- to two-foot deep water to lead the very hesitant dogs through the 10 to 20 feet of open stretches. The dogs’ preference is to not go through it…. so you have to exert your will.'”

– Greg Munson, Post Bulletin, March 27, 2013

“’The trail is really bad,’ [Rhodi] Davidson said. ‘It’s almost bank-to-bank overflow. There’s no place to put in a good trail. It’s going to be a slow slog.'”

– Rhodi Davidson is a race judge.

– Kevin Klott and Kyle Hopkins, Anchorage Daily News, March 9, 2013

“On the Tatina, the teams encountered another phenomenon of Alaska winter: overflow. In late winter, as water begins to trickle into the creek and river bottoms, thick river ice may still extend all the way to the bottom, leaving nowhere for the water to flow except on top of the ice. The icy overflow freezes to the dogs’ feet, freezes to sled runners, soaks mushers’ feet and hide holes in the ice that can swallow a dog or even a sled. “

“Gary Hokkanen actually lost a dog under the ice when it fell through a hole the musher didn’t see.”

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

“There was a lot of open water that year on the lakes. The dogs would punch through the crust into two or three feet of water and go under.”

– Nicki Nielsen is talking about Connie Frerichs’ dogs.

– Nielsen, Nicki J. The Iditarod: Women on the Trail, Anchorage: Wolfdog Publications, 1986

“We still had to go through one stretch of overflow though.”

– Jessie Royer, Jessie’s Sled Dog Page, website, 2005

“Three of us did that and we went over that overflow in a blizzard.”

– Bruce Linton is talking about Jeremy Keller, another musher and himself.

– Bruce Linton, Iditarod Journals, 2007

“We had a few bangs, and a few bumps, but made the drop to level terrain without any major problems. The difficulty, however, was the terrain at the bottom. It was river. Most years, like last year, it is frozen over nicely. This year, there were eight inches of water flowing over the ice. I guess it is a two or three mile stretch from the base of the Dalzell Gorge to the bank where the Rohn checkpoint is, and the trail was totally under flowing water.”

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

“I left the Rohn River at one in the morning, a full moon out and very cold. I started up the south fork of the Kuskokwim River and stared to get into overflow without any trail. My lead dog started to break through the ice, and when he got up another dog was breaking through. Finally the whole team went under the ice and my sled went under. The water was at least up to my knees.”

“I tried to get my leader back onto the ice but we fell down again in at least four feet of water. You never know how deep the water is. You could drop into a ten-foot hole.”

– Freedman, Lew. More Iditarod Classics: Tales of the Trail Told by the Men & Women Who Race Across Alaska, Kenmore: Epicenter Press, 2004

Hurricane force winds blow rocks and sand into the dogs’ faces:

“From Eagle River at the 20-mile mark to the community of McGrath, 380 miles later, [Jeremy] Keller and his team of dogs were met by constant headwinds, ranging from 20-mile-per-hour gusts to Class 1 hurricane-force gales of 60-70 miles per hour over the treacherous trail leading to Rainy Pass.”

“‘I [Jeremy Keller] was getting rocks and sand in my face. That’s how hard it was blowing.'”

– Maureen Mullen, Boston Globe, April 1, 2007

[From the Sled Dog Action Coalition: You can be sure that rocks and sand hit the dogs in their faces, too.]

Dogs swept downstream in rivers:

“I hollered, and the dogs plunged in. Immediately, they were swept downstream.”

- Mackey, Dick. One Second to Glory, Alaska: Epicenter Press, 2001

“‘That was terrifying cause we were just headed down river,’ she [DeeDee Jonrowe] said. ‘I mean it was wet ice.’ ‘But that wasn’t even the worst of it,’ she said.

‘We start down into the lakes and I think, ‘Oh, praise God, the lakes’ — (and) they’re glare ice,’ she exclaimed. It’s lake after lake after lake with wet ice with a side wind. I think (the dogs are) a little shellshocked.'”

– Kevin Klott and Kyle Hopkins, Anchorage Daily News, March 6, 2013

Dogs plummet thousands of feet into valley then have to climb back up:

“Martin [Buser] explained that his team had veered off of the trail at the ridge top and had plummeted down thousands of feet into the valley below. They had been tangled in willows for 30 minutes and then they had to climb back up the valley.”

– Aliy Zirlke, SP Kennel Dog Log, July 31, 2010

Fierce wind causes dogs to free-fall down a mountain:

“We crested a knoll and the wind was so fierce that it shoved Salem to the right, pushing the whole team off the trail’s edge. They tumbled downhill away from the path we’d been following.”

“We were free-falling down the mountain.”

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

Dogs bouncing off of frozen trees:

“[Matt] Failor said nothing had prepared him for the treacherous stretch where he and his team were bouncing off frozen, charred trees in an area that had recently burned….”

– Matt Markey, Toledo Blade, March 18, 2012

Dogs forced to run over trail with deep holes:

“I had seen the moose tracks in the trail, and it is not something mushers like to see. A moose had walked down the groomed trail leaving deep post holes of footprints. Dogs can, and in Pledge’s case did, step into them and strain an ankle or shoulder in the process.”

– Jodi Bailey, dewclawkennel.com, 2012

Dogs enveloped by a gritty choking cloud of red dust:

“When on each downhill one applies the brake or the drag, all is enveloped by a gritty choking cloud of red dust.”

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

Fast trail takes a toll on the dogs:

“The trail is really fast and that can take a toll on the dogs, this type of trail.”

– Mark Wildermuth, talking to Loudon Wilson on KTNA-FM, Talkeetna, March 9, 2011

Mushers give dogs unsafe drugs

Females dogs allowed to take hazardous drugs:

Andrea Floyd-Wilson: “I found it very interesting that one type of drug that they [Iditarod Trail Administration] allow is specific for the female dogs. They allow Cheque Drops or Ovaban, drugs that are used to prevent the dogs from coming into season, and my understanding is these are not real safe drugs.”

Dr. Paula Kislak: “They’re not safe drugs. They have been implicated in causing cancer, but quite honestly these people aren’t looking toward the long term well-being and the long term future of these dogs. And, for obvious reasons, it would be very disruptive to have a female in heat because the males would get completely distracted. And yet, they don’t want to spay the females, because if a female does perform well, she will be used as a breeding bitch. They are giving drugs that are hormones, that are powerful hormones and do have consequences in the long term, but, again, they’re not looking at the long term best interests of the animal.”

– 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.

[From the Sled Dog Action Coalition: The Iditarod race rules permit the use of Ovaban and Cheque Drops.]

Mushers ignore that, by nature, dogs love to sleep

It’s natural for dogs to spend most of their lives sleeping:

Margery Glickman: “Dogs like to sleep a lot. And, maybe Dr. Kislak would like to speak about it. My understanding is that the average dog likes to sleep anywhere from 14 to 18 hours a day.”

Dr. Paula Kislak: “Yes, that’s correct. If we are going all the way back into the instinctual behavior of dogs, they sleep all day and hunt for maybe two to four, maximum six hours in the evening. The rest of the time is spent in the cave cleaning and sleeping. I certainly have found in my practice and with my own animals that that’s probably an overestimation of the amount of time they’d really like to be sleeping. They’d really like to be sleeping much more, obviously, since they don’t have to hunt. They’ll typically sleep anywhere from 14 to 20 hours in a day. Which brings up the point that when the musher is sleeping [while the dogs race], of course, the dogs are not able to sleep. Not only does that create extreme stress and exertion on the dogs, but, also leads to accidents where the dogs do get strangled by the towlines and gouged by the sleds. It’s completely irresponsible behavior.”

– On February 23, 2003, Andrea Floyd-Wilson, the host of All About Animals Radio Show, interviewed Margery Glickman, Director of the Sled Dog Action Coalition, and Paula Kislak, DVM, President of the Association of Veterinarians for Animal Rights.

Dog fell asleep while 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?

Dogs starts to fall asleep while racing:

“‘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

Dog vanishes from gangline and goes to sleep:

“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.”

– Jon Little, Cabela’s website, March 12, 2005

Little formerly wrote for the Anchorage Daily News

Exhausted dogs may rather sleep than eat:

“Iditarod dogs have to consume enormous amounts of food during the course of the race. Recent studies have shown that a 50-pound sled dog can burn more than 10,000 calories a day while distance racing.

Yet, after running for six-hour stretches, if a dog’s dinner isn’t extremely enticing, they may decide to curl up and sleep rather than eat, and once that happens it’s the beginning of the end for that mushers chances of making it all the way.”

– Joseph Robertia, Kenai Peninsula, March 5, 2006

Exhausted dogs sleep through ear-piercing noise:

“He [Bryan Bearss] borrowed a drill from the checkpoint and put new holes in his brush bow. Despite the ear-piercing noise, his dogs lay sound asleep.”

– Kevin Klott, Anchorage Daily News, March 9, 2006

(Remember, dogs hear better than humans.)

Rather than running, Paul Ellering’s dogs went to sleep:

“I got into a routine: drive five hours, stop, ‘drop’ the dogs–take them out of their boxes–give them water, then put them back in their box. Drive five hours and do it all over again.”

“Five hours after leaving Edmonton [Canada], I pulled into a truck stop for a dog drop and snooze. I awoke two hours later and was crawling from the back of the truck into the front seat to put in my contact lenses when my peripheral vision noticed something wrong. In my side mirror, I saw that a dogbox door was open. I had flashes of a lost dog…but which dog? Then I remembered that that box had two dogs in it.

I hastily put in the left contact lens, then the right one.”

“Opening the truck door, I stepped onto the squeaking snow and walked to the open dog box, hoping (please God) the dogs would be in there. The box was empty, as I knew it would be.”

“There was nothing I could do but drive around and look for them. I started the Excursion and glanced in the side mirror as I pulled away from the spot where we had slept. I noticed something under the trailer. No!…I didn’t run other something, did I? I looked under the Excursion and the trailer, didn’t I? I kept going with the truck spinning the tires till I’d made a full circle. There they were sleeping together like man and wife.”

– Paul Ellering describing his trip from Minnesota to Anchorage for the start of the 2000 Iditarod.

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

Matt Rossi’s dogs want to sleep:

“A search team of local snowmachiners scrambled late Thursday night and helped Wisconsin musher Matt Rossi find his missing dog team.

The 49-year-old rookie lost his 15-dog team just after sunset. But with the help of speedy snowmachines, he found the team sleeping four miles off course on the Big River.”

– Kevin Klott, Anchorage Daily News, March 9, 2007

Dan Seavey’s dogs want to sleep:

“Musket” groaned as Iditarod musher Dan Seavey, 74, hiked the husky to its feet. ‘C’mon,’ Seavey said. ‘It won’t be so bad once we get going.’

The dog blinked. Straw, spread on the snow as bedding, clung to its fur.

‘They’re in their nice warm bed. How would you like to be jerked out of bed, and your slippers put on your feet and your hands at the same time?’ Seavey said as he slipped booties on the dog’s paws.

Even as his son and grandson rocket ahead, each in search of a championship, Seavey is trailing more than 60 racers at back of the Iditarod pack. But it wasn’t the old musher who was sleepy in Skwentna Monday. It was his dogs.”

– Kyle Hopkins, Iditablog, Anchorage Daily News, March 5, 2012

– The Skwentna checkpoint is 72 miles from Willow where the race officially started.

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

Puppies are forced to race

Racing in Iditarod will likely damage puppies:

“Young dogs of large-breed species are often not fully mature until 3-4 years of age. And, just like children, they are unable to safely sustain rigorous activities like long-distance endurance events. The resulting damage to the developing bone cells can be painful and will hasten the onset of degenerative joint disease. Some veterinary oncologists even believe that bony microtrauma may increase the incidence of osteosarcoma (bone cancer). Additionally, the neuromuscular connections are not fully formed thereby rendering the pup’s coordination less than optimal. As a result, injuries are more likely to occur. The cardiovascular and pulmonary systems of puppies are also of greater risk, although the damaging effects of overexertion may or may not be immediately apparent. Young athletes must be protected on amounts of stress that endurance events place on them and should only gradually be conditioned into adulthood.”

– Paula Kislak, DVM, President of the Association of Veterinarians for Animal Rights in an email sent to the Sled Dog Action Coalition on March 10, 2004

Janice Blue: “Dr. Kislak in one interview you did with Andrea Floyd-Wilson who is the host of All About Animals, the radio show, a couple of years ago, you mentioned that a lot of these dogs are very young, and just like children, where their bones are still growing, they’re not fully developed and that creates all kinds of problems.”

Dr. Paula Kislak: “Yes, the growth plates, which are the cartilage plates that are important in bone formation are not mature in large breed dogs for at least up to two years and usually later. And these animals are started training much younger than that, and so it puts unbearable stress on the bones and the tendons and the ligaments and the cartilage and that’s why so many of them wash out early. And the ones that don’t wash out early, that actually make it to the race, then develop crippling arthritis within a year or two after that. And if they’re good breeding stock, then they’re kept alive even despite the crippling arthritis and their kept in these horrible freezing cold outdoor conditions.”

– Janice Blue is the host of the radio program Go Vegan Texas, KPFT
– Dr. Paula Kislak, DVM, is president of the Association of Veterinarians for Animal Rights
– The interview was done on February 27, 2006

Puppies injured in Iditarod more likely to be crippled for life:

“Mushers have told me that when a puppy is injured from racing in the Iditarod, he or she is more likely to be crippled for life.”

– Ashley Keith, former musher and Iditarod kennel employee who now rescues and rehabilitates abused sled dogs
– Email to the Sled Dog Action Coalition, April 28, 2007

Jeff King forces his two pregnant puppies to race on Dave DeCaro’s team:

“Schilling (F) – Dollar X Solomon (J. Little) 1 Year; 46 lbs; Intact & currently pregnant – bred by ‘Coltrane’ Dave’s [DeCaro] “B” Team Iditarod Finisher I just ran this beauty 40 miles this morning. Gorgeous gait, beautiful coat, calm disposition. Awesome, fast trotter and according to Dave [DeCaro] ‘seemed completely at home on the race trail. Ate a ton and was always looked like a playful pup. Never once did I see a slack tug-line on Schilling.’ Her pups are due in early May and are part of the deal.”

“Opel (F) – Berkeley X Viper 2 Years; 43 lbs; Intact & currently pregnant – by ‘Suspect’ Dave’s [DeCaro] “B” Team Iditarod Dropped in Shaktoolik [Iditarod checkpoint], Opel has been a stand-out from early on. She finished the Kusko 300 in 2009 with Dave [DeCaro]and ran on my team in the 2009 Stage Stop Race. According to Dave ‘she ate great and was a happy dog. She was coming out of heat and had been bred a few days before the race, and it seemed to affect her performance.’ Her pups are due in early May and are part of the deal.”

– Dave DeCaro raced Jeff King’s puppies in the 2010 Iditarod.
– HuskyHomestead, blogspot, March 28, 2010

- Dave DeCaro runs Jeff King’s puppies:

“He [Dave DeCaro] is not expecting to win the race; rather, it will be a learning experience for this ‘puppy team’ for future races.”

“‘My dogs are mostly 18 to 36 months old – it’s the minor league team.'”

– Dave DeCaro works for Iditarod musher Jeff King’s Husky Homestead Tours.
– Fran Mannino, Webster-Kirkwood Times, February 26, 2010

John Dixon’s 1-year-old puppy “flipped out” running downhill:

“Musher John Dixon of Fairbanks lost a dog on Tuesday trying to navigate the steep and treacherous Dalzell Gorge. Dixon, 40, said that on the first steep downhill a 1-year-old in his team, Pete, ‘flipped out’ and slipped out of his harness and collar.”

- Alaska Dispatch News, March 4, 2014

Newton Marshall raced puppies:

“[Newton] Marshall had been running a puppy team, he said.”

– Kyle Hopkins, Anchorage Daily News, Tweet, March 7, 2013

Kelly Maixner and Trent Herbst raced 1 and 2-year old puppies:

“[Kelly] Maixner purchased his pups from Buser and while the bloodlines are good, he said, he may have one of the youngest teams in the 62-team field. His kennel, Mad Stork Kennels, has 49 dogs, all 1- and 2-year-olds.”

– Brian Gehring, Bismarck Tribune, February 27, 2011

“Name: Jody

Age: 1

Weight: 38 pounds

Musher: Kelly Maixner”

– Klye Hopkins, Anchorage Daily News, March 6, 2011

“In every race until now, [Trent] Herbst has run one- and 2-year-old dogs borrowed from someone else’s kennels.”

– Jill Burke, Alaska Dispatch, March 11, 2011

Karin Hendrickson and Ed Stielstra forced 1-year-old puppies to race:

“Gender: Female

Weight: 35 pounds

Position: Lead

Musher: Karin Hendrickson, Wasilla”

‘This is Muddy Waters, she comes from the ‘Blues Legends’ litter – she is just a year old.”

– Devin Kelly, Anchorage Daily News, March 3, 2014

“Name: Lynn ‘Swanny’ Swann

Gender: Female

Age: 1

Weight: 52 pounds

Position: Team dog, may lead later in the race.

Musher: Ed Stielstra”

“It’s the first race she’s ever run in her life. She’s only a year old,’ Stielstra said.”

– Kyle Hopkins, Anchorage Daily News, March 10, 2011

Karin Hendrickson forced 14-month-old to race:

Name: Elway

Age: 14 months

Gender: Male

Musher: Karin Hendrickson, Wasilla

David Hulen, Anchorage Daily News, March 4, 2013

17-month-old puppy forced to race:

“[Jeff] Wells’ team for this race is a puppy team from [Jeff] King’s Goose Lake Kennel in Denali. Of the 16 dogs on his team, there are 10 yearlings. Only 12 dogs can start. His favorite dog is one of those yearlings, his leaddog Klarney, a small black female. His youngest is just 17 months old.”

– Kortnie Westfall, Sun Star online edition, March 6, 2007

19-month-old puppies forced to race:

“Beginning Sunday, she [Sue Allen] will embark on a trail over treacherous mountain ranges, across frozen rivers, through dense forests and the like on a sled charged by inexperienced, 19-month-old dogs “green as green can be,” as she described them.

Those dogs are not even her own. They belong to Iditarod legend Martin Buser, four-time champion and race record-holder….”

– Kevin Stevens, The Ithaca Journal, February 27, 2008

“There were times when things were getting pretty serious, but the dogs just wanted to play; they wanted to play with their neighbor instead of pull.”

– Sue Allen talking about the yearling’s she raced

– Kevin Stevens, Press & Sun Bulletin, March 26, 2008

(From the Sled Dog Action Coalition: Sue Allen started the Iditarod with 16 puppies. According to the Iditarod’s website, only eight of them made it across the finish line.)

Two-year-old puppies, common on some teams, lack stamina:

“Mushers sometimes bring dogs as young as 2 on a big race like this, but the youngsters usually don’t have the speed, stamina and experience to contend. For Weik and others building teams, however, 2-year-olds are common.”

– Joel Gay, Anchorage Daily News, March 9, 2004

“In his rookie run in 2001, [Clint] Warnke guided a team of Swingley puppies.”

– Craig Medred, Anchorage Daily News, March 18, 2003

“A small young 2 year old female she pulled hard all the way and made it so far, but she just wasn’t eating enough and she was getting thin.”

– – Bruce Linton, Iditarod Journals, website article, 2007

Ken Anderson races five two-year old puppies:

“[Ken] Anderson had an incredibly young, and inexperienced group of dogs this year. Five were two years old….”

– Jon Little, Cabela’s website, March 19, 2005

– Little formerly wrote for the Anchorage Daily News

Katie Davis, Sue Firmin and C. Mark Chapoton race 18-month-old puppies:

“Her task is guiding a team of 16 “puppies” — about 18-month-old dogs, young for top-flight racing — to the finish line to prepare them for future Iditarods.”

– The author is talking about the puppies Katie Davis will race in 2006

– Paul Strelow, Spartanburg Herald-Journal, March 3, 2006

“Basically my team in ’81 was all young dogs. Half the team was year-and-a-half-old dogs.”

– Sue Firmin is talking about her dogs.

– Nielsen, Nicki J. The Iditarod: Women on the Trail, Anchorage: Wolfdog Publications, 1986

“The team went like this: Emitt, a ten-year-old leader, and Tatters…my eighteen month old wonder in the lead.”

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

Katie Davis wants to push 18-month-old puppies to race:

“Once they figure out there’s an end [to the race], they can be pushed to do it.”

– Katie Davis is talking.

– Paul Strelow, Spartanburg Herald-Journal, March 3, 2006

Sonny Lindner, Ed Iten, Billy Snodgrass, Kris Hoffman and Tom Thurston raced two-year old puppies:

“‘I’ve got a team of mostly two-year-olds…,’ [Sonny] Lindner said.”

– Bob Eley, Fairbanks Daily News Miner, March 6, 2006

“In the past, we’ve always run a lot of two year-olds with our team….”

– Musher Ed Iten talking about his dogs

– Steve Heimel interviewer, Alaska Public Radio Network, February 28, 2006

“All those two-year old goof-balls are in the truck. They’ll go tomorrow.”

– Musher Billy Snodgrass talking about his dogs at the ceremonial start

– The actual race started on March 6, 2011

– Video by Joshua Tucker Alaska Public Radio, March 5, 2011

“[Kris] Hoffman and [Tom] Thurston will be racing with the majority of their dogs being puppies, about 2 years old.”

– Dagny McKinley, Steamboat Today, March 6, 2011

Matt Failor says he’s not racing adults; his dogs are less than two years and three months old:

“Every dog in my team is under the age of two years and three months, so I don’t have any adults.”

– Matt Failor, video on Anchorage Daily News website, March 5, 2012

– Matt Failor is an Iditarod musher

Lisa Frederic raced Jeff King’s puppies:

“I knew I just had puppies.”

– Lisa Frederic talking about the puppies she was racing in the 2002 Iditarod. The pups belonged to Iditarod musher Jeff King.

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

Lance Mackey runs 18-month-old dogs in the lead:

“He [Lance Mackey] singled out the performance of an honest yearling, a dog that is 18 months old, named Rev, who has been running in lead for him. Most mushers don’t contemplate racing a yearling hard; some refuse even to allow yearlings to participate at all.”

– Jon Little, Cabela’s Iditarod coverage, March 9, 2007

– Jon Little formerly wrote for the Anchorage Daily News.

“I was down to eight dogs. My only remaining leader was an inexperienced, eighteen-month-old female, and two more dogs were sore and starting to limp.”

– Lance Mackey is talking about his dogs in the 2002 Iditarod.

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

Lance Macky races another puppy:

“One of them I didn’t even expect to make it just because she’s not even two-years-old, but she will be this summer.”

– Lance Mackey is talking – Kevin Wells, KTUU-TV, KTUU.com, March 18, 2009

George Attla races puppy about 18 months old:

“Another dog I had was James, about 1 ½ years old, 45 pounds.”

– Attla, George, and Bella Levorsen, editor. Everything I Know About Training and Racing Sled Dogs, Rome: Arner Publications, 1974

Matt Anderson raced many puppies:

“[Matt] Anderson’s team was full of puppies.”

– Eric Mandel, The Daily Iowan, March 29, 2007

Kristy Berington races puppies:

“Meet Houston, the lynchpin in Kasilof rookie Kristy Berington’s team. On a squad of puppies, 10-year-old Houston is the role model.”

– Kyle Hopkins, Anchorage Daily News – The Sled Blog, March 11, 2010

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

Mushers dance on their sleds and focus on scenery, music and audio books

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

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

“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

“‘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

“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

Old, small, blind, deaf and skinny dogs forced to race

Suffering of old, and small, skinny dogs when endurance raced:

“Like humans, members of the canine species start experiencing deterioration of the musculoskeletal, GI (gastrointestinal), kidney, liver, immune and other organ systems by middle age. After 4-5 years of age, desiccation (drying) of bones and soft tissues cause them to become more brittle, putting older dogs at increased risk for fractures and painful, persistent tendon, ligament, and muscular injuries. Degradation with age of other protective biological mechanisms and systems, like immune function, result in an inability to withstand the rigors and stresses of endurance training and racing, and are likely one of the factors in the prevalence of bleeding ulcers.”

“When dogs under 40-50 lbs. are endurance trained and raced, their health and welfare are compromised by subjecting them to forces and loads greater than their musculoskeletal frames should carry.”

– Dr. Paula Kislak, DVM, Director, Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association, email to the Sled Dog Action Coalition, June 18, 2011

In general, dogs are considered “senior” around age seven:

“As a general rule of thumb, dogs and cats are considered ‘senior’ around age seven.”

– Dr. Janet Tobiassen Crosby, DVM, about.com, 2011

Martin Buser says his 6 or 7-year-old dog is old:

Kyle Hopkins: “Which dog is it that you’re concerned about?”

Martin Buser: “An old dog named Roy.”

Kyle Hopkins: “How old is he now?”

Martin Buser: “He’s 6 or 7 now.”

– Iditarodblog, Anchorage Daily News, March 9, 2011
– Klye Hopkins is a reporter for the Anchorage Daily News.

Martin Buser raced 9, 10 and 11-year-old dogs:

“[Martin] Buser, who has had dogs as old as 9, 10 and 11 on his teams, said some of [Matt] Failor’s dogs will be added to either his team or his son Rohn’s team next year.”

– Jon Spencer, Mansfield News Journal, March 25, 2012

Dick Mackey and George Attla raced 13-year-old dogs:

“Penny’s mother Betsy was the first dog I ever bred and raced. Betsy was thirteen years old when I retired her from the Iditarod.”

– Mackey, Dick. One Second to Glory, Alaska: Epicenter Press, 2001

“The six dogs I had left were Blue, you know my old leader, the one I talked about earlier in the book. She was 13 years old and about 40 pounds. I had her in single lead the last part of the race…”

– Attla, George, and Bella Levorsen, editor. Everything I Know About Training and Racing Sled Dogs, Rome: Arner Publications, 1974

Sebastian Schneulle forces 12-year old dog and 10-year-old dogs to race:

Kyle Hopkins: “Do you have kind of an elderly team?”

Sebastian Schnuelle: “I have definitely an elderly team.”

Kyle Hopkins: “12 years old?”

Sebastian Schneulle: “12 years old is the oldest and a couple of 10 year olds.”

– iditablog, Anchorage Daily News, March 9, 2011, Takotna checkpoint
– Kyle Hopkins is a reporter for the Anchorage Daily News.
– According to the Iditarod’s website, Takotna is 419 miles from Anchorage.

Frank Sihler forces 10-year-old blind dog to race:

“‘He [Wiley] is completely blind in one eye and can only see shadows with the other.'” [Frank] Sihler said.”

“Sihler is lagging near the back of the field, but he won’t lay the entire blame on Wiley, who is 10 years old.”

– Frank Sihler is an Iditarod musher and Wiley is his 10-year-old dog
– Rachel, D’Oro, Associated Press, March 10, 2003

9-year-old dogs forced to race:

“Age: 9

Gender: Male

Position: Leader

Musher: Charley Bejna”

– Casey Grove, Anchorage Daily News, March 4, 2014

“She [Cindy Gallea] couldn’t help but thinking how they were both ‘about the same age,’ with Hammers 9 years being approximately 63 human years.”

– Greg Munson, Post Bulletin, March 27, 2013

“Two of the musher’s [Dallas Seavey] favored dogs, lead dog Diesel and 9-year-old Guinness, joined him on the winner’s podium.”

– Kyle Hopkins, Anchorage Daily News, March 13, 2012

“Iditarod sophomore Scott Janssen was making his way down a steep section of the Dalzell Gorge when the dog collapsed.One moment, 9-year-old Marshal was pulling hard at the sled, the tug line taut as a guitar string. The next, the husky was on the ground.’Boom! Laid right down. It was like a guy my age having a heart attack,’ said Janssen, who owns an Anchorage funeral home and calls himself ‘The Mushing Mortician.'”

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

“At a time when most dogs dream of greener pastures, 9 year old sled dog, Silver and his owner, Brent Sass, are gearing up to run the grueling 1000 mile Iditarod on March 3.”

– Teresa Mahler, Spring to Mind, press release, February 27, 2012, prweb.com

“Meet the Team”

“Thornton: Leader 9-year-old female”

“Stovepipe: Leader 9-year-old male”

– Jan Steves, Meet the Team, jansteves.com, March, 2012

“In 1996, Kitty was nine years old when Jeff [King] got to Safety, the last checkpoint of the Iditarod Trail.”

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

11-year-old dogs forced to race:

Doug Swingley speaking about his dog Pepe: “He’s just eleven years old. He just can’t or he won’t go through this deep trail as fast as they do.”

– Outdoor Life Network (OLN), Rohn Checkpoint, Iditarod, 2005

“[Ramey Smyth] He got emotional, talking about his geriatric dogs who don’t act their age. Babe and Dude will turn 11 this spring.” “‘It was a long hard trudge,’ Smyth said. ‘They just needed to keep their noses to the wheel and they did….”

– Kevin Klott, Anchorage Daily News, March 13, 2008

“This season [Jessie] Royer has put in 3,600 miles of training — double her average — and will again be led by Kuling, an 11-year-old….”

– Matias Saari, Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, March 4, 2011

10-year-old dogs made to race:

“Sorlie was reported to have two 10-year-old huskies in harness.”

– Craig Medred, Anchorage Daily News, April 17, 2005

“He is almost 10 years old so he will probably not go on Iditarod again.”

– Bruce Linton is talking about his dog Vitus.
– Bruce Linton, Diary of my Iditarod Journey 2008, website article, 2008

“Meet Houston, the lynchpin in Kasilof rookie Kristy Berington’s team. On a squad of puppies, 10-year-old Houston is the role model.”

– Kyle Hopkins, Anchorage Daily News – The Sled Blog, March 11, 2010

Laureli Kinneen: “Are there any dogs that are stepping up?”

Gerry Willomitzer: “Well, I’m relying on a ten-year-old whose been with me for a long time.”

– Laureli Kinneen of KNOM radio interviewed Gerry Willomitzwer on March 16, 2010

“His fate, he [Kirk Barnum] said, belonged to a 10-year-old lead dog…”

– Craig Medred. Graveyard of Dreams: Dashed Hopes and Shattered Aspirations Along Alaska’s Iditarod Trail, Anchorage: Plaid Cabin Publishing, 2010

“Meet the Team”

“Tok: Leader 10-year-old male”

– Jan Steves, Meet the Team, jansteves.com, March 2012

“In the headlamp’s beam, the markers are visible for a mile ahead, making it almost impossible to get lost in the dark. I know Slipper is getting on in years (she’s 10) and her night vision is failing.”

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

“The team went like this: Emitt, a ten-year-old leader, and Tatters…my eighteen month old wonder in the lead.”

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

“Five dogs were 10 years old!”

– Nicki Nielsen is talking about Libby Riddles’ dogs.
– Nielsen, Nicki J. The Iditarod: Women on the Trail, Anchorage: Wolfdog Publications, 1986

Zoya DeNure and Jim Lanier race dogs who are almost 10-years-old:

 “Name: May

Age: Almost 10

Gender: Female

Weight: 40 pounds

Position: Lead

Musher: Jim Lanier, Chugiak”

– Devin Kelley, Anchorage Daily News, March 1, 2014

“Sadie will be 10 years old this spring and still travels with a bounce. Iditarod 2012 will again see her on the trail with Zoya [DeNure], with Sadie leading the way with her bright brown eyes and her funny, wobbling gait.”

– Zoya DeNure is married to John Schandelmeier
– John Schandelmeier, Anchorage Daily News, February 27, 20122

Karen Ramstead to race 10-and-a-half-year-old dog:

“Crunchie is ten and a half years old.”

– Iditarod musher Karen Ramstead talking about her dog who will race in the 2012 Iditarod.
– Kyle Hopkins, iditablog, Anchorage Daily News, February 25, 2012

Deaf dog made to race:

“[Heather High] She says the last eight dogs should be able to finish the race. One of them is Fast Eddy and he is the deaf dog.”

– Heather High is Heather Siirtola’s dog handler.
– KX- TV, March 14, 2008, website article

Mushers force skinny dogs to race:

“During the course of the race, the dogs usually lose weight….”

– Dropped Dog Manual, Iditarod Trail Committee, Inc., 2014

[At the start of the Iditarod in Anchorage, some dogs have weighed as little as 25 pounds. Dogs normally lose weight during the course of the Iditarod. If these skinny dogs manage to cross the finish line in Nome, how much skinnier are they?]

- Colleen Robertia forces Penny, a small 29-pound dog to race in 2010:

“Penny, a lean 29-pound Alaskan Husky with some German shorthair pointer blood, will pace rookie Kasilof musher Colleen Robertia’s 15 other starters to Nome.”

– Mike Campbell, Anchorage Daily News, March 8, 2010

- Colleen Robertia forces Penny, a 25 to 30-pound dog to race in 2012:

“Here’s [Colleen] Robertia describing her mousy leader, Penny, in her own words:

What’s so impressive is that she’s so little and I don’t think most kennels would give her the chance to be on a dog team really, she’s tiny.”

“I’m sure today she only weighs about 25 pounds. It’s been a long, cold couple of days. She’ll probably be up to 30 by next weekend though. “

“I have to say, I think she held her weight pretty well, for what she just went through. Because it wasn’t just a 1,000 miles. Which in itself is significant and a significant calorie burn. We had some hellacious wind. Wind that could blow her over and then some extreme cold. And the cold is really tough on these little guys.”

– Kyle Hopkins, Iditarodblog, March 15, 2012

[From the Sled Dog Action Coalition: Hellacious winds and extreme cold are common in the Iditarod. Colleen Robertia forced Penny to race in the Iditarod in 2010 when the dog weighed 29-pounds. Robertia knew that the horrible winds and severe cold were really tough on the 25 to 30-pound dog, but she made Penny race again in 2012.]

- 35-pound dogs forced to race:

“Gender: Female

Weight: 35 pounds

Position: Lead

Musher: Karin Hendrickson, Wasilla”

‘This is Muddy Waters, she comes from the ‘Blues Legends’ litter – she is just a year old.”

– Devin Kelly, Anchorage Daily News, March 3, 2014

“Name: Sebe

Age: Almost 7

Gender: Female

Weight: 35 pounds

Position: Lead

Musher: Zoya DeNure”

– Kyle Hopkins, Anchorage Daily News, March 4, 2011

“Some of her dogs weighed as little as 35 pounds.”

– Nicki Nielsen is talking about Ginger Burcham’s dogs.
– Nielsen, Nicki J. The Iditarod: Women on the Trail, Anchorage: Wolfdog Publications, 1986

- 34-pound, 2-year-old dog forced to race:

“Name: Boondocks

Age: 2

Gender: Female

Weight: 34 pounds

Musher: Aliy Zirkle”

– Kyle Hopkins, Anchorage Daily News, March 4, 2011

- 33-pound dog forced to race:

“Boondocks, a white-muzzled 3-year-old that ran with [Aliy] Zirkle’s husband, Allen Moore, in the recent Yukon Quest, is as light as 33 pounds, Moore said — half the size of many Iditarod dogs.”

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

- 33-pound dog who won’t eat forced to race:

“Boondocks, [Aliy] Zirkle’s 33-pound veteran, slept in the middle of the line, ignoring her food.

‘She’s not even kind of interested in eating right now,’ Zirkle said.”

– Kyle Hopkins and Beth Bragg, Anchorage Daily News, March 11, 2013

- 40-pound dogs forced to race:

“Name: Guinness

Age: 7

Gender: Female

Weight: 40 pounds

Position: Lead

Musher: Dallas Seavey”

“‘She’s not much of a dog. Only about 40 pounds. And the reason my dad sold her is because she was small,’ Dallas [Seavey] said.”

– Kyle Hopkins, Anchorage Daily News, March 7, 2011

“Name: Muggles

Gender: Male

Age: 3

Weight: Roughly 40 pounds

Position: Wheel

Musher: Judy Currier”

“A small dog, Muggles has a Napoleon complex and doesn’t always get along with the rest of the team. That’s why he runs as the wheel dog in the back of the roster, Currier said.”

– Kyle Hopkins, Anchorage Daily News, March 12, 2011

“She [Utah] was the sweetest kisser in the whole kennel and a steady puller, though she only weighed forty pounds.”

– Lisa Frederic raced Utah in the 2002 Iditarod.
– Frederic, Lisa. Running with Champions, Anchorage: Alaska Northwest Books, 2006

Dropped dog cover-up?

“[Melanie] Gould, who is competing in her fifth Iditarod this year, dropped Olive in Rohn, about 270 miles into the 1,100-mile race across Alaska, but officials would not say why the dog was cut from the team and flown to Anchorage. Olive was en route to her home in Talkeetna, about a three-hour drive from Anchorage, when she escaped.”

“[Chas] St. George said he couldn’t disclose why the dog was dropped from the race because such information isn’t part of the public record.”

– Tataboline Brant, Anchorage Daily News, March 10, 2005

– Chas St. George is the Iditarod’s public relations director

[Whenever a musher drops out of the race or "scratches," the Iditarod sends out a press release. These documents often report that the musher scratched because his or her dogs were sick or exhausted. Why wasn't the information about Olive made public?]

High risk for dogs racing in both Yukon Quest and Iditarod

High risk of damaging dogs who race in Yukon Quest and Iditarod back to back:

“Muscle and joint inflammation and hemorrhage resulting from endurance events like the Yukon Quest (1000 miles) can take many weeks or months to resolve, if at all. Additionally, a medical sports journal last month reported a study that documented that 81 percent of participating dogs sustained lung damage and airway dysfunction which persisted even after four months of rest. And yet, dogs from the Quest are being subjected to the rigors of the Iditarod less than 10 days later.

Furthermore, research published in the Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine (Feb., 2005) documented a 61 percent incidence of stomach ulcers occurring as a direct result of the stresses associated with endurance racing.

For dogs to be forced to race again after only 9 to 10 days subjects them to an unacceptably high risk of gastric perforation which is very painful and potentially fatal.”

– Dr. Paula Kislak, DVM, President, Association of Veterinarians for Animal Rights, letter to Sled Dog Action Coalition, March 17, 2005

Dogs get kennel cough on the Quest and are then forced to race in Iditarod:

Kyle Hopkins: “Do you think they got it [kennel cough] on the Quest?”

Sebastian Schnuelle: “Oh, yeah, for sure, Ken [Anderson] had it, Hans [Gatt] had it. So I guess we three kind of stuck together there. So I guess we all got it.”

– iditablog, Anchorage Daily News, March 9, 2011, Takotna checkpoint

– Kyle Hopkins is a reporter for the Anchorage Daily News.

Strenuous exercise can cause permanent lung damage and breathing problems in dogs with kennel cough:

“Treatment consists mainly of rest, especially in working dogs, sheepdogs, hunting dogs and shooting dogs, because permanent lung damage can result if the dog is made to take exhaustive exercise before it has fully recovered.”

– Dr. Jill Bowen, veterinarian, The Roanoke Times, April 11, 2010

Dogs do all the work in the Iditarod

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

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

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

No water for the dogs

“[Mitch] Seavey said the section of trail leading into Iditarod was the worst he’s seen in his 14 races. There were many stretches of windblown tundra where he couldn’t even find enough snow to melt for drinking water for his dogs.”

– Associated Press, March 9, 2007

Whip used on sled dogs, photo attributed to wikimedia

Whip used on sled dogs, photo attributed to wikimedia

Dog food shortages

No food for the dogs:

“His dogs were out of food.”

– Craig Medred, Anchorage Daily News, March 5, 1991

– Medred is talking about Joe Carpenter’s dogs.

“Over the next twelve hours, I ran out of food. The dogs were really hungry.”

– Brian O’Donaghue, Iditarod musher

– Freedman, Lew. More Iditarod Classics: Tales of the Trail Told by the Men & Women Who Race Across Alaska, Kenmore: Epicenter Press, 2004

“Freezing the race at Rainy Pass due to lack of dog food at Rohn River and Nikolai went against the philosophy of the Iditarod race. ‘It went against everything the Iditarod stood for.’ It was a direct intervention in the race. It took away all the musher’s choices. In the end she made the decision in terms of safety – safety for both mushers and their dogs due to the lack of food.”

“At the time of the second race halt there were a couple of teams heading to Ophir, with no communications to Ophir, before she became aware there was no dog food at Iditarod.”

– In 1985, race marshall Donna Gentry stopped the race twice because there was no dog food.

– Nielsen, Nicki J. The Iditarod: Women on the Trail, Anchorage: Wolfdog Publications, 1986

“Next he [Jeff Dixon] found the Englishman [Alan Garth] with the starving dogs.”

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

“When she [Deedee Jonrowe] and Sue [Firmin] came upon Harold Ahmasuk and Frank Sampson whose teams were sick and out of food, she turned around.”

– Nielsen, Nicki J. The Iditarod: Women on the Trail, Anchorage: Wolfdog Publications, 1986

“Really, we had nothing for us to eat and nothing for the dogs to eat.”

– George Attla was with Johnny Coffin, Bobby Vent, Dan Seavey and Dick Wilmarth.

– Attla, George, and Bella Levorsen, editor. Everything I Know About Training and Racing Sled Dogs, Rome: Arner Publications, 1974

Not enough food for the dogs:

“A former Iditarod musher, Anderson hadn’t been quite so jolly earlier in the day when he had to chase off a flock of ravens that tore into some drop bags. The all-volunteer Iditarod Air Force leaves the bags of food and extra gear at most of the 22 checkpoints along the 1,000-mile trail days before the race.

These were covered with blue tarps to keep wild animals out, but the ravens saw through the ploy.

‘(The tarp) was like a bull’s-eye for them,’ Anderson said. ‘Those ravens are pretty smart.’

The big, black crows on steroids were gathered along the lakeshore singing and dancing in celebration of what they’d found Monday morning, Anderson said. Between them and the foxes, about a dozen bags had been scavenged.

Four-time Iditarod champ Martin Buser of Big Lake pulled in and immediately knew he’d been hit.

‘Hello, hello!’ Buser said. ‘So my food was torn into, huh? Any word on Gatt’s stuff?’

Buser was referring to Hans Gatt, a three-time Yukon Quest champion who had only one drop bag waiting because the plane with his other bags was stuck in Willow due to poor visibility. When Gatt arrived, he discovered 20 percent of the supplies in his one bag had been stolen by either the rogue ravens or feisty foxes.”

– Kevin Klott, Anchorage Daily News, March 9, 2009

“He [John Schandelmeier] realized he was running short of dog food.”

– Lew Freedman, Anchorage Daily News, March 20, 1993

“The checker and dog handlers were preparing to park his team alongside the others, but Schnuelle insisted on pulling up right next to the drop bags. He did, and found only one drop bag waiting here for him. [Sebastian] Schnuelle cut it open, and found only about two gallons of dry kibble inside. ‘I can’t stay,’ he said. ‘Not enough food.’ Apparently one or more of his drop bags for Anvik didn’t make it here, or are lost somewhere.”

– Tim Bodony, Alaska Public Radio Network, March 11, 2011

“’There had been a mixup with my food bags in White Mountain so I didn’t have most of my food (there),’ Jonrowe said, adding that she stretched the grub as much as possible but her team was still running hungry at the end.”

– Matias Saari, Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, March 16, 2011

“Soon we [Dave Olesen and Martin Buser] had fed our dogs what little we each had left to offer.”

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

Missing dog food bags:

“I set about unpacking my drop bag and arranging everything into piles around my sled. I could only find two of the three bags I had sent out to the checkpoint, which meant I was missing some important ingredients for the dogs’ diet. From my years of volunteering, I knew this was just a reality on such a complicated long race…”

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

“[Emmitt] Peters searched through the pile of gunny sacks on the river for his bag of dog food and supplies.” “His bag just never made it to the checkpoint.”

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

Meat gets spoiled when its thawed and refrozen:

“Mackey also reports that he’s having issues with his dog food. Meat that Mackey and some other mushers included in their drop bags had apparently been thawed and refrozen, spoiling the meat.”

– Tim Bodony, Alaska Public Radio, March 12, 2010, APRN.org website

All mushers have had problems with meat spoiling:

Laureli Kinneen: “We heard some issues with dog food that kept thawing out. Have you had an issues with drop bags?”

Hugh Neff: “We pay a lot of money for this food. We spend a lot of time cutting it all up and getting it all organized. And, why aren’t people in Anchorage making sure that it’s properly stored? I mean, come on now, it’s the twentieth century, twenty-first now, let’s get with it. It’s happened to everybody. And, I barely had enough food in Cripple to feed the dogs. It’s just not right.”

– Laureli Kinneen of KNOM radio interviewed Hugh Neff at the Ruby checkpoint on March 12, 2010.

– Running on minimal meat, eating kibble gives Mackey’s dogs loose stools:

Laureli Kinneen: “Earlier in the race Mackey commented that he some diarrhea problems with some dogs. Those problems still seem to be occurring along with others.”

Lance Mackey: “Yeah, another thing, most of the food drop bags have been thawed out at one point and refroze so I’ve been using minimal meat. And running just on kibble gives them a little bit of a loose stool as well.”

– Laureli Kinneen of KNOM radio interviewed Lance Mackey at the Ruby checkpoint on March 12, 2010.

Did these dogs get enough to eat?

“It took Hugh a bit longer to find his food drop bags. They were too obvious within sight, right in the front row.

Unfortunately some animals had gotten into the food and his bags were both ripped open.”

Anchorage Daily News, March 5, 2012

Dog food deprivation

“On a race, I normally wouldn’t snack at all on a 50-mile run….”

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

Feeding management related to exercise:

“Endurance Athletes: Feed snacks during and after exercise”

– Virginia-Maryland College Regional College of Veterinary Medicine, website

Mushers don't know dogs they lease, rent or borrow

“In the beginning of the race she [Betsy McGuire] didn’t not even know some of the dogs who weren’t her own.”

– Nielsen, Nicki J. The Iditarod: Women on the Trail, Anchorage: Wolfdog Publications, 1986

Iditarod dogs lost in unforgiving winter wilderness

Nancy Yoshida:

“Nancy Yoshida, 58, who is from Thompson, just a few miles south of Grand Forks, was forced to drop out in her first Iditarod around midday Tuesday, and one of her dogs got loose and is lost in the unforgiving winter wilderness.”

– Paul Walsh, Star Tribune, March 11, 2009

Iditarod dogs are lost in the unforgiving winter wilderness. This photo, taken in warm weather, is just one example of Alaska's brutal terrain. Imagine what it's like in winter. Photo attributed to Andrei on Wikimedia

Iditarod dogs are lost in the unforgiving winter wilderness. This photo, taken in warm weather, is just one example of Alaska’s brutal terrain. Imagine what it’s like in winter. Photo attributed to Andrei on Wikimedia

Ramey Smyth:

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

G.B. Jones:

“In addition to taking the long way to Rohn, G.B. Jones lost a dog on the trail as the dog slipped out of its harness.”

– John Proffit, Alaska Public Radio Network, March 9, 2007

Kim Franklin:

“Kim Franklin (Bib #79), the rookie musher from the United Kingdom, was withdrawn from the 2008 Iditarod Thursday. One of the dogs, Franklin said, chewed through its gagline and two others left the team during Franklin’s nighttime run from Rainy Pass to Rohn.

Unable to locate the missing dogs, she moved on to Rohn. Under Iditarod rules, in order to continue the race, mushers must arrive at a checkpoint with the same number of dogs they left the previous checkpoint with.”

– ABC-TV, Alaska Superstation website, March 7, 2008

Matt Rossi:

“The mishap occurred 21 miles into [Matt] Rossi’s run from Nikolai to McGrath. Rossi left Nikolai at 2:26 p.m. Thursday, and along the way had to stop the team.

‘He was taking care of a tangle and they just took off,’ Barve said.

Barve’s account was that Rossi stepped off the runners on the frozen Kuskokwim River to untangle his team. But something may have spooked the dogs, causing them to flee.”

– Kevin Klott, Anchorage Daily News, March 9, 2007

Patty Friend:

“As her [Patty Friend] grip relaxed she fell off, and before she was startled awake by the cold snow, the team had gone on down the trail.”

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

“Iditarod officials say that Montana musher Cindy Gallea left the checkpoint this morning but lost two of her dogs in route to Rohn. She is looking for them now.”

– Lori Townsend, Alaska Public Radio, March 6, 2007

Martin Buser:

“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

Libby Riddles:

“I hung on for all I was worthwhile they dragged me through the deep snow on the trail. My grip on the rope was weakening all the time, then I lost it. I stopped, face in the snow, my fifteen mighty huskies lopping off into the night without me.”

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

Lavon Barve:

“I tried to put my snow hook in. As hard as the ground was, I couldn’t get it in. The dogs are over this embankment, I can’t go get them, and they won’t come back on their own.

So I thought to myself, ‘Well, I’ll walk to the bottom.’ At the time I thought I was doing the right thing, until I went over that sucker and just kept going and going and going, a quarter-mile, maybe a half-mile. And it was steep, almost steeper than you could walk up.

It was blowing sixty miles per hour right in my race. I made it up the embankment and the dogs were whining all the way, and there was a point where they all started crying and wouldn’t go farther. Now I wonder was that because I had come to the trail? I don’t know. Then I lost them.

After pulling the dogs up the embankment, I felt secure that I could leave the dogs and go twenty or thirty feet ahead and come back. Well, that snow blew in before I got back. How long does it take to walk up, turn around, and walk back? I couldn’t find the dogs.”

– Lavon Barve, Iditarod musher

– Freedman, Lew. Iditarod Classics: Tales of the Trail Told by the Men & Women Who Race Across Alaska, Seattle: Epicenter Press, 1992

Bill Cotter:

“One alder – sticking from the trail like a spear – severed the gangline linking Bill Cotter’s team together. The musher watched in horror as 17 of his 18 dogs sprinted off into the dark, leaving one wheel dog, Condor, frantically trying to pull the sled himself.”

– Doug O’Harra, Anchorage Daily News, March 5, 1991

Bill Peele:

“[Bill] Peele’s problems began March 7 when one of his dogs slipped from his grasp and bolted off the trail in the Farewell Burn.”

– Tim Murray, Anchorage Daily News, March 21, 1991

Bruce Linton:

“We were told that there was 56 miles of boulders with little or no snow and I struggled all night to keep my sled upright. I hit several trees and my sled bag ripped open completely on one side. I ended up losing my dog scooper and my axe.”

– Bruce Linton, Iditarod Journals, website article, 2007

Justin Savidis:

“The 3-year-old male from the team of Willow rookie musher Justin Savidis somehow escaped between the Nikolai and McGrath checkpoints, and Iditarod officials are on alert for the missing dog.”

– Mike Campbell, Anchorage Daily News, March 11, 2010

Blake Freking:

“But on his way toward Rainy Pass, his gang line broke and sent 4 of his dogs running loose. ‘It’s one of the worse things that can happen anytime, both training and racing; it’s always a big concern,’ said [Blake] Freking.”

– Melissa Ganje, FOX 21 News, website fox21online.com, March 31, 2010

Gerry Willomitzer (2010):

“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

Gerry Willomitzer (2013):

“Immediately, [Jeff] King saw the loose dog and heard [Gerry] Willomitzer calling for the dog. King stopped his team and tried to help catch the dog who was ‘clearly nervous’ and ‘bolting’ away from Willomitzer.

‘That dog wanted away from everything alive,’ King said.

The dog ran into King’s stopped team. The four-time Iditarod champ tried to clip him into the line, but the dog bit at King repeatedly. King tried to hang on, but was forced to let go when the dog kept fighting him and the rest of his team. The dog kept running around, before finally Willomitzer managed to get his hands on the dog.

King, focused back on untangling his team, which had balled up in the chaos. King suspects that somewhere in the mix, the dog ran away from Willomitzer again, as he could hear the Whitehorse musher yelling for the dog as King pulled away.”

– Suzanna Caldwell, Alaska Dispatch, March 10, 2013

Newton Marshall:

“The dog [May] was on loan to Jamaica musher Newton Marshall, and she got loose last Friday between Rohn and Nikolai when Marshall’s team got tangled with another team, according to a post on Marshall’s Facebook fan page.”

– Associated Press, March 15, 2013

Joe Garnie:

“Losing my team was a screwup. I had about fifteen different lies dreamed up by the time I got to Elim, but I had to tell the truth. I just didn’t put my snow hook in, going down to that shelter cabin between Koyuk and Elim.”

“I wanted to be on the hard, mail trail, the one with markers, and I ran down there to take a look and I kept going a little farther and a little farther. And I hadn’t put my snowhook in. When I came back, my team was barreling down the other trail.”

– Joe Garnie, Iditarod musher

– Freedman, Lew. Iditarod Classics: Tales of the Trail Told by the Men & Women Who Race Across Alaska, Seattle: Epicenter Press, 1992

Monique Bene:

“After ascertaining the moose’s departure, she walked along the trail hoping to find her dogs who had taken off with her sled.”

– Nielsen, Nicki J. The Iditarod: Women on the Trail, Anchorage: Wolfdog Publications, 1986

Dinah Knight:

“Her sled hit a tree. The dogs ran away with her sled.”

– Nielsen, Nicki J. The Iditarod: Women on the Trail, Anchorage: Wolfdog Publications, 1986

Bill Cowart:

“12:10 a.m. I just met Bill Cowart walking back along the trail. He is shaken and angry. His team is somewhere around here, with their noses filled by the scent of a moose. Bill is walking toward Rohn – he has given up on finding his team tonight…”

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

Garry Whittmore:

“Garry Whittemore fell from his sled; the handle pierced the upper part of his leg, and his dogs kept going.”

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

Iditarod volunteer:

“She explained that when she was bringing Merri (one of the dogs that I dropped that was in heat) to the airplane to be flown to Anchorage that the dog got nervous and slipped out of her collar. She wouldn’t listen to any of the strangers and she was now running around the wilderness.”

– Bruce Linton, Diary of my Iditarod Journey 2008, website article, 2008

Fact or fiction: Mushers care for their dogs first?

Mushers want us to believe that the very first thing they do when arriving at a checkpoint is to take care of their dogs. They want us to believe that the dogs come before taking care of themselves. But how often does that really happen?

Lance Mackey was inside a building at the Unalakleet checkpoint and had just removed his outer pants when he said to Kyle Hopkins:

“I am going to feed my dogs. You know it doesn’t look like it, but I am.”

– Kyle Hopkins, Anchorage Daily News – The Sled Blog, video interview with Lance Mackey, March 14, 2010

Callous treatment of dog with severe wounds

“As I led Jack away, I noticed he was limping. On closer examination I found where Fuzz had bit him hard on his right foot creating a number of severe puncture wounds. I made Jack comfortable for the night and crawled back into my sleeping bag. Come morning, I had the vet examine Jack.”

– 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.

[From the Sled Dog Action Coalition: Jack should have received immediate medical attention from a veterinarian.]

Alaska SPCA, AK Humane Legislation Council condemned Iditarod

“The Alaska Humane Legislation Council called the race ‘a Bataan Death March of the North.’ “The Alaska Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals also objected: ‘We do not condone this race, do not sponsor it and intend to express our negative feelings on another running of this pointless, senseless, grueling contest,’ its president wrote in a letter to the editor in 1974.”

– Doug O’Harra and Natalie Phillips, Anchorage Daily News, February 5, 2006

Mushers abandon dogs during the Iditarod

John Baker abandons his dogs:

“About an hour or so later, I saw a headlamp coming toward me on the trail. It was [John] Baker, sans [without] dogs or sled.

I asked if he was OK and he said he was.

I asked where his dogs were and why he left them.

He said they were anchored up the trail and that he had thought he was on the Iditarod Trail, but now he was pretty sure he wasn’t.

I wondered if he was delirious or just wasn’t thinking.”

– Tim Hewitt, a competitor in the Iditarod Invitational human-powered race to Nome, is talking about meeting Iditarod musher John Baker on the trail during the 2010 Iditarod dog sled race.

– Mike Campbell, Anchorage Daily News, March 1, 2011

Lavon Barve leaves his dogs:

“Visibility was limited to about ten feet when Lavon [Barve] halted his team to search for markers on foot. His frightened dogs yanked the snow hook. When the musher returned, they were gone.”

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

Alan Garth abandons his dogs:

“From the moment the Englishman [Alan Garth] had accepted a ride on the snowmachine, leaving his dog team behind, he had become subject to disqualification.”

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

Will mushers using GPS pay attention to their dogs?

“For the first time this year, mushers in the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race are allowed to bring personal GPS units on the trail.”

“‘Maybe they’ll be paying attention to their GPS and how fast they’re going and where they’re at (rather than) their dog team,’ [Lance] Mackey said of his challengers.”

“Like Mackey, [Cain] Carter is not using a GPS, he said. He follows trail markers to know where he’s going and would be tempted too look at the unit too often if he had one in the sled.”

– Kyle Hopkins, Anchorage Daily News, March 7, 2010

“I don’t use either ipod, GPS. I got dogs to listen to.”

– Musher Nikolas Petit was talking to Joshua Tucker, Alaska Public Radio, March 5, 2011

Photo of a one-eyed sled dog. Blind and one-eyed sled dogs have been forced to race in the Iditarod.

Photo of a one-eyed sled dog. Blind and one-eyed sled dogs have been forced to race in the Iditarod.

Musher turns dogs loose on the trail

“‘I pulled over just to let him [Martin Buser] pass, and I guess he had a dog in heat or something, and so they went on to my team,’ [Newton] Marshall said.

Buser told [Rick] Swenson that the dogs tangled and he was forced to turn some of the team loose to unwrap the teams.

Some male dogs in Buser’s team chased the female in heat down the trail, Marshall said.”

– Kyle Hopkins, Anchorage Daily News, March 7, 2011

“Celine is in heat and created a ruckus when Buser’s team came upon Newton Marshall outside of Rainy Pass. Marshall had stopped at a tight spot on the trail, Buser said.

The dogs jumped on Celine.

‘So to save her, I turned everybody loose. Or a lot of them loose,’ Buser said.”

– Kyle Hopkins, Anchorage Daily News, March 8, 2011

Mushers don't clean up their team's turds, spilt food or trash at checkpoints

“The checkpoint routine, which I did several times getting back up to speed in Finger Lake, goes like this. Stop the team in the right place, with or despite the well meaning actions of the checkers and various people hanging around. Hopefully grab a bale of straw on the way by, or unsnap all the tug lines, hook the front of the team down, and go get a bale. Then flake out a nice bed of clean straw for each dog, kicking the last team’s turds, spilt food, and trash out of the way.”

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

From the Sled Dog Action Coalition: Diseases spread more easily at checkpoints because mushers don’t clean up after their dogs. Trash left behind can injure dogs.

Mushers wear dangerous spiked shoes

“…Mushers had spiked shoes on their feet.”

– Craig Medred, Alaska Dispatch, March 20, 2014

[Iditarod mushers attach spikes under the soles of their shoes to prevent them from slipping on snow and ice. Dogs could suffer horrific injuries and pain if a musher stepped on paws.]

Iditarod compared to recreational mushing

Recreational mushers driven by fun, not competition:

“Unlike more competitive counterparts in the Iditarod and Yukon Quest races, recreational mushers like [Zak] Richter are driven by a different purpose than reaching the finish line as fast as they can. They simply enjoy traveling through the country with dogs at their own pace.”

“‘It’s having a mindset of doing what the family can do, not running at the maximum potential of your youngest dog,’ Richter said.”

– Tim Mowry, Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, March 20, 2008

Mushers attach spikes under the soles of their shoes to prevent them from slipping on ice. Dogs could suffer horrific injuries and pain if a musher were to step on paws. Photo attributed to Clayoquot on wikimedia.

Iditarod mushers attach spikes under the soles of their shoes to prevent them from slipping on snow and ice. Dogs could suffer horrific injuries and pain if a musher stepped on paws. Photo attributed to Clayoquot on wikimedia.

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

[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