Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Iditarod Fever

I love the Iditarod. I think it is an amazing feat for both the dogs and the mushers to make it from 
Anchorage to Nome. Seriously amazing. Anyone who completes the race in my mind is an athlete. And if you win, you apparently are pretty awesome. This past summer at the fair I met Lance Mackey, who is an AMAZING musher. He has won the Yukon Quest and the Iditarod back to back at least 2 years in a row. He is the three-year reigning champion of the Iditarod, and today he is on track to win his 4th race in a row. That is a record. And, I am SO excited for him! He was the nicest guy ever when I met him. 
He didn't try to rush people through his line and was genuinely excited to chat with people. Then, I 
decided to go back and say hi to him again and he remembered me. He offered to give me one of his sled dogs, and even left me with his phone number and email so that I could come pick one out. Needless to say, I went a different direction and got Snickers instead, but it was still exciting.

So, anyway, I'm a huge Lance Mackey fan. He is a cancer survivor and just an all around amazing 
athlete. One thing that made me mad about the Iditarod this year is they decided to start drug testing the mushers. I understand making sure the dogs are safe, and aren't taking anything that could harm them.  
But, even the Iditarod committee had come out and said that it was because of Lance Mackey's 
admission of smoking pot on the trail that had lead to this drug testing. Really?? Pot? Anyone who can 
smoke pot and still WIN the Iditarod is even more amazing! I actually don't care at all that he smokes pot. It's not like the pot is making his dogs run faster. He has a medical license for it (because of his cancer 
therapy) (which I actually still wouldn't care about it even if he didn't have that...). Basically, I think the 
other mushers are kind of mad that he keeps winning. So, Mackey, being the exciting, stand-up guy he is, said he wouldn't fight it. He wouldn't use his medical license as an excuse. He would run the race clean. And he is still kicking butt.

So, Lance, mush on! I wish I could be at home to see you pull into Nome. I am rooting for you!

Edited: For some reason the formatting on this post is weird. I can't figure out how to fix it. Sorry for the weird breaks even in the middle of words... hopefully next time it won't be weird.


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, http://www.helpsleddogs.org

Whitney Erin said...

Hmm...interesting. You have obviously never been to a sled dog race in Alaska and seen the excitement of the dogs to race or the relationship that exists between the dogs and their musher and handlers. There are many evil people in this world who do bad things, including certain mushers who have been invloved with the Iditarod. That doesn't mean that every musher is that way, in fact that is the extreme exception rather than the rule. There are plenty of people who are abusive pet owners, yet you are not trying to prohibit the general public from owning pets because, let's face it, that's once again the exception rather than the rule and those people alone should be punished, just like in the sled dog world. It is great that you care so much about dogs and try to make sure they are being treated fairly, but maybe you need to think a little more rationally about this issue and actually spend some time among mushers so you can see that the majority of them treat their dogs humanely and often lovingly. Millions of dogs out there don't even have homes and are struggling to survive in animal shelters and on the street. Maybe you should focus on those dogs rather than spending time trying to "save" sled dogs who are already well fed, sheltered and taken care of. Stop villifying a sport you aren't fully familiar with (and the people involved in it) and start spending your time helping dogs who actually need it!
PS Sally that is awesome you almost adopted one of Lance Mackeys dogs, jealous that you got to meet him not once but twice! :)