Commentary

Iditarod ends

end of the trail

End of the trail, the Iditarod finish line in Nome/NPS photo

The Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race ended in Nome on Monday with the smallest finishing field in 30 years, the second champion from rural Alaska in a decade when rural Alaska has all but abandoned sled dogs, one dead dog, and a future as tenuous as ever.

On the upside, the race appeared to have its first budding Twitter star in an age when the President of the United States of America has made the social media platform the battleground for hearts and minds.

Blair Braverman came to the so-called Last Great Race from a town called Mountain in mountainless Wisconsin by way of California with the perfect surname – Braverman – and a made-for-TV hubby to match – Quince Mountain. She fumbled her way for 1,000 miles north from Willow to finish an oh-so-heroic 36th out of 39 teams to reach Nome, just one more than in 1989.

On the downside there was the dog dead, which brought the predictable expressions of grief and outrage from animal right’s activists, and there was to go with it a tangled tale of an unprecedented number of teams that faltered and flailed along the Bering Sea coast late in the race.

Some got going again and some quit.

To the Iditarod faithful, the quitters were rebuttal to the argument that dogs are forced to run. Clearly, as the evidence showed, the dogs have some choice.

You can’t push a string

The dogs can, like factory workers, go on strike. How bad things have to get before people, or dogs, unite to take such a stand is fuel for a legitimate discussion about what the Iditarod is in these times and what it should be going forward.

But for the zealots on either side, there is nothing to talk about.

There are Iditafans living in some fantasy land where the race is nothing but the Westminster Dog Show on snow and the mushers beneficent gods.

And on the other side, there are whacked out, vegetarian animal right’s activists who think dogs should live on a diet of soy, because apparently industrial agriculture can raise plants without killing anything, and never be told to do anything, let alone be expected to perform.

For the folks in these little camps, the Iditarod is easily defined. It’s all good, or it’s all bad, and there is no need to discuss anything.

Unfortunately, the issues surrounding the Iditarod are not so simple.

And forget the dead dog. It’s just a distraction. Dogs die tragic deaths every day. By the time you finish reading this, several will have been struck and killed on American roadways.

An estimated 1.2 million per year are run down by motor vehicles. That’s 23,000 a week, 3,300 per day, 137 per hour, or a little better than two dead dogs per minute.

If you want to do something for dogs, get your nose out of your cellphone and devote your full attention to the road when driving.

On the other hand, let no one be deceived by the Iditarod claim that the Last Great Race “is all about the dogs.” The Iditarod is no gift to the canine world. That is as simplistic and wrong as the belief that the race is inherently evil because a dog sometimes dies.

The Iditarod is simply more “all about the people” than all about the dogs.

All of which turns the focus to Nicolas Petit from Girdwood, the man who looked on his way to becoming the 2019 Iditarod winner before becoming the race’s biggest loser.

Mental cases?

Petit now stars in a heart-moving, tear-filled video interview in which he talks about the mutiny his dog team staged outside of the village of Shaktoolik on the Bering Sea coast.

On the Iditarod Facebook page, he has attracted almost as much sympathy as Jussie Smollett did after he claimed to have been attacked by bigoted, white, racist thugs because he was a gay, black man.

This not to suggest that there is anything made up about the collapse of Petit’s dog team as there was with Smollett’s story. It is meant to say people need to give more weight to facts than to emotions.

That is especially important in the Petit case because in that interview he made the case, albeit it inadvertently, for why dogs that struggle on the Bering Sea coast should never run another Iditarod.

The questions that follow are simple: What happens to those dogs?

And that opens the door on other questions: How many races can an Iditarod dog do at the pace the race is now being run? And how many dogs is the Iditarod churning through to field the competitive dog teams that do tow the start line?

Fern Levitt, the director of the controversial documentary “Sled Dogs,” has described some Alaska kennels as glorified puppy mills, and the accusation is not wholly off base.

“There’s a lot of bad stuff going on in dog mushing,” the late Susan Butcher, a four-time Iditarod champ, infamously said at a mushing symposium in Fairbanks way back 1991. “We wouldn’t, as a group, pass anybody’s idea of humane treatment of animals. As a group, we don’t pass my standards of humane treatment of animals.

“These people are out there abusing their animals. I hope this sport does die if we can’t, as a group, educate each other and work together to clean up our act.”

The sport changed in the years that followed. Mushers got more selective about breeding. Old dogs were adopted out rather than killed. The practice of dumping dogs at animal shelters slowed even if it never fully ended. 

Kennel sizes for competitive mushers shrunk. The Iditarod instituted as anti-doping program at the behest of some of the sport’s top racers to clean up drug use.

Fairbanks sprint mushers Kathy Frost and her husband the late Lloyd Lowry, showed that some sled dogs dumped at the  pound could be turned into race winners as did John Schandelmeier, a dog driver from Paxson who in 1996 won the Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race, the north’s second biggest distance race. 

Tough competition

Schandelmeier still keeps a small kennel, and his wife, Zoya Denure, regularly runs Iditarod, but they can’t hope to compete in a race that has again become dominated by mushers keeping large kennels as the result of a booming business in sled-dog tours.

Sled dogs pulling people across Alaska glaciers in sleds or in carts on Alaska trails have provided lots of dogs off-season jobs that help pay bills and cover the costs of food and veterinary care for small armies of dogs between Iditarods.

New Iditarod champ Pete Kaiser from Bethel is something of an oddity in that his kennel is reportedly home to only 45 to 50 dogs. The Seaveys – Mitch and Dallas who between them have won six of the last eight Iditarods – keep hundreds of sled dogs. Last year’s winner, Joar Liefseth Ulsom, this year’s runner-up, has more than 100 around his house in Willow.

Big kennels change the way people think about the race. The mushers with big kennels can afford to burn dogs out because they have replacements waiting in the wings. They can push dogs to the limit in effort to win.

As a result, anyone who hopes to beat them has to do much the same. And then the adventurers at the back of the race, mushers with far lesser teams, have to elevate their pace to avoid getting squeezed out of the competition because they are too far behind the race leaders.

So let’s go back to Petit again and what he says happened to his team on the trail from Shaktoolik across the barren flats to Island Point on the edge of Norton Bay.

Potty break

“Puppie gotta poop, and Joey tackles him,” Petit said in an Iditarod Insider video before pausing and inhaling deeply. “I had enough of this Joee. Knock it off….There was just a puppy being harassed by a bully, and what do you do?

“Let the bully be a bully? Or do you tell the bully, that’s enough? Vocally only.”

So Petit stopped the team to disciple Joee. This happens. Dogs can be jerks. Maybe it was all vocal as Petit says. Maybe Petit just yelled at the dog. Personally, I’ve always grabbed these dogs by the throat, rolled them over on their back, and held them down until their eyes revealed they understood exactly who was in charge of the pack.

But let’s accept Petit at his word – a politically correct “vocally only” – and let Petit pick the story up from there again:

“(I) picked up the snowhook, and said all right let’s go,” and then he starts looking around at the sky in mimicry of dogs ignoring him.

Needless to say, the dogs didn’t move.

“I stayed four and a half hours I think, on the side in the wind with the straw,” Petit goes on to say “And I decided that was not a good place to spend any more time. It was good that we had the straw, we used it and all that. So I packed up whatever straw I could and tried to go. I tried to go with other teams coming by; that didn’t help.

“Joar tried to help me, but we weren’t going to jeopardize his race trying to help me. He tried once, I said, ‘OK, thank you’ and then he went.”

One can break all of this down to a few words.

Petit stopped to discipline a misbehaving dog, and his team staged a full on mutiny.

Whether that was a mental issue (as a some mushers and a lot of Idit-a-fans argue) or a physical issue (which is much  more complicated) is explored lower down in this story, but to look forward before looking back, let’s pursue Petit’s explanation that the issue was mental because, in his opinion, “this dog team was not tired. This dog team was not overexerted.”

So what is wrong when a professionally trained team just sits down and won’t go even though the dogs have plenty of energy because they weren’t “overexerted?”

Well. again, here’s Petit’s explanation:

“We had a very, very tough run last year. We had to find our way through something that we were not expecting….Basically it was a really, really tough run we did last year. And I’m very proud of them for what they did then. And I can’t blame them for not wanting to go back to a place where their last experience with it was the toughest run of their lives.”

Focus on Petit’s words: “I can’t blame them for not wanting to go back to a place where their last experience with it was the toughest run of their lives.”

This represents an old Iditarod view. When Iditarod dogs struggle and stumble on the coast, they remember. And because they remember, you best leave them at home (or get rid of them) because you can’t count on them in future races.

Gone dogs?

In the Insider video, Petit made nicey-nicey talk about how he’s going to avoid that model.

“My dog team and I will be flying out to Unalakleet or someplace close to there, running through with there with steaks and T-bones (for treats)….We’re going to have a good, old-time going back and forth….We’re going to show them this is our new backyard, and there’s nothing to be scared of everything’s fine.

And no, I will not get rid of my dogs.”

It all sounds good. Unfortunately, practical realities argue against it. It is expensive to fly a dog team to Nome and more expensive to fly it from there to Unalakleet. It might be possible to rehabilitate dogs that have been through what was clearly one bad experience and what Petit now claims were two bad experiences. 

But rehabilitation would be an experiment that could well fail. In the cold light of day, it would be much more sensible for Petit to do what other mushers have done and start over with a largely new group of dogs.

Someone who knows Petit well expects that at least some of the dogs of Iditarod 2019 will be sold to mushers in other countries, like Norway where they won’t recognize the terrain, or given to junior mushers who run in the treed terrain of the Susitna River valley, or adopted  out to friends.

But Petit is also one of those rare mushers with a pretty small kennel of 30 dogs or less. He might be forced to undertake the retraining experiment. Others won’t. They will take the easier route, and Petit’s dogs were not the only ones flagging on the coast this year.

Not all of the people behind those teams have the same, dog-friendly reputation as Petit, either. Some of them are known for being all about business, and the wise business decision is to move on from a dog team of quitters.

Hopefully, some of the dogs can be rehabilitated or hang on as training leaders or get adopted out to new homes or sold to recreational mushers or skijorers.

And some likely won’t.

It would be nice if Iditarod kept track of this churn if for no other reason than to get a handle on whether the Iditarod is truly good for the dogs or not. Andy, five-time champ Rick Swenson’s famed lead dog, raced for 10 years and lived to the age of 20. That is beyond a ripe old age for any dog.

Clearly Iditarod and the associated training was good for Andy. But experienced mushers say there don’t appear to be many Iditarod dogs lasting more than a few races anymore.

Iditarod dogs are microchipped. Iditarod could keep track of how many races the average dog now does before it is replaced. But Iditarod doesn’t keep that data. It’s almost like Iditarod doesn’t want to know.

Selling the myth

That’s understandable. The Iditarod myth of Braverman and brave women challenging the unforgiving wilds of Alaska plays better than the reality of mushers taking their dog teams to the edge of collapse or beyond to try to win a dog race or satiate their egos.

What happened on the Bering Sea coast in this year’s Iditarod was unprecedented. More than a dozen teams, almost a third of the field, stalled out between the time the race left the Yukon River at Kaltag and reached Safety, the last checkpoint before the finish.

Teams were quitting all over the place, forcing mushers to make long, unplanned stops. More than half of them managed to get started again and eventually make it to Nome as Brent Sass did in 2016.

But a half-dozen were forced to scratch including 67-year-old veteran Cindy Gallea from Wykoff, Minn., who had appeared for most of the race to be babysitting the back of the pack on the run to White Mountain. After the mandatory, 8-hour rest there, she set out for Nome and ran into trouble.

Twenty miles out, her team stalled, and it ended up taking her more than 22 hours to go the 55 miles to Safety, where she scratched. Behind her, Bethel rookie Victoria Hardwick – whose team made an unplanned, 8-hour  stop between Elim and White Mountain plodded on to Nome to wrap up the race.

This sort of chaos happened all over the place. The team of musher Sarah Stokey from Willow took 17 hours to cover the 20 miles from Safety to Nome. The fat-tired cyclists who won the 1,000-mile Iditarod Trail Invitational did it in a fifth the time; their average speed for the entire 1,000 mile ride was actually faster than Stokey’s average speed for the last 20 miles. 

Musher Jessie Holmes, a seventh place finisher as a rookie last year, had a Sass-esque experience on the 50-mile trail from Elim to Koyuk. A run that should have taken his team seven to eight hours took more than 36.

He plummeted from fifth in Shaktoolik to 27th by the finish line in Nome.

“What I am having a bit of a problem with is the often skewed opinions the fan base has, sitting far away, without seeing the firsthand hand events,” Iditarod.com reporter Sebastian Schnuelle wrote after Sass stalled in 2016. “It rubs me a bit the wrong way reading comments about how Brent ‘did things right by his dogs’ with returning to the checkpoint. I am sorry to having to point this out, but it was not Brent who made that choice, it was his dogs who did. When dogs refuse to go, a mistake was made.”

Schnuelle and other Iditarod reporters were strangely quiet this year as teams faltered left and right. Maybe it was the magnitude of the failure.

Petit had a lot of company in failing to properly judge the condition of a dog team. And there is no denying Petit’s team looked downright phenomenal – barking and pulling at the towline – when he blew through Shaktoolik only a couple of hours before his entire Iditarod comes to an end.

Veteran Iditarod mushers can’t remember seeing dogs jumping against their harnesses wanting to leave a coastal checkpoint. To have them then give up only about 10 miles down the trail just buggers the imagination and raises another question.

Could this have as much more to do with the Iditarod dogs of today than the new mushers?

The old Iditarod was run with dogs with a lot of Siberian husky in them. Siberians – or Slowberians as some call them – had a bad reputation for harboring a problematic penchant for self-preservation.

If a musher asked too much of them, they would instinctively back off the speed, or so it seemed, to try to protect themselves. They were like alkaline batteries slowly dimming in a flashlight. They’d keep going and going and increasingly dimming and dimming for a long time before they went out.

On the outside, todays dogs are lot different from Siberians. They are more hound than husky. They have shorter hair and longer legs. They arrive at the starting line as lean, mean, running machines ready to rock instead of packing a few extra pounds intended to be burned off on the way to the coast where the race is to begin.

And there has been speculation that they have changed on the inside, too, that the Siberian, self-preservation gene has been bred out of them, speculation that the new Iditarod dogs might be such that they burn bright like a protected lithium cell until shortly before they entirely shut down.

Managing such a team – whether it shuts down because it is physically spent or, as Petit argues, mentally failing – becomes a lot more difficult. Dogs don’t come outfitted with battery indicators.

If you can’t tell by looking when the dogs are faltering – and in Petit’s defense it bears reiterating that his team looked great in Shaktoolik – the problem of teams crashing on the coast would only seem destined to continue, though after this year it’s hard to imagine it could get worse.

The Idit-a-fans seems to think this is fine. The Idit-a-enemies thinks its horrific. And the great middle? Well, Iditarod might want to figure out what they think fast because the future of the financially troubled event hinges on public opinion.

And to have large numbers of teams quitting unexpectedly along the coast is just asking for trouble. The weather was benign this year. What if it had been otherwise?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

99 replies »

  1. Bill, your reminder of loose dog shoots in villages, comes across as gratuitous meanness. Of course I’m aware of it.
    Like any other racial group, natives don’t all think alike. Some are kind; some are apathtic; some are demoralized and unmotivated; some are downright cruel. And in a small community you see it all.
    My mother grew up in Shageluk during the 1920s and ’30s. I never lived there however. We lived a lot of places, and I’ve seen enough.
    I don’t think this is a comparison of who is more awful. We need to keep our eyes on the prize of health and happiness for man and beast alike.

    • You can take it however you want Maxine but it was meant as just reality in rural Alaska. Loose dogs are also shot in rural America if they are considered a threat to livestock-other places not so much.
      I learned how folks think of dogs that kill chickens and ducks when a friend’s sled dog was shot in Juneau for just that. While you may strive for some kind of Jellystone park, relative to animals, it’s just not that way in the real world IMO.
      I also learned that Alaska’s humane laws treat livestock entirely different than pets and I got a feel for why that is after listening to some livestock owners. And, I suspect, the same thing applies to sled dogs-you want to treat them as if they were toy poodles but you are barking up the wrong tree IMO.

      • Bill, you’ve accepted cruelty to animals as just part of reality. I think you are taking the easy way out.
        Reality to me is the 22 laws of the physical universe that determine what is and what is impossible. I’m not going to quarrel with time’s arrow or with gravity.
        But cultural practices, while they may seem immutable because they are so persistent, are actually subject to change and progress. At one time the ancient Romans thought it was normal for gladiators to fight to the death in colluseums. But then they changed their minds. All you need is one example to show that change is possible. Mushers may think that cruelty is a necessary part of sled dog’s lives, and if that is so, then maybe the “sport” shouldn’t exist, or should be changed to make it humane.
        I don’t think it’s incompatible with animal welfare. And as a native, dog sledding is part of my tradition and I have an obligation to my culture to bark up this tree.

      • Maxine, neither I nor mushers believe that cruelty is a necessary part of sled dogs lives. The rest of your post is just a crock.

      • Maxine, I am going to say that at this space in time a member from the “Death Cult from Hell” is slitting the throat of somebody from ear to ear before cutting their head off; and you speak of cruelty for dogs running a race? The world is a cruel and unforgiving place. I’d say people are treated a helluva worse globally then animals. 60 million were killed by Mao. 20 million killed by Stalin. 40 million killed in WW2. Listen Maxine, the majority of us treat animals, especially dogs with respect. But, when you look at those numbers I put up, this all sounds a bit silly no? 1 (ONE) dog died duri g the 2019 Irod??????

      • Bryan, I just read your post about death cults slitting people’s throats from ear to ear. And how more people are killed than animals, which is not true. And considering all the human suffering, it is silly to be concerned about only one dog dying in the Iditarod this year. Do I understand you right? And how most mushers respect dogs
        Considering that you think the world is a cruel and unforgiving place, don’t you think we can and should try to make things better by passing laws to mitigate the cruelty? So there are consequences for bad behavior? If you have care and concern for dog’s, don’t you want them protected?
        You don’t want to be a lay down on this. Since very few people commit murder, does that mean there doesn’t need to be laws against it?
        According to dog lot owners and mushers, most treat their dogs well. But some don’t. Should they be exempt from animal protection laws?
        To be clear the actual race is a small and very visible part of the lives of these dogs. The tip of the iceberg. What goes on backstage is even more concerning. The day to day lives of these dogs isn’t that great. Would you like to live like that?

      • Actually I think we should strive for some Jellystone Park relative to animals. We’d all be a lot happier.

      • Maxine, I forgot to add a large portion of Democrats supporting late, late term baby killing or just right murder by out of the womb baby killing. Maxine, I also understand that your intentions are honorable but, when you have groups like PETA, GREENPEACE, and other eco-terrorist groups filled with the mentally insane your voice at times goes unheard. My point to all this was there are more pressing issues.

      • Bryan: enough with the abortion agenda, OK? it’s getting old. save those comments for stories that have at least something to remotely do with abortion.

      • Bryan,
        your comments only prove your hatred and callousness towards others…
        your redirection on ALL topics from war, to climate change, to animal welfare reform to topics such as the democrats and abortion just speak volumes on the rise of the Christian Right in America…
        you call activists “eco terrorists” while the real terrorists (the military industrial complex) goes unchecked?
        you have no problem with sled dogs run to their death year after year in America and mistreated at dog lots across the north country…
        you also have no problem with the fact over 1 million Iraq citizens have died since the U.S. has started their assault on that country (over 4 million are refugees)…
        violence against humans and animals does not seem to bother you, yet someone who holds a sign (allowed by our constitution) is an “eco terrorist”?
        I fail to share any of your advanced “Neo-Con” values and conversely feel that the cycle of abuse and hatred needs to start where we as citizens can make a change.
        I cannot stop Congress from approving the nearly 1 trillion dollars that they appropriate to the Pentagon year after year, but I can work with fellow citizens within our framework of government to push for meaningful animal rights reform….in Alaska this starts with sled dogs and large commercial dog lots…
        these dog lots are not only a source of suffering for the animals in captivity but also for any children who may wander into this environment unsupervised…
        the last child who was seriously injured stumbled into Berkowitz’s Iditarod lot in Big Lake and was seriously injured several years ago.
        this happens a lot more in villages throughout Alaska and many times goes unreported to media or authorities.
        sorry you cannot get on board with supporting the inclusion of sled dogs under the animal welfare laws in Alaska, but you should try to at least just say that and not redirect your statements towards personal hatred on Liberals, Intellectuals, Homosexuals, Activists, Democrats, and Abortion…
        this repeated “Far Right” behavior only goes to prove what most of us all ready know about you side and it is not very promising for humanity and our future as Americans.

      • Bryan, who are you? Do you have a last name. It feels strange communicating with someone who could possibly be a bit. Identify yourself play fair.

  2. Steve and Laura Steiner, I agree that animal welfare laws should apply to dog sledding kennels. I want to join forces with you.
    No one can accuse me of being a wacko outsider. I’m Athabaskan and my ancestors developed dog sledding in the uncountabillion generations we’ve lived in Alaska!
    My mother told me that our family was noted for kind treatment of dogs and other animals. Our relatives took in orphaned animals – even bear cubs – and raised them till they learned to live on their own.
    They wouldn’t be happy with how things have turned out for dogs in the hyper- competitive world of dog mushing.
    You can find me in the mat-su phone book. And I’m sure there are plenty of locals who also want humane treatment of sled dogs to become the reality generally.

    • Seriously Maxine? Considering how many much more serious and pressing concerns there are within our rural native American/Alaskan communities I can only imagine how pressing the amount of rest Joar or Nic Petit took on the Iditarod this year is to the average Athabaskan. I think a Bethel native winning this years Iditarod and showing young people a true bush role model is a far bigger deal in the great scheme of things.

      • Animal abuse saddens and depresses native children as much as any other discomforts they live with.
        And why should one not try for the betterment of dog’s lives as well as working to help our fellow humans? One doesn’t preclude the other.
        Concerning native role models: traditionally people tried to assist each other, not compete to be a “winner.” You can see that spirit displayed today in the “native youtth olympics.”

    • Maxine,
      Thank you so much for your support!
      I cannot tell you how much this means to Laura and I (as well as all the handlers, animal rights advocates and Alaskans who have come forward in support of Animal Welfare Laws for Sled Dogs in Alaska).
      There is NO reason why sled dogs should be exempt from animal abuse laws in AK.
      I can only think that this was pushed through Congress in the 90’s when the Humane Society was attempting to end the race.
      There is a growing number of life long Alaskans that support this push to include these creatures into the protection and welfare that they deserve.
      No sport should be allowed to run dogs to their death year after year…
      The Irod mushers on this site that fight Animal Rights for sled dogs just tells me that things need to change.
      The sled dog that died this year is important to remember…many at the finish line just said “that dog is just tired”.
      Well, after it died of Aspiration Pneumonia…we know that was not true.
      I also feel the way children grow up treating (or mistreating animals) carries into how they treat others in society as well.
      FBI has done many studies that prove people who abuse animals either when a child or adult, and much more likely to commit crimes against other humans throughout their lives.
      I feel this culture of animal abuse contributes greatly to all the domestic violence and sexual abuse throughout the state.
      We have seen this first hand when multiple Irod mushers have been caught in domestic fights and assault charges…
      I will get a hold of your contact information and share with you all that is going on to help these dogs…
      I believe the next step is getting a state legislator to back our measure to lift the exemption on sled dogs from state animal cruelty laws…
      This would make running a dog to it’s death a criminal act, one that is punishable through the court systems….emaciated dogs left on chains would be against the law.
      without this reform, I am afraid things will continue as they are in Alaska (both abuse to animals and residents)….
      Thanks a again for your support as a life long Alaskan….this is very important to have our voices heard!

      • Steve and Laura, I look forward to helping the push toward including sled dogs in animal welfare laws.
        As a Native I’ve lived with my share of discrimination, but as a child nothing distressed me as much as people collecting half grown kittens in bags to take them away to drown them. There were no veterinarians so you couldn’t spay and neuter. My parents kept us unaware of many animal abuses, which I only learned about later.
        Reading these comments from mushers has been a real eye opener. The “good? guys in this sport should be the ones advocating strongly for the dogs, but they don’t appear to possess the moral courage to do this. So now we have to step up.
        I am eager to work with you.

      • You do know Maxine that recently many villages would carry out loose dog shoots that involved those not tied up, with the skin sewers wanting those with the better coats. Probably humane but not something to write home about either.
        I’m sure you mean well but best of luck on your quest to get sled dogs into the same category as those Cairn Terriers.

      • Bill,
        I am reminded of the quote by Mahatma Gandhi: “The greatness of a nation can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”
        Your statement about how loose dogs are shot in the Villages (especially in the weeks before the Iditarod running through) is NOT humane treatment of animals and your perception that it is “Probably humane” only shows me how you cannot understand how these actions harm the psychological well being of our youth who bear witness to this trauma.
        Maxine points out how she can still remember cats rounded up for the cull…
        Many of us in America grow up witnessing abuses to animals and including sled dogs into a comprehensive animal welfare reform law will only decrease the potential trauma to our youth.

      • Steve, my comment stands however whether/not shooting is humane has to do with how good the shooter is. I don’t pretend to know how this is felt by all those watching it unfold. I do, though, think the proper shooting of an unwanted animal is as humane as giving it a shot.
        I know that some states are still having issues about capital punishment using injections, with the eventual result coming down to no executions as all (though not for inhumane reasons).
        In the case of dog shoots in villages, it appears that those with great fur are at greater risk of being shot than one with a skimpy coat. Heheh!

    • Well Bill, guess there wasn’t a meeting of the minds in our discussion. I was trying to play fair, but we are at an impasse.
      So I’m off to take a hike with a friend’s husky who was adopted after being dumped at the animal shelter by some dog lot owner a few years ago. Guess he wasn’t Iditarod material. Whew! No aspiration pneumonia for him!☺

      • Yes Maxine, it became mere gibberish with the “22 laws of the physical universe” and “gladiators.”
        By the way, is reincarnation one of those 22 laws? Heheh!

      • Bill Yankee, you poor thing! Sorry, didn’t mean to get too anstract.🤔

  3. Seems unusual to trust or consider information from reality shows or cartoons ? Those people are all paid actors or made up concepts. How about someone askMackey rather than guessing? . I didn’t see a plane load of dogs . Was there 4 ? Ask him his purpose for them and cost . I smell bull crap . No one charters a 5,000$ plane from unk for 4 dogs . Mackey couldn’t afford that even if the dogs were free . Mackey hauls water and operates on a shoe string . He was probably paid to show up at that airport for name recognition. If it was a charter then the show -flying Alaska paid for it . Reality shows are completely made up . I’ve dealt with several. They are fake . The nat geo show is mostly bunk as well. I had a close Freind who was a star in one . Totally made up . Total nonsense in the link to those shows. Fake info – Throw a dog in water to decide who can run well ? Absolutely a crock . My family has been in sled dogs since before state hood and I never heard of those actors nor their methods. Absolutely a lie to say make some easy money by selling dogs . What a crock . Do the math. Just garbage reality shows . People should go to the sources and get actual information before pretending they have viable knowledge. Cartoons? Wow . There are enough real issues it’s unnecessary to throw in fake shows. I still haven’t heard anyone ask about the real conditions around the race .

    • I’m probably done checking back to this site for questions as to facts surrounding the race . I thought I could provide first hand info . It appears there is no high demand. Hope everyone enjoys the remainder of winter! Blessings and good luck to all Alaskans !

      • I’d love to chat with you sometime, but I’m not to keen on putting my email in this thread. Maybe Craig will see this post and forward it to you? Always nice to see your comments & presence.

      • Jason . I’m close with will . If you ever want send your info through him . Have a great evening. Miss you guys up here !

      • There are several on here who don’t want to be confused with facts.
        By the way, congrats on a great race.

      • thx for share and congrats to your race – hope you, your handler, familie and dogs are well and happy. I followed craig`s blog from distance and notice often intersting hints and viewpoints. I will pick up your “checking back” an will ask. Parallel to Iditarod the finmarkslopet (Norway) was run. By this race, a very competitiv musher was pulled out (Disqualified) because of a couple of lean dogs. (link to one of the dogs in question FB https://www.facebook.com/helenbot/videos/10157513352291535/). This decison (the musher accept the decisoin full and did not complain about it !) lead to an discussion from Fans/Mushers about the outcome and fairniss of the decission. The vets used a BodyMassIndex to compare and thrown the rule 12 “Animal wellfare” https://www.finnmarkslopet.no/home-special-rules/.This rule has also a posibility of DQ if you race limping and lame dogs. puuuhh and now the question, how will you (and other Musher of course) think this rule adopted with all consequence to the IDI? Especially the limping of dogs.
        Will the grow of rules lead to a better dogcare? Because i seen some clips where i think those dogs are limp. As my personel expirience (no musher!) with dogs an sport, sometimes muscle are cold and the limpings goes away after a few minutes of moving?

      • sometimes, maybe even most times, the stiffness goes away and the gait becomes normal, B.G.

        as an old fart, i now know this problem personally.

        weight wise, i personally wish i had the dog problem. but as an old American fart, it is the opposite. i’m too fat. some Iditaord dogs by the coast are too skinny. some Iditarod vets have been troubled by it for years now.

      • BG in reference to your question about a rule for limping dogs in Iditarod. Generally speaking it’s unnecessary as mushers tend to drop those dogs if they don’t warm up . Also Iditarod already has rules that explicitly ban behavior that causes suffering. A dog in pain beyond the norm would already be going home . Mushers consider it important to send home limping dogs who don’t warm up because a limp can cause more injuries and is self defeating. It also can put undue stress on the dogs system. So mushers rarely keep a limping dog in team except to give the dog a chance to warm up . Dogs that go home before the Finnish tend to be disappointed when separated and not allowed to Finnish. Mushers feel the same way and are emotionally involved in giving those dogs a chance to see the Finnish line and see the dogs gain pride and confidence in themselves. If you associate with racing dogs you will see this development. Myself as musher I was heavily limping for full thousand miles . My ankle had been extremely injured. I had no brace . I would have been extremely disappointed to be sent home . I was glad to Finnish the race with the team as a valued part of it . The dogs are pack animals and feel similar. Sometimes dogs or humans must be sent home . Alaska and Iditarod must be a leader and make its own rules .

      • Bill , thank you . We have it easier than you did . The eagle river wasilla knik start added to the challenge in years past . I expierenced that a couple times . We had no severe storms this year . Just nagging weather issues. High temps that sucked . I’ve talked to several experienced mushers and just can’t figure out petits stall at this point. Mystifies me . Crazy happy team then ice shut down? He is taking them to 440 in kotz and claims he has no concerns which means it wasn’t a shutdown from team reaching their max . Petit has very few dogs and no replacements so he can’t risk taking a dog past it’s limit . Besides good dogs of petits caliber are very very hard to come up with and take years to develop. It’s almost a once in lifetime type team . Very special. I don’t agree with petit going to shut down mode but everyones style is so different perhaps it’s not a big deal to his way of training. For me it would mean I made huge mistake but all signs point to opposite for petit . His dogs are ready to race 4 weeks later says a person can’t reasonably judge someone else . I have watched his team develop and I know he has almost no replacements . He often borrows one or two . Same team every year . I’m not defending him as He’s not easy to get along with but Maybe his story is true as he often runs young dogs . I’ve almost always had expierenced veterans for leaders . That helps . I’ve heard conspiracy ideas that maybe petit hit his max and not dogs . The race takes it out of a person. I honestly can’t figure the situation and suspect must be some missing information. I don’t want to guess . It was average Bering sea wind . Not a real storm . Above average loose snow though. Made slow trail in spots . Marking was amazing good . Watching petits awesome travel times and his amazing happy dog videos makes his shut down inconceivable. He must have a communication issue in the team I guess . Leaders make us all look good and his communication must lack something. The other shutdowns had to do with mushers focusing more on physical conditioning that mental training. Mental always trumps physical. Some of those racers went beyond their experience level while racing. Communication and dog genetics is key and that has to do with shutdowns. I can explain another time. Good mushing to you all !

      • Interesting side note is I was at shak when petits dogs came in on a sled . They looked pretty perky and happy. Petit I also saw come in riding behind a snowmobile on a sled . Petit seemed fine but was shouting something into the wind to me I couldn’t hear . He was his wild self or more so .

    • Ramey,
      I am glad you are using your real name to comment, since now we can see how your personal biases play in your denial of the public’s perception of your “last great race”…
      The cartoon from the Simpsons shows us that their producers also do not think kindly of whipping dogs to mush….I know you will say no one does that anymore, but Irod regulations still allow mushers to carry a whip (why is this not banned from the regulations?)….
      You can deny all the videos that are posted …deny that any dogs are abused (even though they continue to die in Irod vets care year after year for Aspiration Pneumonia)…
      You can deny everything down to the reason for why you compete in Iditarod year after year…
      I know it is not the prize money (yet you have received quite a bit of it over the years)…
      It is not the corporate sponsorship (although you are comfortably sponsored by Alaska Communications) How much are they paying you?
      Joar’s partner can state Craig is mistaken and there are not 100 dogs at his kennel, yet I have documentation from the mat su borough stating there was 111 dogs at the kennel last time the public record’s request was submitted….
      So, what have we seen….
      You, Jason and Bill are sticking to your story and no one can tell you differently…
      Don’t you think there should be other Alaskans coming to your defense at this point?
      Like what other state sport has volunteers flying up from the lower 48 to protest their event?
      What other state sports has Canadian filmmakers flying up to make movies about the abuse animals suffer at the hand of man?
      No, in the end….you, Bill and Jason (3 Iditarod mushers who are all in the “finishers club”) will stick together and beat back every attempt at meaningful animal welfare reform….
      Yet, you guys “love dogs”, but you see nothing wrong with breeder kennels in the bush to feed the Irod culture….nothing wrong with keeping a husky on a chain for most of it’s adult life….nothing wrong with running a dog to exhaustion year after year….nothing wrong with the ulcers that a majority of sled dogs have….nothing wrong with dogs dying of aspiration pneumonia…
      Basically there is nothing wrong in your eyes (unless ACS stops sending the checks).
      Got it…I understand you clearly!
      Thanks for sharing your biased thoughts as they are clear to all who is reading….Irod mushers DO NOT WANT ANY CHANGE…Got it!

      • Boy Steve, I think you’ve outdone yourself with stupid this time. Just not much else to say about such garbage.

      • Mr stine you are off base and a liar . You put claims to my words I didn’t use . Quit the crap. You are a physcotic stalker as well as a liar . You wanna have a meaningful discussion about facts and true conditions that’s one thing . If you wanna believe and read cartoons and reality shows as facts that’s another and you are welcome to it . Quit the personal attacks or you will be recognized for what you are . You don’t know anything about the reality of the race / mushers motives or finances and should quit making stuff up about people. In other words you are a reacher a fabricator and a liar with stalker tendencies. I got on this thread to offer anyone first hand info of the trail . Not to be abused by liars and dishonest people who make stuff up . Now go away and don’t contact or lie about me again or I will contact the police. If you had a genuine question I would have answered it . I don’t want your abuse or lies in any form . You will be reported if you try any more dishonest abuse . Of any form . You have harassed and stalked people in willow. Your neighbors. You have a creepy history Steve stine and it’s in the anchorage daily news . The reporter declined to give your name but the police have it .

      • You mean all twelve protesters that they had to pay and fly up to the start? Ouch, that really hurts. And Fern’s movie…well, anyone smarter than a tomato could see through her agenda driven and profit motivated pack of lies–the only people who bought into her far left agenda were people who wanted to believe that in the first place.

        There’s a reason why Bill, Ramey and I are pushing back against this Iditarod narrative that’s stirring around here that should be very obvious, but since you haven’t tumbled to it I’ll point it out: we’re the only people here who have more experience with the subject matter than just our feelings and ill informed bias. Most of the stuff I’m reading doesn’t even come close to passing a basic logic test, and it’s a sad commentary that pointing this out to readers amounts to me being biased because I’m part of some club.

        Give us something actionable, then we’ll have a discussion about the problems facing the sport of mushing. The Petit story wasn’t even CLOSE to being it. Other drivers stalling on the coast, but ultimately adding additional rest and then finishing strong isn’t even close (have you noticed how mushers get slammed because they push too hard, then get slammed when they give too much rest? That’s when the average Joe non dog musher can tell how much biased baloney is being handed out by the way). Your “feelings” and spying on your neighbors not only doesn’t really count, it hasn’t amounted to much as far as evidence is concerned.

      • Jason, I bought my ticket and booked my flight last fall. PETA had not even decided they were going again yet. I go because it’s important to me. PETA paid my flight the first year because they felt my presence was important, and at the time I couldn’t afford a ticket on such short notice. Jane flew all the way from Australia last year on her own dime. Like me, she handled for Mitch and witnessed horrible things. Fern flies on her own dime. The only people PETA routinely pays for our its employees – because going there is part of their job.

      • Bill,
        I will not “tie up” on the facts….
        Anyone out there in Internet land can do their own research on Courtview and see who the real players are.
        I speak up for the sled dogs…
        It has always been that way.
        My statements are backed up with borough documents, videos, photos and written testimony.
        When my opinions are not “liked”, then I am attacked online for “he said” and “she said” stuff.
        Sorry, it is a fact that my neighbor has an Iditarod kennel with over 100 dogs onsite…
        I do not care who trades these dogs back and forth or who wins the race…
        I only wish for meaningful animal welfare reform and after 12 years of debate on this issue, I cannot get a SINGLE Iditarod musher to help???
        “Stupid is as Stupid Does” in Alaska.

      • Jason,
        First off, you left Alaska….that was your choice….I stayed.
        Second, only 3 protestors out of 12 were from out of state.
        Some were “born and raised” in AK.
        I have never protested myself and have never attended Irod events.
        Lastly, I do not “spy” on my neighbors….
        If you ever visited my homestead after the Sockeye Fire, you would know that we can “SEE” each other just fine….I also can hear there are a large amount of dogs onsite.
        Requesting public information is part of living in our “free” Nation…
        It is what makes this country better than those without “freedoms”.
        Any kennels that I have ever stumbled upon in the woods was while out hiking or riding and just being an avid outdoorsman…
        Sorry, you also do not wish to help me in ANY way make animal welfare reform in this state…
        I guess the “Kool Aid” was just to strong to reverse.

      • Steve, my concerns on here have had to do with reasons for Petit’s dropping out. For some reason you are insisting that I don’t support your dog welfare issues, but they seem to be more to do with whether/not your neighbors harbor a certain number of animals on their property.
        This IMO is between you and these neighbors, relative to whatever zoning laws that apply to kennels there. Further, you insisting that there are large numbers of breeders out in the bush doesn’t have any back-up, or at least enough back-up for me to get involved. I just don’t see it as an issue but you seem to have your own marching orders so go for it.
        Please just leave me out of your perceived dog welfare issues-it may be something that will involve a humane legislative bill that you can get behind but I’m not on board, so far. That’s not to say I won’t support some changes to Iditarod race rules.

      • To be fair Bill, it’s not the number of dogs next door that is the issue here. I do not agree with permanently chaining dogs, but our neighbors appear to have a clean and safe operation (at least I’m not horribly worried some aggressive dog will break free and attack my kid in the yard), they do have a large fenced area where the dogs can be released to occassionally run free, and they also have the financial resources to sustain it. This has not been the case with most of our neighbors, and some, like Gary Paulson, have left behind dozens of dogs to rot their lives away on chains. This has not been good for the Iditarod or the neighborhood and I’m not the only one who feels this way. But so long as all the “good” mushers are willing to stand behind “bad” ones – to the extent they won’t even acknowledge that bad ones even exist – then there really is no such thing as a good musher. Ramey is quick to direct his anger toward any criticism of the Iditarod, but where is his anger toward Mitch Seavey and other dog (and handler) abusers like him? How is it mushers claim they love their dogs but then lobby to have them exempted from current animal welfare regulations? After EVERY animal cruelty statute in the State of Alaska is the following caveat: “(e) This section does not apply to generally accepted dog mushing or pulling contests or practices or rodeos or stock contests.” On the federal level, sled dogs are also specifically exempted from the USDA’s Animal Welfare Act. So it’s not a matter of pushing for sweeping reform of the regulations, it’s simply a matter of eliminating these exclusions. If these dogs are being treated so well, then WHY are mushers not supportive of extending legal protections for them?

      • Ashley,
        Thanks for your response as your story as well as Jane’s and Abbie’s are important to remember.
        Most people on this site wish to ignore the facts that you and Jane worked for Mitch and the abuse you witnessed.
        Instead it is always turned into a personal attack and diffused into a “neighbor dispute” even when one musher commenting above has 70 dogs listed in his kennel on the Iditartod site?
        70 or 100 dogs to maintain a “competitive top ten level” kennel is too many for Humane Mushing to occur.
        I know there are more handlers who struggle with coming forward with their stories and I hope your courage, determination and hard work will motivate them to stay strong in the struggle for meaningful animal welfare reform.
        Anti tethering, kennel oversight, tracking of dogs & vet records and more disclosure of treatments would all help to take “sled dog sports” into the modern era.
        In the end, I do not think the ITC will support any meaningful change and therefore I support you in your protest to END the race…

      • Just want to add PETA and their associates are batchit crazy. So sad they closed the mental institutions back in the 80’s and released the beasts back onto the streets. Democrats and their damn votes.
        Come on Steve, it is good to have a healthy debate but, try not to get so personal. Smells of stalking. You said “people here who don’t post their real names lose all credibility”. This is why.

      • Bryan, when we first moved to Willow twelve years ago it would probably be fair to say that the local mushers were the ones stalking us. Some two years into the ordeal DeeDee Jonrowe’s loose dogs ran into our property and she and Steve got into an argument about how these dogs are treated. And she screamed at Steve that we should have done our research before moving into the neighborhood. So…we took her advice and did some research, and quite frankly what we learned was pretty disturbing. We are not stalking anybody here. But when people put their names to (and earn a living off) a “sporting event” that has international recognition and huge corporate sponsors, they have to expect that members of the public will scrutinize their activities.

      • Laura fair enough.. I generally agree with your statement but, I think Steve knows what I meant.
        “But when people put their names to (and earn a living off) a “sporting event” that has international recognition and huge corporate sponsors, they have to expect that members of the public will scrutinize their activities.”

      • Jason interesting thing about Alaska . You can take the boy out of Alaska but you can’t take Alaska out of the boy . Ignore the people who haven’t really lived in Alaska in a way that teaches them survival ,save everything , live and let live as well as treat your neighbors like gold never step on their toes . A real Alaskan knows his life depends on his neighbors. He doesn’t want anything to do with how it’s done in Europe or outside. Anyone else hasn’t been fully steeped in Alaska culture or lore . I remember how you grew up . Epitome of hard scrabble existence . Not many could match it . A pre pru doe culture existence . I guarantee Alaska flows in your veins richer than gold . Bit of a dying breed in this state you and your family. If our economy crashes it will grow again.

    • This is so funny. As the Iditarod Trail Committee and the mushers would say: “A little humor there. Very little.”

  4. I thought the tone at the beginning was unfairly critical of Blair. So she was a rookie, and most real rookies do indeed fumble their way to Nome. Rookies come in all different levels of experience–there are the rookies who aren’t really rookies at all to mushing because they’ve raced other high profile races, as well as rookies who barely got a qualifier out of the way and all different flavors in between. Blair struck me as a genuine rookie, and I know from personal experience that it isn’t easy to get a team from the lower 48 up to AK to race. The out of state musher, most especially the rookie, faces challenges to training/breeding/knowledge that no Alaskan can truly appreciate–there’s a pro musher hiding behind every bush in AK, while in the Lower 48 there’s almost nobody to go to for help, and advice.

    In light of this, I think she deserves some props. Heck, even the way her team flatlined between Kaltag and Unalakleet yet she showed the presence of mind to rest for thirty hours or so in order to get them right, and then continued on to have a rather impressive run on the coast and a solid finish with a fantastic looking team of happy dogs on Front Street in Nome as evidenced by the Insider video.

    She has my respect; Harm and I don’t even know her, yet we were pretty proud to watch her adventure. Plus, I did some Google-fu on her and she seems to be drawing some good press for a change, which I think makes for a nice change of pace in an era where people are all too eager to throw musher’s under the bus.

    • Jason, this was all I was saying (good write-up by the way) “she showed the presence of mind to rest for thirty hours or so in order to get them right, and then continued on to have a rather impressive run on the coast and a solid finish with a fantastic looking team of happy dogs on Front Street in Nome as evidenced by the Insider video.”

  5. I was there . When petit came back to shack , when weather was at hand I can tell you a 26 year history. I was there when fake don granjean quit Any one interested in facts can ask me a question. I’ve seen 98% bull pucky in this article and prior Iditarod one . So many people arm chairing! Use of supposition is out the roof ! Why do people who never were there and never experienced these situations first hand have such a huge desire to pontificate? Then judge others ? Have we we all forgotten the value of uniqueness? The inaccuracies in comments and article are almost insurmountable. Wow ! Jason nice to see you are kicking! Hope you and your family are well. I think we should all remember the Iditarod is about more than racing- it’s team work,perseverance,dreams adventure and hard work. From family supporters sponsors mushers dogs children villagers and all . A truly unique event that brings Alaska together where humans and animals work together under adversity and ever changing circumstances. People overcoming their own weaknesses. Mental physical and financial. My hat is off to the back of packers who truly represent the spirit of this event. They may not have racing skills but they have human strengths that have helped our race survive and persevere. Good job Sarah stokey , Cindy galea and the others who didn’t have it easy! You guys carry true spirit of Iditarod! And pioneers.

    • If people don’t pontificate and follow the race, there will be no money to run the race. No interest=no money

    • Harm and I were rooting for you the whole way, man. You and your family have always been exemplars of the Alaskan pioneer spirit to me. I had a long talk with your Dad back in 2011 and he was asking me about where I came up with the various characters for the book Ballad of the Northland; I told him that I was actually thinking about you a lot when I crafted that last act in the Great Race. I don’t know if he ever told you that, but I thought I’d put it out there.

    • Sorry Rayme,I call Bs,of course it just an opinion, mine.
      Money has/is ruining/ ruined the Iditarod,just like its ruined all other sports that Im aware of.Its become its own mini industry.
      Ive been watching since 1977 or ’78.Watching of course is different from doing.And your right,alot of heart soul and hard work go into it, but I’ve seen the progression of faster is better at all costs.Kinda the same way most businesses are run.
      And thats something that I have quite a bit more experience at.

  6. You are misinformed Craig — or misrepresenting the facts; I don’t know which of the two. Joar Leifseth Ulsom has about 55 dogs in his kennel, which includes a number of old wonderful retired dogs that are kept as pets and companions. In addition to that there are two more kennels on the property, but those are the dogs of us other owners that live here; None of which are Alaskan Huskies by the way. For your information, most years Joar has raced his kennel has been even smaller or this size, never larger. So, I hope you will have the decency to correct what you write here.. and maybe in the future check your source(s)!!

    Mille Porsild

    • Mille: so exactly how many dogs are on the property? how is an independent observer to tell whose are whose? and exactly how we define an “Alaskan husky”?

      no criticism of Joar intended. it’s just that he appears to have a larger pool of dogs to pull from than Nic Petit, who has less than 30 on his property, and that does change things a bit.

      • Well Craig, no one trying to race Iditarod would run any of the other dogs on the property. I actually have dogs on the way to Nome, from Nenana that is. It will take another short week before they get there—and they departed early February.. so some 7-8 weeks, to cover the same distance: expedition style.

        Joar has had a pool of less than 30 dogs for 2019 Iditarod. He does not race yearlings, young dogs or obviously those retired from racing. I should add that this is by far the largest pool of dogs Joar have ever had actually! He came to Alaska and raced the first year with a kennel of 17.. the second year it was 20 or 21.. following has been on the low side if 25.. so nope, you can not categorize Joar as I believe you have here.

        Yes, might be hard to know what’s the deal as a independent bystander.. but, then simply ask – let’s get it straight and factual.

      • Mille: i have absolutely no way of verifying that, but i’ll take your word for it. i hope you recognize that a big problem with reporting is that people don’t always tell the truth.

        with that said, i like your 30 number. so what would you think if upon Iditarod entry everyone was required to have a named pool of 30 dogs from which their eventual team would be drawn?

        it would certainly level the playing field for wealthy mushers versus the less well off. there would be no question of who was working from what size pool of dogs. and it might also make possible some random, out-of-competition drug testing.

        not that anyone is using drugs, but people did resort to that in the past. and this is the 21st century wherein the damnedest things can be ordered on line. i’m sure if some of my old contacts in the world of horses were running dogs they’d likely be stocking up on GW-501516 or some even more potent SARM that hit the market (black or otherwise) while i wasn’t paying attention.

        P.S. Joar is to be commended for running a very controlled race. It is always a sign of good management when teams pick up the pace from Safety to Nome.

    • “Last year’s winner, Joar Liefseth Ulsom, this year’s runner-up, has more than 100 around his house in Willow.”

      Is that statement actually inaccurate? Maybe you should answer the question, exactly how many dogs are on the property? Last time I checked it was 111.

      • A few posts above this polarhusky said that Joar only has 55 dogs and the rest are boarders owned by other people such as herself. As an aside, how do you go about “checking” the dog count on someone else’s property?

      • Jason,
        Iditarod kennels (and any “kennel” with over 5 dogs in the borough) are required to have a Mat Su Borough License by law.
        Anyone who is a citizen can “public record request” a copy of the kennel licenses from the borough.
        When kennels cause disturbances to our community, many property owners are curious just how many dogs are chained and “housed” and BARKING at one site.
        The last public records request showed their were 111 dogs registered to be at the above said kennel location.
        This 111 dog number does not include puppies or young dogs not yet registered.
        Many top mushers have dogs at several locations and registered with other “handlers”.
        Just cause someone has 55 dogs on tether, does not mean there are not another dozen or two puppies under 1 year of age running around and it does not state how many dogs have been “bought, sold, or traded” in the last year.
        Top Irod mushers need a constant replenishing of younger dogs and this explains why many top mushers appear to be running young dogs year after year.
        Ask yourself, “Where do all the older dogs go?”
        If you think they ALL get adopted out to “retirement” and live a peaceful life later on as they age, you are greatly mistaken.
        Puppy mills feed the Iditarod, some are located “onsite” and some are more “clandestine” operations located out in the Bush.

      • “Puppy mills feed the Iditarod, some are located “onsite” and some are more “clandestine” operations located out in the Bush.” Did you make this up Steve??
        Or did it come from a Simpsons episode? Heheh!

      • Bill,
        here is a short clip of a “breeder” named James Roberts out in Tanana …
        he claims “you could sell a few good dogs and make a lot of money quick”.

      • Steve, it’s that “clandestine” thing that’s troubling to me.
        Try talking to Stan Zuray from Tanana, I’d advise.

      • Bill,
        “Clandestine” in the sense that ADN and the general public are not aware of where these top notch sled dogs come from.
        Here is a short clip of Lance Mackey receiving a plane load of sled dogs from pilot Doug Doherty.
        Doug states that Lance pays $5,000 to charter his plane to get dogs from a “breeder” in Unalakleet.
        He also states that Lance prefers the dogs from the coast because they are acclimated to the coastal winds that affected Petit’s team.

      • Hold on there Steve, I thought it was Petit running his dogs into the ground, rather than wind? Heheh!

      • Bill,
        Stick to the evidence in front of you…top mushers like Mackey pay $5,000 a charter for a plane load of sled dogs from the bush.
        This $5K does not include the price of the dogs.
        The breeder in Tanana tosses dogs off of his boat to “trim the fat” at the dog lot and see who makes the cut.
        Do you think these breeders in Tanana and Unalakleet have adoption programs for ALL the sled dogs that do not make the “cut”?
        Do you feel it is ethical for top winning Iditarod mushers to continue to just keep buying new dogs from the bush when their dogs get injured or old?
        How many dogs are too many to get ONE musher to Nome a dozen or more times.
        I am not interested in rehashing the petit debate..
        The hidden breeder lots in the bush are a big part of this race as many top dogs come from those kennels and the kennels are not regulated by state or local law. (no animal welfare laws)

      • I can certainly see why you wouldn’t want to rehash the Petit debate Steve.
        A lot of mushers have gotten dogs from the villages as long as I remember. Those mushers with connections to some villages were more prone to it but it’s always gone on. Sometimes a team wouldn’t have their 16 dogs due to injuries and they would fill out their teams from some kennels or get a couple village dogs that were supposedly trained up (didn’t always work out). Lease or buy, I suspect it was mostly lease or rent but anything that works. In fact Mackey may have leased his. I think Mackey probably didn’t keep up his kennel due to his health issues but not all mushers breed their own.

  7. Calling the weather “benign” is extremely misleading. It was warm, but the combination of weather and trail conditions were unbelievably difficult between Shaktoolik and Nome this year. There was consistent snow and wind which rendered the trail blown-in for most of the teams. Keep in mind, there is a remarkable and historic amount of snow on the Seward Peninsula this winter, so any wind obliterated the established trail. Most mushers I have talked to said the coast was as bad as they’ve ever dealt with.

    These new “houndy” dogs handle cold just fine. Witness 2017, which was a brutally cold race, and saw 64 finishers and only 8 scratches.

    Lastly, the coast has always derailed teams when the wind is blowing. 2019 is not nearly as noteworthy in this case as Medred is making it out to be.

    • great. go through the records and find another year – and not one where everyone was stalled by storms – that this many teams mutinied on the coast.

      don’t confuse weather with trail conditions. those are two decidedly different things.

      and lastly go tell Martin Buser to be quiet. those hounds are fine.

      “Martin Buser: To them, of course, these temperatures are comfortable. They are used to being in them. They perform better in cold temperatures than in hot. When it gets really cold, though, we have to be careful that the dogs don’t get frostbite. We protect them with dog coats and blankets, and we make sure they are not too exposed.”
      http://teacher.scholastic.com/activities/iditarod/dogs_life/index.asp?article=dogs_life

      • RE: the Buser quote–sure, but that’s nothing new. We’ve been hearing about “houndy Iditarod dogs” since the hay-day of Doug Swingley. Buser was working on bringing in houndy lines into his own pool back when I was running the Jr. Iditarod during the 80’s. I see nothing particularly new or noteworthy here. In addition, I’d say breeding a line of dogs with moderate natural coats is not only smarter than going for the “old traditional husky” it is more humane as well; you can always dress a dog up for some extreme cold weather, but you can’t strip his natural coat off when it gets hot. Dogs with moderate coats are simply more versatile, which is why you see so many of them. And it’s been a fact of mushing for as long as I can remember, especially if one races across a broad region of the country, that there’s probably more warm weather than cold when considering an assortment of races over a multi-year span.

      • define “moderate.” should we let the poodles back in?

        that said, i agree with you heat is the greatest problem dogs have to deal with, and i see nothing wrong with a moderate coat.. the question would be whether or not we agree on what defines moderate.

      • By moderate I’d pick the Buser dogs of the mid 90’s, or the Swingley Peppy dogs of the late 90’s as a physical example; these dogs were pretty light coated compared to Baker dogs, or say Charlie Boulding, but they weren’t too houndy, either, even though plenty of purists claimed them to be. I always looked at that argument as mostly tribalistic and lacking in substance. An interesting example of the temperature change the dogs have to be able to handle not only in terms of their career but in even one middle distance race: in 2008 I ran the John Beargrease 400 out of Duluth Minnesota. It was so warm that I wore a ballcap from the start all through the first night, and about 6 hours before we reached the halfway point it dropped about 2 inches of rain on us. By the time we started back the weather shifted gears, the wind began to howl and the rain turned to snow coming in off Lake Superior. By the time I got back to Two Harbors, about 40 miles from the finish, it had dropped to around minus 30 with 30 mph wind gusts. Real fierce weather. If I’d had a cold weather specialized team I probably would have dropped out before the halfway point.

      • I have not confused weather and trail. That’s why I said the “combination” of the two made the coast difficult. Many mushers told stories about getting hammered by wind between Shak and Koyuk, and again in the hills. The trail itself may have been among the slowest they’ve seen between Shak and Nome, which certainly contributed to the difficulties teams had late in the race.

        Martin is correct. Coats and blankets have been standard fare since trapline dogs ceased to compete in the race. I’m pointing out that cold weather is not a great risk to modern Alaskan huskies… certainly the gear helps.

  8. With any luck this was the last one. The hands down western world’s dumbest ever “Sporting Event”.

    • Yessir Mongo, the Iditarod just hasn’t been the same since Bud Smyth ran it as “Vasily Zamitkyn the Russian.” All we need is more Bolsheviks involved. Heheh!

      • Obviously you have been following Iditarod a long time . You ran during a great era !

      • Not really other than dog training is not nearly as glamorous as ITC would like fans to know. John used to live in the winter across from Kotzebue at a place called Sisauluk. He’d mush back and forth across the ice to Kotzebue, 20 some miles. He told me he had to stop doing that and moved his winter operations to Willow, IIRC. ‘I thought it would toughen them up but it was rougher than hell and the wind would blow and the dogs would hate life and hate me. I’d go to harness them up and they did not want to go out in that crap. I wanted them to get used to running without trees but it was just too tough for them.’

      • Jim you spout misinformation. Johns never trained on road system for anything except temporary. I know John pretty well and he would never speak how you characterize. Sure he always wanted dogs to get used to trees but you basically filled his mouth with your words . How about you let John speak for himself?

  9. Going to come a point, if not already, where steroids, lean, and mean, and speed, hit the reality wall of terrain and elements. You bring up a few basic points that spell trouble I believe:
    1. “The weather was benign this year. What if it had been otherwise?”
    2. “They are more hound than husky. They have shorter hair and longer legs.”
    3. “Siberian, self-preservation gene has been bred out of them”
    4. Missing body fat – sustainable energy for “self preservation”.
    Mopinion is today’s dogs seem to be built more for sprinting and speed then distance and endurance. AGAIN, I AM A RACE SUPPORTER WHO JUST THINKS A LITTLE TWEEKING MAY BE IN ORDER. NOTHING MORE.

    • Bryan,
      These points:
      2. “They are more hound than husky. They have shorter hair and longer legs.”
      3. “Siberian, self-preservation gene has been bred out of them”
      Make us think…
      What about how Rod Perry states this “race” is to preserve the Huskies?
      If the Husky genes are gone from most dogs in Irod, What are they really preserving out there?
      The dead “dropped dog” who expired due to Aspiration Pneumonia only proves once again how young dogs are run to their death for human glory and a few bucks to keep the dog lot going.
      No preserving genetics and no preserving how the serum run was years ago (relays).
      This modern made for media exploration of man’s best friend is loosing support from both sponsors and residents these days.

      • Steve, I am for the race in general. I just think some things can be easily changed for the betterment of both dogs and mushers, while still maintaining the integrity of the race.
        But, you bring up a good point, “What about how Rod Perry states this “race” is to preserve the Huskies?
        If the Husky genes are gone from most dogs in Irod, What are they really preserving out there?”. Makes me think of a response I posted in an earlier thread, “Would be nice to revive the past sorta speak and take the race back to its iconic roots.”

      • Bryan,
        I am all for preserving the real Husky in Alaska.
        Mushers breaking trail for themselves (just like bikers and skiers competing on the trail).
        As well as for relays with more rest for the dogs (like no more than 12 on, 12 off schedule).
        If this was the case, Petit would have settled into a bivy for a few days, melted his own water….rested his dogs more and perhaps finished the race.
        The big problem is corporate sponsors want more competition, which means faster, faster and faster until there is nothing left to “Preserve” in the end.

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