Iditarod no more than dog abuse

by Jon Saraceno
USA Today
March 5, 2001

Margery Glickman’s intent wasn’t to become a crusader when she made that fateful summertime trip to Alaska nearly three years ago. Vacationing with her two teenage boys, she wanted to explore and enjoy the awe-inspiring beauty of our 49th state.

Instead, she was horrified. “I saw something that was very disturbing to me — and I was angry,” she says.

Today, she remains an advocate for our four-legged friends who cannot express their agony and distress, at least not in human terms. “I’m not a professional animal-rights activist,” Glickman says. “I continue to be persistent because I continue to be outraged.”

What’s a 53-year-old, Brooklyn (N.Y.)-born mother of three, now living in Miami, so incensed about?

What Glickman witnessed in that summer of 1998 were Alaskan sled dogs living in their own filth, tethered in kennels in what she believed were inhumane conditions, forced to repeatedly run laps while attached to exercise wheels. (Dogs also are hooked up to all-terrain vehicles for runs).

The point of all this commercialized stupidity, of course, is to train for the Iditarod, the 1,150-mile trek of exploitative animal abuse. The race officially began Sunday north of Anchorage and should conclude within two weeks in Nome, Alaska.

I’m not impressed.

When humans start pulling the sleds, with dogs standing behind them barking out commands, then I’ll be impressed. Until then, harness me to Glickman’s team on behalf of man’s best friend (check out

This sick marathon is operated by masquerading mercenaries who romanticize the race as some sort of noble man vs. nature test of endurance. It’s really shameful marketing carried out on the backs of defenseless animals.

Last month, two dogs died during the Yukon Quest International. Another had to be airlifted after he accidentally drank stove fuel. Driver error and negligence are as common as wandering moose. A year ago, during the Copper Basin 300, a musher was videotaped beating one of his dogs.

Injury and death are Iditarod partners. Vets say that’s expected during a grueling event. Gee, thanks.

Iditarod dogs also are subjected to random drug testing. Among the banned substances: anabolic steroids, diuretics, tranquilizers and opiates. Blood doping is prohibited. If drugs are not an issue, why do race organizers bother to ban them?

That is but one reason why Glickman’s nonprofit Sled Dog Action Coalition mailed “Dead Dog Awards” to CEOs of 30 corporations. Among those listed by the Iditarod as sponsors are Chevron, True Value Hardware and Sears.

“I decided when I was in Alaska that I was going to try and do something,” she says. “One of my objections, besides the race itself, are those awful kennels. I wrote the Iditarod committee about them. I’ve never heard from them.”

The retired schoolteacher, a soft-spoken woman, is painted by critics as a diatribe-filled do-gooder who knows nothing about the issue. I guess you have to be Dr. Doolittle to tell when a dog is being driven to desperation and exhaustion. Her strident opposition comes from many sources.

“Who, you are probably wondering, is Margery Glickman?” wrote Craig Medred of the Anchorage Daily News, a race sponsor. “She is one of those little guttersnipes who have found a new and ideal habitat on the Internet (There) is clearly someone or something called Margery Glickman making itself the Iditarod’s bad dream of the moment.”

I think I know who Margery Glickman is.

It’s some others I’m not so sure about.

And so the nightmare continues.