March madness…

By Mary Hicks
Buffalo Bulletin
March 19, 2014

Alaskan Dallas Seavey wins 2014 Iditarod sled dog race in record time … won $50,000 and a new truck. I wonder what his lead dog won … hmmm.

The Iditarod claims more bad press. I felt terrible about missing the Bulletin deadline, my first in over 40 years … sorry! Anyway, this will be my last column about the Iditarod. I’ll let the big boys handle the bad news from now on.

An interview by Greg Cote of the Miami Herald quotes, “The dogs are running again, in many cases running until they drop, in some cases running until they die.

“The 30th Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race is underway (actually, the race was over two weeks ago) in Alaska to see which team can trek 1,100 miles the fastest. (last year’s) winner made it in nine days. The bizarre competition involves 65 ‘mushers,’” drivers along for the ride as their slaves – 16 dog teams, at least at the start – do the hard labor, at times encouraged by their masters’ whips.

“It is March madness of a too literal sort.

“Dogs die; it is a matter of how many. The Iditarod toll was 117 deaths as the last race commenced Saturday (almost three weeks ago). The real figure is higher because casualties from the early years are not known. The figure excludes dogs who perish in training, or who later die as a result of the sanctioned torture.”

George Diaz, writer for the Orlando Sentinel said, “The unofficial death count, though the numbers lie, because it isn’t possible to follow all the bloody paw prints of innocent animals that have died in the name of this barbaric ‘sport.’”

“They have been strangled in towlines, gouged by sleds, suffered liver injury, heart failure, pneumonia and ‘external myopathy,’ a condition in which a dog’s muscles and organs deteriorate during extreme or prolonged exercise.

“A previous race winner was banned in 1990 after accusations that he struck a dog with a snow hook. In 1985, a woman musher watched the race from the sidelines after a moose stomped on her team of dogs.”

Jim Reeves (not the Western singer… I don’t think!) worked for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and he said, “Today is the day when the dogs begin to die. The annual I-Killed-A-Dog-Race starts today in Alaska.

“That Arlington’s Randy Chappel is among the 65 mushers who will drive a team of dogs 1,150 miles – about the distance between New York and Orlando or Fort Worth and Cleveland – brings the story home even more poignantly.

“The real question is not who will win this year’s Iditarod. The question is this: How many dogs will die to make it happen?”

Joe Saraceno, “USA Today,” had this to say: “Tom Classen has lived outside the ‘Lower 48’ for more than 40 years. The retired 81-year-old Air Force colonel has long enjoyed the inspiring beauty of his state, where themes of outdoor adventure and rugged individualism dominate.

“This is the weekend he dreads.

“This is the time of year when he hangs his head in shame at the ugliness of some of his fellow Alaskans. Classen suffers, but not in silence. ‘GOD’, he pleads, ‘WE’VE GOT TO STOP THIS DAMN KILLING.’

“He is angry. I felt the same way last summer when, vacationing in Alaska, I was forced to listen to (a particular woman’s) propaganda about the Iditarod. The champion musher trotted out her puppies in a well-rehearsed pretense designed to whitewash the bloodshed of what I call the ‘Ihurtadog.’”

The Iditarod is certainly not all bad – good things have come from the races, such as the 1925 serum run to Nome, also known as the “Great Race of Mercy” when a diphtheria epidemic threatened Nome, particularly the native Alaska children who had no immunity to “the white man’s disease” and the nearest quantity of antitoxin was in Anchorage.

There are team owners who love their dogs and make every effort to treat them well, but there are still those who use force to “train” them. I’m afraid I cannot be convinced that all the dogs love this kind of life. And I believe that, if God had wanted these beautiful creatures to run hundreds of miles under these conditions, he would have given them runners instead of legs!

For the animals, thank you for caring.