Sunday, February 28, 2010

5 days until Iditarod

You can find lots of great photos on the Official Iditarod site. The Junior Iditarod is off and running right now. Awesome.

Fun Fact:

Despite common usage in annoying commericals or movies, mushers do not say "Mush" to their dogs. One theory as to how this term came to be, is that the French trappers were overheard saying "marche" to their dogs. The term to mush and musher stuck though, and are used to describe someone who runs sled dogs.

Mushers will say, Hike! or All Right! to get the dogs to pull, however, it's not generally needed. The dogs pretty much ALWAYS want to pull. I said, "Ready? All right!" to get my dogs attention and to start in unison.

google images


Jemi Fraser said...

Great photos - the Iditarod is such an amazing race :)

Sled Dog Action Coalition said...

For the dogs, the Iditarod is a bottomless pit of suffering. Six dogs died in the 2009 Iditarod, including two dogs on Dr. Lou Packer's team who froze to death in the brutally cold winds. What happens to the dogs during the race includes death, paralysis, frostbite (where it hurts the most!), bleeding ulcers, bloody diarrhea, lung damage, pneumonia, ruptured discs, viral diseases, broken bones, torn muscles and tendons and sprains. At least 142 dogs have died in the race.

During training runs, Iditarod dogs have been killed by moose, snowmachines, and various motor vehicles, including a semi tractor and an ATV. They have died from drowning, heart attacks and being strangled in harnesses. Dogs have also been injured while training. They have been gashed, quilled by porcupines, bitten in dog fights, and had broken bones, and torn muscles and tendons. Most dog deaths and injuries during training aren't even reported.

On average, 52 percent of the dogs who start the race do not make it across the finish line. According to a report published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, of those who do finish, 81 percent have lung damage. A report published in the Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine said that 61 percent of the dogs who complete the Iditarod have ulcers versus zero percent pre-race.

Iditarod dog kennels are puppy mills. Mushers breed large numbers of dogs and routinely kill unwanted ones, including puppies. Many dogs who are permanently disabled in the Iditarod, or who are unwanted for any reason, including those who have outlived their usefulness, are killed with a shot to the head, dragged, drowned or clubbed to death. "Dogs are clubbed with baseball bats and if they don't pull are dragged to death in harnesses......" wrote former Iditarod dog handler Mike Cranford in an article for Alaska's Bush Blade Newspaper.

Dog beatings and whippings are common. During the 2007 Iditarod, eyewitnesses reported that musher Ramy Brooks kicked, punched and beat his dogs with a ski pole and a chain. Jim Welch says in his book Speed Mushing Manual, "Nagging a dog team is cruel and ineffective...A training device such as a whip is not cruel at all but is effective." "It is a common training device in use among dog mushers..."

Jon Saraceno wrote in his March 3, 2000 column in USA Today, "He [Colonel Tom Classen] confirmed dog beatings and far worse. Like starving dogs to maintain their most advantageous racing weight. Skinning them to make mittens.. Or dragging them to their death."

During the race, veterinarians do not give the dogs physical exams at every checkpoint. Mushers speed through many checkpoints, so the dogs get the briefest visual checks, if that. Instead of pulling sick dogs from the race, veterinarians frequently give them massive doses of antibiotics to keep them running. The Iditarod's chief veterinarian, Stu Nelson, is an employee of the Iditarod Trail Committee. They are the ones who sign his paycheck. So, do you expect that he's going to say anything negative about the Iditarod?

Most Iditarod dogs are forced to live at the end of a chain when they aren't hauling people around. It has been reported that dogs who don't make the main team are never taken off-chain. Chained dogs have been attacked by wolves, bears and other animals. Old and arthritic dogs suffer terrible pain in the blistering cold.

The Iditarod, with all the evils associated with it, has become a synonym for exploitation. The race imposes torture no dog should be forced to endure.

Margery Glickman
Sled Dog Action Coalition,

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Interesting post ahead of mine...


I knew the term mush was bogus. We'll blame the French!

Anonymous said...

Horrible things happen to animals in this world, but let's not tarnish every dog team owner with one brush or blame a valid sport because of a few uncaring humans.

Strengthen the laws for animal cruelty and then go after the ones that are breaking those laws. Reward with positive media attention of the ones that take care of their team of dogs. Maybe get the ones who are guilty banned from participation.

I for one am looking forward to hearing about the Iditarod--my brother and his family lived in Anchorage for several years and loved it!

TerryLynnJohnson said...

I'm leaving up all comments on this topic since discussion is always welcome on my blog.

Thank you for your opinions.

Janet said...

First off, I agree with what Catherine said. And secondly, I thought they said 'mush.' Thanks for the fun facts about the sled dogs.

Anonymous said...

Great photos. Thanks for the history on the word "Mush." I never knew that.
I've left a little something for you at my blog.

Laura Pauling said...

What? Mush isn't really used? But Ukon Cornelius used it in Rudolph? How can it not be true? :)

Laura Pauling said...

What? Mush isn't really used? But Ukon Cornelius used it in Rudolph? How can it not be true? :)

Jackie said...

I love the facts that you give us, and i even enjoy the rants of people who feel they need a pedestal to stand on, when you are just telling us some definitions, that I didn't know. It just makes me realize, without those people in the world I wouldn't appreciate the nice polite people in the world near as much.

Thank you for allowing all views on your blog

My name is PJ. said...

Opinions make the world an interesting place...

Do you participate in the Iditarod? That's probably a lame question.. but I think of the Iditarod as like the Indy 500 of sled races. Do you have to qualify by having won something prior to it?

Will you be taking photos of it?

It's all so exciting to me!!

Natalie said...

How fun! I've always wanted to see a dogsled race. We don't have enough snow here, maybe someday we'll get up north and check out the action.

TerryLynnJohnson said...

Thank you for your continued support everyone!
I have never run the Iditarod - you do have to run a number of qualifying races to make sure you don't die out there, and you know how to care for your dogs. But I have handled for the Iditarod and that was an amazing experience!