Tuesday, March 23, 2010
SUN SNOW DOGS JAMAICA JIMMY BUFFET and THE IDITAROD
It all started for me when Carol and I visited the legendary Muktuk dog mushing kennels near Whitehorse in the Yukon. I had been aware of the sled dog race called the Iditarod before but this visit put some serious flesh on the bones. Manuela a charming master carpenter from Germany and apprentice musher showed us round the kennels and when pushed admitted that she had dreams of running the 'Big One' the 1049 mile 8 to 15 day Iditarod.
We visited the Iditarod museum near Wasilla outside Anchorage and got to ride in a wheeled buggy behind a team.
I started following the stories of the Iditarod and the similar Yukon Quest race. Stories of how the traditional sled dogs the huskies have been displaced by crossbreds who are just plain faster. Stories of mushers like Libby Riddles taking off into killer storms to win the race. She was named the 1985 Sportswoman of the Year by the Women’s Sports Foundation and honored by the Iditarod veterinarians with the 1985 Leonhard Seppala Humanitarian Award for her humane treatment of her dogs. Also, her champion lead dogs, Dugan and Sister, won the 1985 Golden Harness Award which is given to the outstanding lead dog(s) during the Iditarod race.
Nearly 200 dogs have died during the race over the years but this year was the first without a dog death.
I also read about a serious ironman called Lance Mackay who this year made it 4 Iditarod wins in a row despite not being allowed to smoke his ganja this year. He is a cancer survivor and is prescribed marijuana for pain management.
But what has Jamaica and Jimmy Buffet got to do with dog racing in Alaska.
Well a Jamaican entrepreneur called Danny Melville thought up a new way to separate tourists from their dosh. He bought a dog buggy similar to the one we rode in, rescued some dogs from the local pound and ' Sled dogs in the sun ' was born.
Some of the early training was done in Scotland I am pretty sure that the upper one of the two here is a pic from haggis land. To me the dogs look a bit like Charro but Carol may disagree.
It was a short step to thoughts of emulating the Jamaican Bobsleigh team immortalized in Cool Runnings and entering a Jamaican in the Iditarod.
Somehow Jimmy Buffet got involved [ boy would I love to have been a fly on the wall in that meeting ] and soon Newton Marshall, 27, from St Ann Parish was off to Alaska and training with Lance Mackay . He finished 47th out of 71 starters in the Iditarod race, the first black “musher” to finish the epic course suffering frostbite and surviving on very little sleep over 12 days, four hours and 27 minutes.
What about Manuela. I had found her blog shortly after we visited the kennels but there were very few postings. It turns out that she had not paid enough attention to her own feet while worrying about her dogs paws and had gotten her toes badly frostbitten one day. She is still suffering from this but is back out on the sled.
I hope she succeds for she too dreams by day.
"All men dream, but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dream with open eyes, to make it possible."
~ T. E. Lawrence (of Arabia)
Posted by John Duncker at 1:51 PM