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Tag: iditarod

An apparent first: No dogs die in Iditarod


With the final teams crossing the finish line Saturday night, race officials say not a single dog died in this year’s Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race — possibly a first in the event’s history, the Anchorage Daily News reports.

“To stand there and watch that last team come in, I’ll tell you, is the highlight of my veterinarian career,” chief race veterinarian Stuart Nelson said after the final musher crossed the finish line.

Last year’s race saw six dogs die — from  fluid-filled lungs, hypothermia and, in one case, a rocky airplane ride — prompting People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) to demand an investigation of the deaths.

Supporters say the sheer number of dogs — more than 1,100 started the 1,000-mile race this year — make a death inevitable over the two-week competition.

This year, Iditarod organizers increased scrutiny of  rookies, calling for veterinarians and race officials to rate potential Iditarod contenders on their ability to care for themselves and their dogs. Four mushers were asked to complete additional races before competing in the main event.

On Saturday, top finishers said relatively good trail conditions, low temperatures and the lack of a major storm this year helped teams complete the race faster and healthier than in 2009, the Daily News said.

After last year’s high death count, the chief vet had appeared “on edge” at a mushers meeting before this year’s race, said musher Hugh Neff, who finished ninth. “He put out the word to all of us that the dogs were going to be checked more thoroughly and that after what happened last year, we needed to be more vigilant.”

Nelson said he can’t remember a year without any deaths since he became involved in the race in 1986. At least twice, there has only been one death: in 1994 and 1996.

The average number of deaths rose from about two a year in the 1990s to roughly three deaths a year as the field of mushers ballooned to 80 or 90 competitors around 2000, Nelson said.

“I think it’s a pretty safe assumption that this is a first,” he said of the zero deaths in 2010.

The achievement isn’t likely to end criticism of the race.

Margery Glickman of Miami, Fla., who founded the Sled Dog Action Coalition in 1999, says officials still aren’t doing enough to protect dogs.

“If it’s true that there have been no dog deaths, I hope that remains the case for however long this race is run and I hope that they make other improvements,” Glickman said Saturday. She says officials ought to require mushers to take mandatory rests at checkpoints and shorten the length of the race overall to reduce not only deaths but injuries and illness.

(Photo: from BBC’s Frozen Planet series)

Mackey wins fourth straight Iditarod

mackeyAlaskan musher Lance Mackey has won the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race and set an Iditarod record for most consecutive wins.

Mackey, 39, of Fairbanks, completed the 1,049-mile Iditarod race in just under nine days. He was cheered across the finish line in Nome by family and friends, including his father, Dick Mackey, the 1978 Iditarod champion, CNN reported.

“You’ve done something that will never be repeated, son,” the senior Mackey said, hugging his son at the finish line.

Mackey could be heard on the broadcast microphones speaking to his dog team just before reaching the finish line on  Nome’s Front Street, “Nice, nice. This is so cool. We’re almost there, guys. You did such a good job.”

Arriving in Nome at 2:59 p.m. local time, Mackey’s official time was 8 days, 23 hours, 59 minutes and 9 seconds.

Mackey, a throat cancer survivor who says he began racing “at birth,” was inducted into the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame in February “for capturing multiple titles in two of the world’s longest sled dog races.”

More than 54 teams remained on the Iditarod trail headed toward Nome, including rookie Jamaican musher Newton Marshall, who was in 48th place. Marshall trained with Mackey this season in preparation for his first Iditarod run.

Fourteen of the original 71 teams that entered this year’s race have scratched en route.

Iditadrug: Of Mackey, mushing and marijuana

mackeyThree-time Iditarod champion Lance Mackey may have to mush without marijuana in next year’s race.

Iditarod Trail Committee officials have announced plans to test mushers for drugs and alcohol in March. Officials haven’t decided who will get tested, or when, where and how it will be done. “It might be random. It might be a group of mushers at a specific checkpoint,” said Stan Hooley, executive director of the committee.

Alaska law allows for personal possession of up to one ounce of marijuana, provided the use occurs at home. In addition, Mackey, as a throat cancer survivor, has a medical marijuana card that entitles him to use the drug legally for medical purposes.

Mackey admits marijuana has helped him stay awake and focused through the 1,100-mile race, but he insists it doesn’t give him an edge.

“It isn’t the reason I’ve won three years in a row,” Mackey told the Anchorage Daily News. “I think it’s a little bit ridiculous,” he said of the new policy. “It is a dog race, not a human race. It doesn’t affect the outcome of the race.”

While Iditarod dogs have long been tested for a lengthy list of prohibited substances, the humans they are pulling — despite the Iditarod having had an informal drug and alcohol policy since 1984 — never have.

Mackey doesn’t blame the Iditarod board for creating the new policy, but he contends he is being targeted by other mushers jealous of his three straight Iditarod titles.

Despite his medical marijuana clearance, Mackey said he will not pursue a therapeutic use exemption; instead, he’ll just abstain for a while.

“I’m going to pee in their little cup,” he said. “And laugh in their face.”

Elephant treadmill will train Iditarod dogs

maggieWhat do you do with an ever-so-slightly used $100,000 elephant treadmill?

If you’re a zoo in Alaska, you do the same thing you did with your captive elephant — admit it was a mistake and find it a new home.

The Alaska Zoo had the treadmill custom made so that Maggie the elephant — fat, cold and lonely being the only elephant in Alaska — could get some exercise in her otherwise cramped quarters. When the zoo finally came to its senses and shipped Maggie to a sanctuary in northern California, that left them with a contraption that wasn’t in too great demand. Not the sort of thing you can put out at the yard sale. Though the zoo did try selling it on Craigslist.

While the zoo didn’t get paid for the treadmill, they did find a home for it: Iditarod musher Martin Buser has hauled it to his kennel to be used to train his dogs for the 1,150-mile race, the Alaska Dispatch reports.

While he won’t have it reassembled in time to train dogs for the coming race, Buser, a four-time Iditarod winner, expects to use it in the future. Built for an 8,000-pound elephant, it’s 10,000 pounds and 22 feet long, more than big enough to let a whole team of dogs run on at once.

elephant_treadmillAt Buser’s Happy Trails Kennels, he plans to use it to let his dogs run long distances while getting nowhere, invite scientists to use it to learn more about sled dogs, and possibly entertain tourists who want to see a team of dogs run long distances without getting anywhere — like the Iditarod, only without the freezing cold or the breathtaking scenery.

Maggie the elephant left the Alaska Zoo in 2007, after several years of controversy over whether she should ever have been brought there in the first place.

The treadmill was the zoo’s attempt to get Maggie exercising through Alaska’s long winters. It was one of the steps the zoo took to improve her controversial and cramped living conditions. Critics argued she should be in a warmer climate , with more open space, where she could walk outdoors year-round and be with other elephants.

But the zoo decided to try the treadmill experiment first. It didn’t work out, zoo officials admitted. Maggie would have nothing to do with the treadmill — an objection to which we can relate.

At that point, the zoo gave up and loaded Maggie on an Air Force C-17 for a flight to northern California, where, thanks in part to funding from animal activist/game show host Bob Barker, she’s living the rest of her life at ARK 2000, an animal sanctuary in San Andreas operated by the Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS).

After Maggie left town, Buser called the zoo and inquired about the machine. In exchange for the treadmill, Buser added the zoo to his list of official sponsors.

In addition to drawing tourists, Buser says the treadmill will allow for closer scientific research of his sled dogs. Instruments like oxygen consumption masks and heart rate monitors can yield valuable information, but can’t be used when the dogs are running outside.

Sled dogs cruise at 10 to 12 mph, the Swiss-born Buser said, but he’d like to get the treadmill up to 20 mph so he can put his dogs through some speed workouts. Buser said he probably won’t get his dogs on the treadmill until after the coming Iditarod, which has its ceremonial start in Anchorage on March 6.

When dogs rule the world


From: Department of Human Control

April 1, 2116

In light of numerous complaints, Rex, director of the city office of Human Control, is reminding canine citizens of local regulations regarding the care and treatment of humans.

1. All humans must be registered and, when in public, must wear the official city tag and be up to date on their shots. While we do not require humans be leashed, owners are expected to be in reasonable control of their humans at all times.

2. Please be sure your humans use the public restroom facilities designated for them, and that they are using them appropriately – especially males of the species. Missing the urinal spreads germs, and is punishable by a 10-biscuit fine. While some members of the council have proposed a 1,000-biscuit fine, we consider that amount exorbitant.

3. Peoplefighting is a felony, whether it is spontaneous or organized, as in the case of what, during the era in which humans ruled the world, was formerly known as war.

4. Constant yelling is not pleasant for anyone, including your neighbors. If your human is unnecessarily loud, please take appropriate steps to modify the behavior. For instance, if your human’s loud behavior is triggered by sporting events, or alcoholic beverage, remove them from his or her environment.

5. While we don’t feel it necessary, as some have contended, to establish segregated areas in our parks for humans, we do ask that you practice common sense and courtesy. Some humans are unexplainedly aggressive. Not everyone likes humans. And some young dogs are frightened by them. Remember, the park belongs to everyone.

6. While humans may in fact be walking two-legged germ factories, they are allowed to enter bars, restaurants and any business establishment that permits them. Guide humans, therapy humans and assistance humans cannot be barred from any establishment or office.

7. As entertaining as they are, humans are not here for our entertainment. Publicly displaying humans, incorporating them into circus acts or holding them up to ridicule is not allowed, unless said human has chosen to be a celebrity. Humans cannot be forced to take part in human racing, or to pull sleds in sporting events of a length of more than 100 miles.

8. If, due to your negligence, your human ends up at the human pound, you will be required to pay a 25-biscuit fee to reclaim him or her and attend a mandatory human training program. Humans will be kept until claimed. In the event a human goes unclaimed, he or she will be put up for adoption.

9. All humans are created equal; discriminating against humans because of their size, shape, sex, age, color, religion, breeding, or how much they drool will not be tolerated.

10. Cruelty to humans is a serious offense, punishable by kennel time. Abusing, neglecting and euthanizing humans is prohibited.

(Inspiration: Hungarian Academy of Sciences study)

(Photo: Mosaic by Jill Beninato, Sitstaysmile.com)

(Photo: Cap from dogsrulegearstore.com)

Sixth Iditarod dog dies after race’s end

A sixth dog in the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog race has died — this one on a flight to Nome.

The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reports that the dog, a two year-old female on he team of musher Alan Peck, died during a turbulent flight from Shaktoolik to Nome.

The musher had scratched in Shaktoolik, and officials were picking up the dog team Monday. Race spokesman Chas St. George says the airplane encountered significant turbulence during the flight that forced the pilot to land in Golovin, where it was discovered that one of the dogs, name Cirque, had died.

St. George says the dogs were in good condition when loaded onto the plane. A necropsy has been scheduled.

PETA seeks probe of Iditarod dog deaths

PETA has asked Alaskan law enforcement officials to launch a criminal investigation into the deaths of five dogs who ran in this year’s Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race to determine if four mushers should be charged under the state’s cruelty-to-animals law.

The PETA letter cites Alaska State Statute 11.61.140, which prohibits a person from knowingly inflicting “prolonged suffering on an animal.”

According to news reports, Grasshopper and Dizzy, both belonging to musher Lou Packer of Wasilla, apparently froze to death in high winds and sub-zero temperatures. Two other dogs, Omen and Maynard, who were under the care of mushers Rick Larson and Warren Palfrey, died of pulmonary edema, or excess fluid in the lungs. Race veterinarians have been unable to determine what caused the death of Victor, the first dog to die in this year’s Iditarod.

A study published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine found that after a 1,100-mile race, 81 percent of dogs had “abnormal accumulations” of debris in their lower airways. PETA also cites a Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine article about the Iditarod that revealed 61 percent of dogs who were studied exhibited an increased frequency of gastric erosions or ulcers after completing the race.

“The Iditarod is more than a thousand miles of torment for these dogs,” says PETA Director Debbie Leahy. “Every year, dogs suffer serious injuries and death. The five dogs who paid for this race with their lives deserve justice — and that means holding these mushers accountable under Alaska’s very clear cruelty-to-animals law.”

PETA’s letter was sent to the director of Alaska’s State Troopers. A spokeswoman for the troopers  said  the state law PETA cites in asking for the investigation does not generally apply to accepted dog mushing contests.