Monday, June 21, 2010

Wasilla Alaska

No, we did not plan to go to Wasilla for a sighting of Sarah Palin.  I do not think there is any chance of finding her in Walmart or Dairy Queen anyway. Those were the only two places in Wasilla we stopped at other than the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race Headquarters.  One tour book we have says that the Iditarod  defines Alaska as a state. I could understand that after touring this museum. At the dog race headquarters trophies and photos are among the race memorabilia on display. We were also able to see video footage of  of past races.
The  Iditarod, also called the "Last Great Race On Earth", had its first beginnings in 1973 when a race was organized to commemorate the 1925 event when 20 mushers relayed serum to Nome to save children who had contracted diphtheria. In the early years of the race it started in Wasilla but had to be moved to Willow when subdivisions and an airport blocked the trail. Willow is about 70 miles north of Anchorage. Since 1973 651 Iditarod teams have finished the 1,000 plus grueling miles over glaciated ice. It takes about 9-17 days to complete and can reach temperatures of minus 60 F.  Each sled is pulled by as many as 16 dogs. Some of those dogs do not complete the race because of dehydration or fatigue. A musher must finish the race with 5 dogs. For the musher it is not so much being first or winning the prize as it is more about personal victory and a huge accomplishment. For myself, I can not even imagine standing on a sled for 100 miles a day and tolerating bitter cold and strong winds. People who participate are both men and women from around the world. The 2010 race had a man from Jamaica. This race was started to keep the rich tradition of the sled dog alive. Needless to say, the dogs are incredible athletes and have been bred for this race. Outside of the museum were some of those dogs who, during the summer months, pull sled-dog(carts) for anyone wishing to have the experience of riding behind a team of dogs. I was just content to cuddle one of the puppies. The puppy I held was quite docile and friendly. I was told by her handler that such a personality is very characteristic of the sled dog.

1 comment:

  1. 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.

    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?

    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,