Missing Iditarod Dog's Incredible Journey

Back on March 8, 2013 May, a strawberry blonde sled dog, got separated from her team during the 1,000 mile Iditarod race after they got tangled with another team. The dog had been on loan to musher Newton Marshall Sled Dogs in Action (Photo by Frank Kovalchek/Creative Commons via Wikimedia)Sled Dogs in Action (Photo by Frank Kovalchek/Creative Commons via Wikimedia)of Jamaica by her owner, musher Jim Lanier of Chugiak, Alaska. Marshall was scratched from the race at the next checkpoint for coming in without a full team. A search was begun to find the missing dog.

Despite reported sightings of the canine and fears that she may have perished between the threats of snowy cold and hungry wolves, she was finally found on March 13.

May had apparently travelled at least 300 miles from the spot she had gone missing, heading for home. She had followed the Iditarod race trail backwards, over some of the most rugged land in Alaska, feeding off the leftovers of the other teams. Eventually she missed a turn and ended up really lost, but by then she was close enough to civilization to be found by people out "snowmachining."

Newton Marshall Mushing in 2009 Yukon Quest (Photo by Carole Melville/Creative Commons via Wikimedia)Newton Marshall Mushing in 2009 Yukon Quest (Photo by Carole Melville/Creative Commons via Wikimedia)Kaitlin Koch, Matt Clark, and Michael Hansmeyer approached the skinny dog in a sled harness with bloody paws cautiously, When Koch got down on the ground May went right to her. They took the dog back to Hansmeyer's cabin and discussed where the dog could have come from. Koch was certain that she was the dog missing from the Iditarod. They wrapped her in a blanket, fed her a little food, and called Iditarod officials.

Koch stayed with May as she slept; keeping one hand over the dog's heart to make sure it kept beating. Stan Smith, an Iditarod veteran, showed up an hour later to take charge of the wayward animal. May is now in his care until her owner makes it home. She is being pampered with canned salmon and kibble stew as well as a lot of love.

May's incredible journey is a testament to the strength and endurance of these incredible canine athletes.

Sources: Anchorage Daily News

Laurie Kay Olson
Animal News Blogger

Mar 18, 2013
by Anonymous
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Iditarod dogs suffer

Iditarod dogs suffer horrendous cruelty every day of their lives. Mushers have drowned, shot, bludgeoned and dragged many dogs to death. For example, Iditarod musher Dave Olesen drowned a litter of newborn puppies. Another musher got rid of unwanted puppies by tying them in a bag and tossing the bag in a creek. Mushers even have a saying about not breeding dogs unless they can drown them: “Those who cannot drown should not breed.”

Terrible things happen to dogs during the Iditarod. This includes: death, bloody diarrhea, paralysis, frostbite (where it hurts the most!), bleeding ulcers, lung damage, pneumonia, ruptured discs, viral diseases, kennel cough, broken bones, torn muscles and extreme stress. At least 142 dogs have died in the race, including four dogs who froze to death in the brutal cold.

Veterinary care during the Iditarod is poor. In the 2012 race, one of Lance Mackey's male dogs ripped out all of his 16 toenails trying to get to a female who was in heat. This type of broken toenail is extremely painful. Mackey, a four-time Iditarod winner, said he was too stubborn to leave this dog at a checkpoint and veterinarians allowed Mackey to continue to race him. Imagine the agony the dog was forced to endure.

Here's another example: Veterinarians have allowed dogs with kennel cough to race in the Iditarod even though dogs with this disease should be kept warm and given lots of rest. Strenuous exercise can cause lung damage, pneumonia and even death. To make matters worse, kennel cough is a highly contagious disease that normally lasts from 10 to 21 days.

Iditarod dogs endure brutal training. Jeanne Olson, who has been a veterinarian in Alaska since 1988, confirmed the brutality used by mushers training dogs for the Iditarod. She talked about dogs having cracked ribs, broken jaws or skulls from mushers using two-by-fours for punishment. In an article published by the University of Alaska, Dr. Olson said, "There are mushers out there whose philosophy is...that if that dog acts up I will hit that dog to the point where it would rather die than do what it did, 'cause the next time it is gonna die.'"

Jane Stevens, a former Iditarod dog handler, describes a dog beating in her letter published by the Whitehorse Star (Feb. 23, 2011). She wrote: "I witnessed the extremely violent beating of an Iditarod racing dog by one of the racing industry's most high-profile top 10 mushers. Be assured the beating was clearly not within an 'acceptable range' of 'discipline'. Indeed, the scene left me appalled, sick and shocked. After viewing an individual sled dog repeatedly booted with full force, the male person doing the beating jumping back and forth like a pendulum with his full body weight to gain full momentum and impact. He then alternated his beating technique with full-ranging, hard and fast, closed-fist punches like a piston to the dog as it was held by its harness splayed onto the ground. He then staggeringly lifted the dog by the harness with two arms above waist height, then slammed the dog into the ground with full force, again repeatedly, all of this repeatedly."

During the 2007 race, eyewitnesses reported that musher Ramy Brooks kicked, punched and beat his dogs with a ski pole and a chain. Jon Saraceno wrote in his 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."

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." He also said, "It is a common training device in use among dog mushers..." Former Iditarod dog handler Mike Cranford wrote in Alaska's Bush Blade Newspaper: "Dogs are clubbed with baseball bats and if they don't pull are dragged to death in harnesses....."

FOR MORE FACTS: Sled Dog Action Coalition, http://www.helpsleddogs.org

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