Commentary

I-did-a-what?

2008_Iditarod_Anchorage_(2311631691)

Iditarod fans cheer a musher leaving Anchorage/David Weekly/Wikimedia Commons

News analysis

The most telling observation about the problem today facing the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race comes midway through a December report from a consultant summarizing an anonymous survey earlier sent those charged with managing “The Last Great Race.”

“The survey found that almost everyone who responded perceived that they knew the purpose and the principles of achieving that purpose,” wrote Dennis McMillian of The Foraker Group. “However, a large percentage perceived that other staff and members did not understand.”

His observation begs a simple question:

What exactly is the Iditarod today?

A wilderness adventure race? A doggy NASCAR? An event “all about the dogs?” A purely professional sports competition in which the goal is, as the late Oakland Raider’s owner Al Davis once so clearly defined it, “just win, baby.”

The only thing clear these days is that the Iditarod isn’t what it was no matter how hard it tries to cling to the old days.

Redington’s vision

“The race pits man and animal against nature, against wild Alaska at her best and as each mile is covered, it is a tribute to Alaska’s history and the role the sled dog’ played.  The Iditarod is a tie to that colorful past,” the Iditarod website says.

(Joe) Redington had two reasons for organizing the long-distance Iditarod Race:  to save the sled dog culture and Alaskan huskies, which were being phased out of existence due to the introduction of snowmobiles in Alaska; and to preserve the historical Iditarod Trail between Seward and Nome.  These reasons were his life’s work.”

The bold-face type there comes from the badly out-of-date “About” page of the Iditarod website.

How badly out of date? The only musher mentioned from the modern area is Lance Mackey, the four-time champ who flew so high before falling so far. He won four races in a row starting in 2007 and ending in 2010.

Since then, he has finished 16th, 22nd, 19th and 43rd before scratching last year and saying he was done. Mackey gets a brief mention at the end of the description of what the race is “about.”

“There are names which are automatically associated with the race — Joe Redington, Sr., co-founder of the classic and affectionately known as ‘Father of the Iditarod,'” the page says. “Rick Swenson from Two Rivers, Alaska, the only five-time winner, the only musher to have entered 20 Iditarod races and never finished out of the top ten in those races. Dick Mackey from Nenana who beat Swenson by one second in 1978 to achieve the impossible photo finish after two weeks on the trail. Norman Vaughan, who at the age of 88 finished the race for the fourth time and led an expedition to Antarctica in the winter of 93–94. Four time winner, Susan Butcher, was the first woman to ever place in the top 10. And of course, Libby Riddles, the first woman to win the Iditarod in 1985.

‘There are others — Herbie Nayokpuk, Shishmaref; Emmitt Peters, Ruby, whose record set in 1975 was not broken until 1980, when Joe May, Trapper Creek, knocked seven hours off the record… the flying Andersons, Babe and Eep, from McGrath.. Rick Mackey, who wearing his father Dick’s winning #13, crossed the finish line first in 1983, making them the first  father and son to have both won an Iditarod… Lance Mackey, Dick’s son and  Rick’s brother, also wearing bib #13 on his first win… Joe Runyan, 1989 champion and the only musher to have won the Alpirod (European long distance race), the Yukon Quest, (long distance race between Fairbanks and Whitehorse, YT) and the Iditarod…  The list goes on, each name bringing with it a tale of adventure, a feeling of accomplishment, or a touch of hero. Each musher, whether in the top ten, or winner of the Red Lantern (last place) has accomplished a feat few dare to attempt. Each has gone the distance and established a place for their team in the annals of Iditarod lore.”

Redington is long dead. So, too, Vaughan and Butcher. May last raced in 1982, Dick Mackey in 1987, Petters in 2000, Rick Mackey and Libby Riddles in 2004, and Runyan in 2008 – a decade ago. Swenson walked away in 2012, retiring without officially ever announcing a retirement.

The Anderson brothers have been gone from the scene so long they wouldn’t recognize most of the dogs running in the Iditarod today – dogs much different from the “Alaskan huskies” Redington wanted to save.blurb

New trail order

The dogs of Redington’s day were trapline and village dogs bred to live in the unforgiving  world of wild Alaska. Those dogs didn’t need coats to survive in the cold. They had fur to protect them. No more.

A lot of the fur has been bred off most Iditarod dogs. Why?

Performance.

“The Alaskan sled dog has evolved over the past century from a working dog, originally developed to haul cargo sleds over snow-covered terrain to an elite modern-day athlete,” Heather Huson of the Institute of Arctic Biology at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, observed in a 2012 examination of the genetics of today’s Iditarod dogs.

What Huson and her colleagues discovered about that “modern-day athlete” was something a lot of dog mushers figured out long ago: endurance is tied not to a dog’s ability to survive in the cold, but its ability to run in the warm.

“Heat tolerance is a measure of whether a dog reaches or nears a state of heat exhaustion (inability to reduce body temperature) while running in warm temperatures (approximately 19 to 50 degrees),” Huson wrote. “The body temperature rise associated with heat exhaustion causes an increased heart rate, muscle weakness, dizziness or confusion, rapid breathing, nausea, and vomiting.”

Fifty degree temperatures are uncommon during the Iditarod race in March, but it’s not unusual for the race to be run with temperatures in the 20s and sometimes warmer, especially when a bright sun is bouncing off highly reflective snow. In the latter conditions, in fact, even if the temperature is less than 20 degrees, the bodies of dark-colored dogs act like solar collectors to increase the warming effect on their bodies.

To deal with these conditions, mushers have bred dogs for thinner and thinner coats. That Alaskan husky Redington wanted to save is long gone. It’s once close cousin – the Siberian husky – is hanging on but mainly as a relic or show dog.

Siberia

The Siberian husky is what most people still think of when the word “sled dog” is muttered. Sibs, as they are often called, look a lot like “Yukon King,” the Malamute that led the team of TV’s “Sergeant Preston of the Yukon. “

There is no record of when the last Malamute ran the Iditarod. It might well have been the first race. They are long gone: too big, too slow; too furry.

But some Sibs still go the distance.

Lisbet Norris and Nils Pedersen of Fairbanks cling to a Sib tradition that dates back to Lisbet’s grandfather, the late and legendary Earl Norris of Willow. Norris was a contemporary of Redington’s and successfully raced Sibs before the breed began to fall behind the crossbreeds that have been coming on for decades.

Earl and Natalie’s grand-daughter is carrying on the tradition even though the Sibs keep falling farther and farther behind.

“The Norris’ are committed to maintaining the workability of the Siberian Husky,” Lisbet and Pedersen say on their website, Arctic Dog Adventure Company. “(Lisbet) completed the Iditarod, Alaska’s famous 1000-mile sled dog race, in 2014, 2015, and 2016, finishing as the #1 Siberian Husky team in 2015 and 2016, each time finishing a day faster than the year before.”

Despite the speed improvements, she only moved back in the finishing order over the course of those years. Her 2016 finish in 11 days, 21 hours, 43 minutes – a time that would have won all but three Iditarod’s prior to 1986 – left her 65th. Only a year earlier, she’d run a day slower and finished 48th.

Last year, her time would have put her 60th in a shrunken Iditarod field of only 72 starters. There were 85 in 2016. There are 68 teams ready to start the race on March 3 of this year.  The race reached its peak early in the 2000s when the number of entrants started pushing toward 100. The field was then capped at 100, and the requirements for entry were stiffened to make it harder to get onto the trail.

Redington wanted a race open to anyone who could cobble together enough dogs to form a team to try to get to Nome. Some of those teams were bad; some of the mushers borderline incompetent. Entry requirements have made both the mushers and teams better.

They have also helped to speed the race from top to bottom. Mitch Seavey from Sterling set a record time of 8 days, 3 hours and 40 minutes in the 2017 Iditarod. But he finished only four days ahead of Cindy Abbott who arrived last to collect the red lantern.

A decade earlier, the time between first and last was 7 days, 6 hours. It generally fluctuated in the range of 6 to 8 days from the 1970s into the 2000s when the Iditarod really began to change.

The struggle against nature

For most of it existence, the Iditarod largely fit that “About” description of a race that “pits man and animal against nature, against wild Alaska.”

Technology and human nature changed that. The technology came in the form of ever better snowmachines, or snowmobiles as most Americans call them. They enabled the Iditarod to pack in a better trail for the race and eventually to drag groomers to make it an even better trail.

As the trail got better, the race went faster. As the race went faster, the mushers demanded better trail to avoid accidents at speed. Narrow sections of trail were widened. New trails were cut to avoid difficult to cross patches of overflow that were in some places so bad mushers simply called them “glaciers.”

A race that began as a challenge to get over the Alaska Range before anyone seriously thought about racing became an event in which people increasingly though about a racing a checkpoint earlier each year until the racing was rolled all the way back to when the official clock started at the restart in Willow.

And as the Iditarod worked to improve and maintain the trail up and over the Alaska Range and on into the Interior, simple progress changed things elsewhere. As snowmachines become more and more like other modern motor vehicles, travel in the Interior ticked upward and pretty soon there was a winter highway on the Yukon River and across the Kaltag Portage and on from there for about 300 miles along the Bering Sea Coast to Nome.

Faster trail and faster dogs meant faster races, and it wasn’t long before an arms war was underway to go faster. Mushers intensified their breeding programs to get faster dogs. Some turned to doping. Anti-doping rules were enacted.

The amoeba simply popped out elsewhere: carbon fiber sleds, the sit-down sled to help mushers rest better while the dogs ran so they could care for the dogs better when they rested, more efficient cookers to save time in checkpoints, better nutrition, better training.

Four-time champ Jeff King from Denali Park put dogs in a sealed barn and lowered the oxygen content to simulate the altitude training popular with human runners and cyclists. Four-time champ Martin Buser of Big Lake obtained a treadmill he hoped would get “up to 20 mph so he can put his dogs through some speed workouts,” Josh Saul reported at AlaskaDispatch.com in 1999. 

High-intensity speedwork in various forms is a mainstay of the world’s top human marathon runners.  Four-time champ Dallas Seavey of Willow one-upped Buser’s treadmill by building a longer one and putting it in a refrigerated trailer (see heat issues above) so he could start the Iditarod training season earlier in the year. 

More and more

Dogs that used to be run 1,000 to 2,000 miles in preparation for the Iditarod were started on programs that saw them running 4,000 or more. Some were rumored to be running a lot more. A few mushers talked about taking teams on such long runs in training they had to swap out tired drivers. Other mushers expressed opinions it was impossible to put so many miles on the dogs before the race without chemical help.

A couple mentioned Lance Armstrong, who in a 2001 Nike commercial muttered these famous lines: “Everybody wants to know what I’m on. What am I on? I’m on my bike, bustin’ my ass six hours a day. What are you on?”

Armstrong was on his bike bustin’ his ass six hours a day, too. What enabled him to do that, the world was later to learn, was drugs. Whether any of that has gone on in Iditarod since the race started drug testing, which itself began because mushers thought there was a lot of doping going on, nobody knows.

There is no-out-of-competition testing during training. And the Iditarod went decades without publicly revealing a doping positive. The first case came this year and involved Seavey, who says he didn’t do it.

Whatever has been going on, the Iditarod has in the past decade been getting faster and faster. Some have in recent years suggested it might be a good idea to slow it down, but in general it’s to Iditarod’s advantage to get the race over with quick.

A quick race minimizes the costs of maintaining checkpoints in villages and remote locations, and makes for better relations with villagers who like to see the Iditarod hit town and just as much like to see the intrusion end and the occupying Iditarod army of checkpoint personnel, veterinarians, mushers and media move on.

All in all, all of these factors have helped to make the Iditarod ever more of a race and ever less of an adventure. While the race hasn’t saved the “Alaskan husky” of Redington’s day – in fact, it could be argued it has helped eliminate it – the race has helped preserve the historic trail.

Much of the trail is now regularly traveled by snowmachines, dog teams, hikers and cyclists on fat bikes. Unfortunately, the sum total of all of them has pushed the wilderness back a little.

The Iditarod is no longer as described in that “About” statement. It is something else. What that something is not clear.

“While the board seem to perceive it understands the organization’s purpose more than the staff thinks they do; both board and staff were aligned in the perception that they have no clear direction,” McMillian wrote. “This perception was also voiced by most of the sponsors and participants who contacted Foraker.”

About all that’s clear about the Iditarod these days is that the ceremonial Anchorage start is a great pageant in Alaska’s largest city, and the restart the next day up the George Parks Highway in Willow is a great excuse for a lot of people to journey out along the Susitna and Yentna rivers, on to Skwentna and Shell Lake beyond for almost 100 miles, to party and drink a lot of alcohol.

Beyond that, the race becomes the focus of 20,000 or so fans who subscribe to the Iditarod Insider to stay up-to-date with the latest trail gossip and checkpoint splits and….

How Iditarod completes that sentence will determine if it grows or withers. Sponsors don’t sign on to sporting events for nothing. They want to know they’re getting some bang for their buck. They want to know they’re being associated with something in which people are interested.

The Superbowl – a sporting event that lasts for but a few hours today – is expected to bring in $500 million in revenue for NBC. Why? Because about 100 million people are expected to watch.

The Iditarod will never attract 100 million viewers, but in order to grow interest it needs to know both what sells and what it’s selling.

 

 

 

 

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36 replies »

  1. Anyone who would give dogs drugs in order to win or to achieve a particular rank, is more likely to whip, hit and beat his/her dogs. A person obsessed with winning and/or rank does whatever it takes.

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  2. Steve; do you own a dog team? Just wondering about your background with dogs. You do sound like you care a lot. The sport needs that.
    Mush with Pride had no incentive, it was just a feel good program. Best Care has substantial reward attached to the care protocol.

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    • John,
      My first dog was a Siberian Husky…
      When I came to AK I quickly adopted a dog off the “board” that turned out to be a large Mackenzie River Husky…he was my ski partner for many years.
      The dog that changed my life though came injured off of Gary Paulson’s lot…originally “owned” by Zack Steer.
      This dog named Topaz had run to Nome several times yet I was left to care for him at the end of his life.
      Since them, I have uncovered more than I wished were true of mushing in Alaska.
      Currently we have a set of 6 month old husky pups that we are training to ski jor around the hood.
      I am a person who knows first hand how dogs can enrich our lives.

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  3. The idea of registering only 20 dogs by Dec. 1 would definitely help out a few of the issues people are mentioning as problems.
    1. Training would be more focused on care rather than just performance at the moment.
    2. It is likely that some teams would start with fewer dogs based on what happened in training.
    3. Fewer dogs means the entire team might need to be reined in a bit n the race course. Right now, with 16 pulling a light sled, dogs become somewhat expendable.
    Craig is absolutely right, sick or injured dogs are not an asset to,the team. No competitive musher is going to risk carrying a marginal dog from Ophir to Iditarod, or thru the Burn.
    Yeah, I started the Quest with 8 dogs and they all finished. I didn’t feel handicapped. I also started the Henry Hahn 200 with 8 and came in 2nd. All 8 looked pretty sharp at the finish. That was a 14 dog race. Point being; more is not always better and less is not always cruel.
    The $100 drop fee might make some people think before starting the race with a marginal dog? That was just a thought. Other suggestions?

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    • The $100 could help level the field a little bit. A savvy musher lacking the big bucks could save some money but racing in a away that minimizes dropped dogs. Might even start a trend.

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    • In theory sick or injured dogs may not be an asset. But, in reality Iditarod mushers DO FORCE sick and injured dogs to race. In fact, some mushers have started the Iditarod with sick dogs. Some dogs have started with kennel cough, one had cancer another had mastitis.

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      • Lisbeth: that is the uninformed comment of someone who has definitely never run dogs. you can’t force them to run. i’ve been around the shitshows when people tried to do that. it simply doesn’t work. a dog that is in serious pain will quit, period. end of of story. and then it doesn’t care if you beat it to death. it’s like the moose that decides to give up, lie down and let wolves eat it alive. it’s an animal response. and a dog that will limp along while in some degree of pain (i’ve limped along in pain in a few races myself; pain is a relative thing) will slow the whole team down. a musher is better off carrying that dog, or doping it and getting to the next checkpoint where if you immediately drop the dog it will go to the dropped down lot where there is no drug testing.

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      • Of course dogs can be forced to run and ARE forced to run all the time. There was that race champ who shocked his dogs with a cattle prod to make them run and told other mushers to do the same. That’s just one example of the violence committed against the dogs.

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  4. Couple of things. As Bill pointed out– my suggestions are a start point. The replies illustrate exactly the issue I am addressing. I see bitching about what is said or done, but no constructive alternative suggestions. I don’t expect the ideas that came off the top of my head to be a finished product set in stone. They are discussion points to modify as all would like. Remember that compromise is the art of making all parties equally dissatisfied.
    As for the comment that Best Care does nothing to alleviate performance culling and abuse…. obviously that person did not read very well….or completely understand the points that Best Care addresses. Look up the record keeping requirements and the oversight committee.
    Tethering? Well, I am a tethering advocate. If one disagrees with tethering, then my personal view is that individual has never been around large groups of dogs. Esp. Working dogs. Also, one must understand that Kotzebue is not downtown L.A. Or even Willow. One size does not fit all……remember the art of compromise.

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    • John,
      Please explain how best care would address the culling of unwanted litters of which a dog lot of 100 K9’S could have 6 or 7 “unwanted” litters a year since few dogs are spayed or neutered?
      I feel these situations are not addressed when you say “performance cull” and as for chaining thousands of Alaska’s greatest athletes throughout their entire lives…well, that will probably not be the “best care” possible.
      My advice is do more with less…that is what made the old sourdoughs great in the old days and many trappers only had dog teams of 7.

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  5. Is my eyesight off, or, are certain sentences in black font and others in grey? I know this sounds crazy, but I am wondering if my eyes are playing tricks on me.

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    • i believe the grey font type is for links. click it and see if a link pops up. or it could be the other way around. it was, i believe, grey with the links turning type black, but somebody thought the grey was hard to read so i asked my IT help to make the main copy black and the links grey a few days ago.

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  6. Craig wrote a good article here. Rayme — I also like your comments. It is true that transparency can save the direction of the sport. I know little about the Iditarod Board. I do know that the ITC will need people at the helm that can think outside the box.
    I recently presented the Best Care guide to the finishers club of the Yukon Quest. I had done the same to the Iditarod Finishers Club. The first comment I got from both places was; “we need to keep this among ourselves.”
    Dog racing is not composed of the “good ole boys club.” It is a composite of mushers, organizers, sponsors and fans. If you see your friend rob a bank — do you report it or let him be? If I see something wrong with our sport I am going to speak up. I would only hope others do the same, whether they agree with me or no, at least we can have a dialog. The sitting on their hands by the finishers clubs of both major races and waiting to see how the wind blows is crap.
    Rayme, I don’t know how to get the race closer to how you — and I envision it. But, I bet that if you and I sat down together with a few other like-minded folks, we would come up with some pretty good suggestions.
    Folks got their undies in a bunch when Best Care was presented, not reading the part about it being a starting point for dialog.
    What ever happened to working things out? All we need is a starting point to slow down the Iditarod.
    Here it is; Iditarod sleds need to have a minimum basket length of 8′. Runners must be wood. All sled components, other than the brush bow, must also be wood. Minimum sled weight is 100#. No trailers. No add-ones, behind the driver. 14- dog maximum. Food- drop points; Skwentna, Rohn, Nikolai, Takotna, Iditarod, Eagle Island, Kaltag, Unalakleet, Koyuk, White Mountain. All other checkpoints are dog drops. $100 per dog when a dog is dropped.
    Here is the kicker requirement; On the last day of Iditarod entries, ( December 1st), a maximum of 20 dogs must be registered with the ITC. No other dogs may be added to the team after that point.
    That’s my starting point.

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    • John: i need to commend you on offering some simple solutions – especially that 20-dog registration – that would go a long way to not only cleaning up some Iditarod practices we all know need to be cleaned up but leveling the playing field. but boy, i can already hearing the howling of protest from certain mushers.

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    • John,
      This approach has been tried before, remember “mush with pride”…
      Your ideas speak nothing of the constant chaining of dogs…culling unwanted litters or running dogs till they die of exhaustion.
      I recently followed a “blood trail” home on the little willow as I snowmachined back from the bush.
      The photos were sent to a neighbor and she was appalled by what she saw.
      Although none of my neighbors will admit that it was one of their dogs bleeding out, the paw prints on the trail and marks from the sled’s runners show this was a dog team.
      This sport is antiquated as are most of the Alaskan policies in place today.

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    • If the Iditarod charged $100 for each dropped dog, more than ever, mushers would force sick and injured dogs to race.

      If mushers were required to register a maximum of 20 dogs on December 1,
      who would race the following March in the Iditarod, what would happen if some of these dogs died or got sick or were injured? Theoretically, a musher could be left with only a handful of registered dogs who would have to pull him over a 1,000 mile course. That’s big-time animal abuse!

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      • Remember two things here: 1) this is just a starting point and 2) one of the main goals is to slow down these dogs.
        Keeping the slowest dogs in the team accomplishes the slowing down goal. These competitive teams are dropping their slower dogs in order to win (obviously) but this is what’s also behind the “culling” to keep improving their speed. I can see the 20 dog limit being something to pursue to get away from these huge kennels that are probably doing their share of culling.
        Nobody is forcing “sick and injured dogs to race” now and $100 fee is not something that will cause it to change. Vets would keep these dogs from continuing.
        I believe that the minimum number of dogs to finish is still 5 but no competitive musher would think of starting with 5. No reason that number couldn’t finish, but they would no longer be competitive, and it would not be “big-time animal abuse.”

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      • Agree with the potential effect of $100/dropped dog. “Theoretically, a musher could be left with only a handful of registered dogs who would have to pull him over a 1,000 mile course. ” Theoretically” but highly unlikely. Most kennels do not seriously train many more than 20 or 22 as it is. But that is the point of the suggestion; don’t trash your dogs in training. The Quest has been done with as little 8 happy dogs start to finish. If necessary have a minimum start number. But for the sake of argument let’s say someone showed up with “only a handful of registered dogs who would have to pull him over a 1,000 mile course” How far would this ‘theoretical’ musher get? Not far. If nothing else they would fall too far behind and get DQ’d.

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      • Bill Yankee, veterinarians do not pull sick and injured dogs out of the race. Vets don’t have that authority. And, furthermore, the dogs are forced to run. Martin Buser spoke about a dog who slept while running. Don’t you think the dog would have preferred to lie down? But, the bottom line is that the dogs don’t have a choice about being hitched to the tow line. When mushers routinely drug their dogs in order to win or rank high, it’s naive to think mushers don’t also whip, hit, kick, bite and shock their dogs.

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      • Lisbeth, perhaps I should have said vets “could” keep certain dogs from running. This could be point that you could champion in John’s above list.
        The rest of your post is complete, and utterly, bullshit!

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      • Lisbeth: i’m going to have to underline Bill Yankee’s comment here. your comments are in conflict with what actually happens on the trail. technically, Iditarod vets can’t pull a dog, but i’ve been around them when as a practical matter they’ve done exactly that. and no musher is going to hitch to the towline a dog that doesn’t want to go. it’s counter productive. a dog that doesn’t want to pull at full speed is just going to slow the rest of the team. this is also why none of them are “forced” to run. some of them might be “programmed” to run. the whole treadmill issue today, the breeding out of that old Siberian trait of self-protection, and some pretty sophisticated Pavlovian conditioning could well be programming some dogs. but that’s different from being “forced.” and the race is a long way from the days of “whip, hit, kick, bite and shock.” yes, some people did that way back when. today, at the pace the race is moving, it would be – as a simple practical matter – a waste of time.

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      • Craig, read “Back of the Pack.” Bowers talks about keeping dogs on his team the vets thought he should drop. But, really, veterinarians are there for the mushers, not the dogs. My favorite story is one regarding Lance Mackey who put a dog in heat in lead. A dog in back ripped out all of his toenails trying to get to her. Ripped out toenails are extremely painful. But Mackey said he was too stubborn to drop the dog and the veterinarians allowed Mackey to keep racing him.

        Craig, I’m surprised that you think people who dope their dogs in training or during the race wouldn’t beat, whip, kick and bite dogs to make them run or run faster. Have you read Lead, Follow of Get Out of the Way by Mitch Seavey?

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      • Veterinarians are not there for enforcement, it’s not their profession and it’s not their role here. That is what race judges are for. In the Quest judges can and do pull dogs. But experience and personality play a role too. I have personally seen a long time Quest vet insist on a dog being dropped and stand there until the handler came and picked it up.

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  7. It would be easy to get the Iditarod back to the basics of Iditarod mushing and save the sled dog culture that Joe Redington envisioned. Joe based his vision on historical freight dog mushing on the Iditarod Trail. So, bring back freight dogs. Make each team be required to have at least one Malamute that weighs 140 lbs or more. Then each year require an additional Malamute on the team, until eventually the teams are all freight dogs. From personal experience, I guarantee that this will slow the race down significantly. The pace will be safer and dogs certainly won’t suffer speed-related injuries. Also, when teams will be out on the trail for 25 or more days at Malamute pace, so you can be assured storms will come in and some old-time trail conditions will occur, to offset the stigma of modern day manicured trails. Heck, the Malamute is the Alaska state dog, and way more photogenic than current hybrid dogs … so it should be the dog of the Iditarod! Only Malamutes can save the Iditarod! (ha!)

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  8. Its pretty obvious the Iditarod Trail Committee is posing as a bogus 501c3 charitable organization. Given four lines on their 990 tax filing to state the organization’s mission, all the ITC came up was: NONE.

    I’m sure if some IRS auditors sniffed around a little, they would find the ITC is getting way more than it is giving back in terms of charity, and it still can’t finish out the year in the black.

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  9. how about requiring race teams contain a certain % or Alaskan Huskies, both starting and ending? Should not be too hard to figure out dna testing to decide what will be considered an Alaskan Husky.
    Allow fewer stashes of food and supplies along the trail. Require mushers to haul more supplies. Would slow teams and require dogs that were capable of hauling weight.

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  10. Steve . I admire your passion for all things Alaska and Iditarod. The Link you provided goes to a money making group that profits directly off twisting the truth into lies .These people providing this twisted information are doing an ill to society . The Iditarod needs a program to provide truth and transparency as PeTa groups spread mostly misinformation mixed with truth which is worse than a flat lie as it confuses everyone not in the inner circle. Yes mushers can improve but so can pet owners and all people . Some are better than others but that’s life on all corners of earth. For your own Information Iditarod is not a money making event . It is a relic of a bygone era with people who still hold that spirit trying to stay one foot in the past before technology overcomes us . It is the vestige of the courageous hardworking spirit of man . All mushers spend way more than they take in from Iditarod winnings . It can cost anywhere from 20 k to 150k to run the Iditarod. It’s an illogical endeavor as far as money is concearned . Please throw out the concept of mushers making money . Aprx 5-10 make good money from tours . Yes some mushers are not up to par with dog care but most put their sweat blood and sacrifice into caring for their dogs . Keep in mind two things , many pet owners are not up to par with dog care . Most sled dogs get an incredible adventureous life . Way more exciting and adventurous than most pets of any kind . Sled dogs have a clear purpose and it makes them happier and happier as they age . They might not even have a chance to enjoy this beautiful world without mushing. Please be careful and don’t help PETA twist the facts and lie to innocent people ,taking their money and twisting emotions. When peta lies and misconstrues information it could be considered one step away from an evil sickness. Thanks for considering this .

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    • Ramey,
      You and I probably have more in common than apart.
      How many guys in Alaska name their boys after trees?
      With that said, I stand behind all my statements.
      If the purses were dropped and mushers returned to truley enjoying the woods with their dogs, I would feel different about the sport.
      I was very passionate on Alaska…but now that I am raising a son and see the tract that the state is on, I question my commitment to this “Siberia” of the Americas.

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  11. Craig, you touched on part of the problem with technology changes.
    This all was made possible by the money involved and it started long ago IMO. Those with the big sponsor bucks were able to ship xtra sleds to checkpoints along with xtra teflon runners to be quick-changed to run easier on areas of tundra not having snow in some years (or different plastic for different snow). And it got worse with the large scale treadmills, etc. used for training.
    Joe Reddington’s dream of getting these village dogs back just could not buck the money thing that wasn’t available in the villages.
    On the other hand, there was enough money in the villages to outfit some with the technology (snowmachines) capable of both good and bad. Arnold Demoski demonstrated this technological thing (combined with alcohol) that shook up a few Iditarod racers and Seth Kantner also touched on his thoughts of how some folks use these machines to access caribou in this opinion piece https://www.adn.com/opinions/2018/01/26/a-trip-to-new-york-reminded-me-whats-worth-fighting-for-in-alaska/
    ITC will have its hands full in getting a consensus on what to do with this race and what its become IMO.

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  12. Henry Ford once said: “Much of what we believe to be history is actually bunk”…America has a long record of a select few “robber barons” manipulating media coverage so they may take in large corporate profits for years…this is the case with our “historic” Iditarod Race in Alaska.
    Now that the truth is leaking out to activists and corporate sponsors throughout the nation, the ITC struggles to find a way to “re-brand” it’s once lucrative animal abuse event in the Arctic.
    https://www.peta.org/features/these-reasons-why-the-iditarod-race-should-be-terminated-will-leave-you-outraged/

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      • Really Craig…
        Let’s start with a six figure salary for the director…
        71,000 plus a new truck worth over 40K for the winner plus name recognition to open a summer tour business.
        I would argue making it into the top ten as a musher can be lucrative for life…book deals anyone?

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  13. Dang Craig ! Spot on ! Wish more people , reporters , writers could pull all info together and do reasearch like you . Starting to be a lost art ? I fell in love with the adventure of the race of the 70s . Hero’s ! people and dogs of that Era . Time to make adjustments and bring back more of the flavor! Hopefully a new board could do that ! Hopefully they will include mushers -dogs and spectators more in their planning! Let’s all push for positive change and transparency! We need a visionary like Joe at the Helm ! This race celebrates Alaska and all its people!

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  14. The media is relentless in portraying the Iditarod and mushers as Alaska’s ultimate heroes. People who don’t like the race are made to feel like they aren’t real Alaskans. Some people like to focus on the race because they like to bet on which musher will arrive at a checkpoint first, second, etc. Lift the veil of the Iditarod and you’ll find a pile of garbage.

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