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Four-time Iditarod champion Lance Mackey profiled in ESPN The Magazine

Lance Mackey holds two of his dogs, Rev and Maple, who wear rose garlands, after Mackey won his fourth consecutive Iditarod Trail Sled Dog race.

Four-time Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race champion Lance Mackey is one tough son-of-a-gun. The musher is profiled in the article, "Pushing through the pain," by Seth Wickersham in the Oct. 18 issue of ESPN The Magazine.

A truly remarkable athlete, Mackey speaks candidly about his life, including his fight with cancer, drug and alcohol addiction, losing body parts (including his left index finger) and how he keeps persevering through it all.

Next March, Mackey could become the first man to win five consecutive Iditarods, the "Last Great Race on Earth."

While some may decry the annual race as 1,000-miles of cruelty for the sled-dogs, with Mackey it is obvious he cares about his dogs -- not only those he races but also the ones he and his wife, Tonya, raise at Lance Mackey's Comeback Kennel, which sells and leases dogs to other mushers. If he doesn't like the way his customers care for his dogs, he often takes them back.

Lance Mackey shares a private moment with Rev, one of his sled dogs, during the 2010 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. It is also obvious that Mackey doesn't compete in sled-dog racing to make millions of dollars but because it is his passion. In fact, his purse from the 2010 Iditarod was $50,400. He and Tonya still live in an unfinished house they bought three years ago in Fox, Alaska, and, as he told Wickersham, "I don't worry anymore. We used to live in a tent, for chrissakes."

The article is a great read, and gives insight into a man and athlete who, while likely little-known elsewhere, is one of the most-recognized names and faces in his home state of Alaska.

As commenter "lived9lives" says on the article's online comment board: "Thank you Seth for finally giving more than just lip service to this amazing athlete. The majority of the stories in this wonderful article are NEW which means you have really done your homework. Bravo! Now convince ESPN that Lance deserves to be nominated for Athlete of the Year. Certainly this story places him far above the countless spoiled athletes existing in their climate-controlled 'competitions' with their personal trainers, medical personnel, psychological experts and massive million dollar contracts!!! I'd like to see any of these athletes try to drive a 16-dog team a mere 1 mile even under the best weather conditions. Bravo Lance I'll be cheering for you this March."

I couldn't agree more.

-- Kelly Burgess

Photos: (top) Lance Mackey holds two of his dogs, Rev and Maple, who wear rose garlands, after Mackey won his fourth consecutive Iditarod Trail Sled Dog race; (bottom) Mackey shares a private moment with Rev during the 2010 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. Credit: Bob Hallinen / Anchorage Daily News / Associated Press

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Comments (21)

I used Marge's web page design and swapped her information about sled dogs with the information I researched about human athletes. With all due respects, I don't think your are seeing the entire situation Lucy. There are many, many human athletes that run a long distance each day. For example, Dean Karnazes described his successful attempt to run 50 marathons in 50 US states in 50 consecutive days in his book. You should read it!! I also know SEVERAL runners who keep running with oozing blisters on their feet, but the mushers would NEVER keep running their dogs in that condition. Some people/animals find exertion to be as addicting as your bon-bons. I would prefer running 100 miles a day than sitting on the couch judging other people all day! I hope my comparison helps you better see the truth!

Frequently asked questions about Long Distance and Endurance Athletes

1. How many people have died in long distance running and cycling?

A 23-year-old man from Boston collapsed at the 25th-mile marker of the Baltimore Marathon.

A 64 year old from Hermantown passed away Grandma’s Marathon in northeast Minnesota.

32-year-old former college baseball player collapsed and died after a half-marathon in Dallas

three runners died during the Free Press Marathon in Detroit

two runners in their 30s died in a race in San Jose, Calif.

a 27-year-old runner collapsed and died shortly after finishing the Rock 'n' Roll Virginia Beach Half Marathon

In 2006, at least 6 runners lost their lives in marathons in the US

In 2007, there were 3 high profile deaths

In 2008, there were 5 high profile deaths

35 cycling deaths since 1950, 24 serious injuries due to cycling

2. How many people have died or have been injured while training for long distance events?

Since training deaths and injuries aren't always reported, I copied page 1 out of 500 on a runner's blog page. You get the idea:)

Running Pains 1 Tue Oct 12, 2010 12:47 pm
Have i torn my cartilage in knee? 1 Fri Oct 08, 2010 1:12 am
Chandrectomy recovery time 0 Fri Oct 08, 2010 1:08 am
Injured - Do I chance it? [marathon] 0 Mon Sep 20, 2010 9:28 pm
Injury recovery 3 Wed Jul 28, 2010 9:21 am
recovered from runners knee, knee bending hurt injury 0 Thu Jul 22, 2010
hello there-1st post-i'm injured... (training for 400m Hurd) 0 Fri Jun 18,
sprinting lower back pains 5 Sun May 23, 2010 7:19 am
Help - Calf pain - one month to marathon! 1 Sun Mar 21, 2010 1:54 pm
knee pain, marathon in 5 weeks! help! 0 Thu Feb 11, 2010 11:34 pm
Weak/bad Ankles 2 Wed Jan 20, 2010 4:08 pm
Knee straps, pain in front of knee 1 Fri Dec 11, 2009 6:26 pm
Weak Knee 0 Wed Jul 15, 2009 8:50 am
Hamstring Pull 4 Weeks Later 1 Wed Apr 22, 2009 5:03 am
IT band syndrome 1 Wed Apr 15, 2009 3:43 am
question, is this coach right? 1 Mon Mar 23, 2009 7:13 pm
IT pain 10 days to first 1/2 marathon- help!! 1 Mon Mar 23, 2009 6:56 pm

3. Are people sick and injured during the race?

Many people that start a marathon fail to complete the marathon.

Increased Risks for Marathon Runners5

* Heart Attack

* Sudden Cardiac Death

* Hardening of Arteries

* Stress Fractures

* Lower Back Pain

* Blood in Urine

* Repetitive-Stress Injuries

* Permanent Bone Damag

4. Do the race events violate accepted standards regarding cruelty to people?

Humans were not intended to run long distances over the course of a couple of hours or days. Duh...that is why we have cars. I couldn't find a single event that required a current physical or doctor's release.

5. Is the race a commemoration?

Many races state they are commemorative, but most do not actually recreate the event they are commemorating.

6. How do spouses benefit from running their spouse in races?

Many dollars in prizes are awarded to the winning racers. The largest prize is given to the racer who crosses the finish line first. However, prize money is also given to racers who first reach certain points along the course. Racers who are hired to be in corporate advertisements receive substantial financial benefits, as do racers who reap royalties from the sales of books they write or the speeches they give. These corporations turn their face away from the cruelties the humans are forced to endure.

7. What kind of medical care do the racers receive before and during the race?

"Marathon runners can be a lot less fit than they think," Dr. Eric Larose told the Canadian Cardiovascular Congress 2010. If there was adequate medical care wouldn't the racers know how fit they were?

8. How does the current speed record compare to the speed record in the first race?

The first Boston Marathon was completed with the time 2:55:10. The 2009 winner crossed the finish line with the time

2:07:46. Such an improvement in time could only signal over training!

9. What is the cost of running in the race?

A racer can save money by training themselves, since the trainers run about $125 a month. Once entry fees, travel costs, food, shoes, vitamins, and first aid items have been added the cost could reach several thousand dollars.

10. Do many people participate in the races?

26735 racers started the Boston Marathon and 22540 completed the Boston Marathon.

11. Does the event sponsor make a profit?

Most marathons are usually a non-profit event to help aid charities, but obviously someone has to make money to organize such an event. Event sponsors gain money through advertising.

12. How do the racers live when they are not racing?

When these marathon racers aren't competing in a marathon they live in horrible conditions. In order to reach optimal conditioning for running such terrible distances they are forced to run on a regular basis. I'm not talking about running to the fridge to get a snack before the commercial ends either. They are putting on serious miles. It is not uncommon for racers to run between 50 and 60 miles a week. In addition to all of the running, some are forced to participate in a weight training program.

To support the rigors of marathon training, you need to eat well, and scientifically. Yuck! Serious racers cut virtually all of the fat from their diet. That means no McDonald's, Papa Johns, or Starbucks for these poor things.

Oh wow. I missed this one when it was first published.

First off as usual, I want to thank Outposts for their great Iditarod coverage! And cheers to ESPN Magazine for their great article, too. Well said!

And now, onto the usual anti-sled dog racing comments that pop up whenever a mushing article appears here. I've commented before so you probably all know that I worked for two years as a handler at an Iditarod kennel.

As I have said before, I am a major dog lover. That is WHY I got into this sport. I heard claims of cruelty (including ones directed at mushers I worked with) that I quickly discovered were completely inaccurate.

If my experience in the sled dog world had at all reflected what the anti-mushers described, I would no longer be a part of that community and I wouldn't be writing this comment.

Last March, I wrote a response to common claims made against sled dog racing here - http://sleddoggin.com/blogs/wolfmoonsleddog/2010/03/16/peta-sled-dog-racing-warning-may-contain-sarcasm/ Please visit the link to see what I wrote. I am currently in the process of making an updated version with more photos, videos and responses to more claims.

I couple of extra comments on the above posts.

1)To Nancy Marie Steuer - THANK YOU for your first-hand comments. Nice to hear from someone who has been to the kennel in question.

2) I have read that the death rate for dogs in the 1925 Serum Run was much higher than in the Iditarod. Not sure if this is really even relevent but I'm putting it out there anyway.

3)Doginator, what is your experience with sled dogs? The enthusiasm sled dogs have for running has nothing to do with whether they are harnessed or not (where's the harness on this dog? - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZMmkk8Uot4I).

I'm more than willing to discuss anything mentioned here or on my blog post, so feel free to ask me about your concerns.

Anyway, sorry this is so long.

Alice White
Wolf Moon Siberians

Lucy, exactly, no team ran more than 100 miles (although one ran about 91) -- AND there were no vets taking care of the dogs and very little concern about the working animal, UNLIKE TODAY. YOU RESEARCH dog care in the Serum Run. It wasn't Balto the cartoon movie, it was life and death real. You miss the point. SECOND - Dr. Gabe Mirkin's remark--- better yet proves the point--- he doesn't work for the race, he was stating research - not promoting a race--- fact is fact- dogs aren't like human athletes, they have the ability to recover quickly after exercise. AND he most likely added that comment after folks in your circle bullied him for making comments in the first place, he was simply letting you know that according to research dogs have the ability to do what humans don't do. In his 2006 original article about this, he stated 'according to research...' and he didn't have his little sentence that you quoted in that original article... In the comment you quoted, he wasn't calling any specific race abusive, and quite likely he added that comment recently because he was reacting to the typical animal right protests you all send out to goodhearted well meaning, people who do their jobs or believe in what they are doing. Sled dogs that are trained to run this race have the athletic ability to say so. Sharpen your pencil and take notes as you read: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/26889282/ From all research, from people who KNOW first hand about dogs and racing, it is obvious and clear that dog sled races put dog care as a priority. Since you will never end dog sled racing you should help support research to continue to improve what it is doing. Dog sled races will not go away. Oh, and let me add, this past week, sadly and tragically, an athletic swimmer died --- "Doctors determined that severe fatigue was behind Crippen's sudden death, UAE Swimming Federation Secretary Saeed Al Hamour said Sunday." Shall we now cancel all swim meets and advise no one swim? Shall we keep our doggies out of the water? No. Tragedy happens and from it you learn to make things better.The race you protest has improved year after year. Things happen. People learn from it. It goes on better and better in many respects. Lucy, you fail to impress anyone but you continue to show how you bully people. I won't be bullied by you or any other person from your circle. Hope you put booties on your dogs feet when they hike with you--- and you carry food and water with for your dogs. Hope your dogs are microchipped and have regular medical examinations so you know they are fit for exercise. How is their blood work? Has your vet collected urine to test it? What about their heart rate? Hope your dogs have their shots up to date. These are all things the racing sled dogs have done to make sure they are healthy for races that put the dogs health as a priority. Have you been to a dog sled race?

Be careful about YOUR research, “My View”. No dog ran over 100 miles in the historical serum run. Also, at the bottom of the article you pointed out was a note from the author, Dr. Gabe Mirkin: “Note: It has been brought to my attention that this article may be used to support abusive dog sledding practices. My intent was to provide useful information about human muscles and human training techniques. I have no expertise in dog racing or veterinary medicine.”

Each year dogs die in the race, with 2010 an exception. One year six dogs died and another five dogs died. There are no records for the early years.

You may be interested to know that I take my dogs hiking in the mountains regularly.

Lucy, Lucy, Lucy... People who 'love their dogs' maybe better get them off the couch and exercise them. They need to stop feeding them table scraps. People who love their dogs --- allow them to do what they are born and bred to do. Using logic of your statement, people who loved their dogs --- better not take them outside to run free lest they be hit by a car, lost, or injured some how.... Good grief, your logic makes no sense. The Iditarod dogs are athletes, Lucy, and yes, the race is more than 1000 miles but guess what THEY DO NOT RUN IT IN ONE NON STOP RUN. Sharpen your pencil, do your research. The genetic make up of these dogs allows them to 'recover' from exercise quickly, something humans can't do. Here is an article for you to review. http://www.drmirkin.com/fitness/sled_dogs.html Looking at the data about the number of dogs that are dropped SHOW mushers care about their dogs... they 'drop' them and that is NOT abuse nor is the number of dogs dropped a sign of abuse. Contrary to what you and others say, the dogs are examined at checkpoints by veterinarians. These dogs are loved and well cared for, and if you call exercising these dogs and racing them abuse, you do not understand simple science and medical facts about these dogs. When you mention the 140 deaths, you fail to report that the race rules over the past 30 some years and the improved dog care, have different results during the current races. There were 0 deaths in 2010. Sharpen your pencil and do your research to find out how many dogs died or were seriously injured during the Serum Run.... There were no vets taking care of the dogs then, and the dogs were work animals. That is simply what happened back then. Today, in this race, dogs are cared for year round. They have extensive medical tests before being allowed to race. If this race was abusive, this step wouldn't happen. Let's back up to 'Pushing through the pain..." Sharpen your pencil, the pain--- that was Lance's pain, not the dogs. Read Lance's book. You'll learn 'what happens' to dropped dogs and retired dogs, they are loved and cared for. Lucy, have you been to the race? Margery hasn't. This race isn't going to stop, Margery, DogFather, and Lucy. So what you should do instead of trying to throw dirt, is throw your money helping it to be a better race! Put your money where your pencil has been and try to make things even better by contributing in a positive way... because THAT is what people who LOVE their pets do--- You are losing your verbal battle. Each year, the race is getting better and better, there are more race fans, more sponsors and less folks like you complaining about it. But the real winners are the dogs because they are running, racing, pulling and traveling as many miles as they can year after year.

Shaun, according to the Official Iditarod website, the Iditarod is a “race over 1150 miles of the roughest, most beautiful terrain… jagged mountain ranges, frozen river, dense forest, desolate tundra and miles of windswept coast … temperatures far below zero, winds that can cause a complete loss of visibility, the hazards of overflow, long hours of darkness and treacherous climbs and side hills” .

The distance is more than the distance from Maine to Florida, and far from a simple “walk in the park”.

how long was it?

Iditarod mushers get away with animal abuse because Alaska's Animal Cruelty Law specifically exempts them. The law looks the other way while mushers beat and run their dogs to death. I laugh when I hear people say that the dogs love to run. The harnesses the dogs wear tap into their oppositional reflex. This reflex makes the dogs want to pull and run.

Put things in perspective, Nancy, the Iditarod is a once-a-year race for a mere 71 mushers (this year) that routinely kills young, healthy dogs, and it has to stop. Although no dogs died during the race this year, which is an exception, the average number of dog deaths a year is 3.8, and the total known deaths is 142. One does not have to be present at the Iditarod to realize that distance is too long and the conditions and terrain too grueling for the dogs.

Also, Mr. Or Ms. My View, of the 71 mushers who started this year’s race 16 “scratched” many indicating it was due to their dogs’ “inability” to continue (tired, sick, injured, just didn’t want to go, etc.). The sole purpose of these magnificent dogs is for the race and are treated like machines to pull the musher. They have to train for long distances and when they’re not racing or training, they’re kept at the end of a short chain, which is inhumane and no way to treat a dog.

These, people, are facts, carefully researched, negative, but true, and the more people realize the negative side of this horrible race, the more chance for it to be stopped.

We who care about children and animals cannot do it all, but we try to do whatever we can whenever we can.

Please, Please those of you out there in cyberland that don't investigate and get all your facts before writing trash and generalizing about sled dogs and mushers, need not put your negative garbage in comments. Keep your negativity to your self.

Lance Macky is one of the greatest mushers on the planet and LOVES all his dogs, his "Comeback Kennels" is one of the cleanist I've seen, as I visited his kennels in the past, he has handlers as well as family that help with the kennels. Most of the Iditarod Mushers take better care of their kennels, their dogs than most people take care of their children.

There are more abused dogs that all the dogs that have run the Iditarod, I've seen some horrific animal abuse, starvation of dogs and etc., people that have kennels and can not afford to feed them, clean up after them, can not afford vet bills and etc. People that live on welfare from the State of Alaska and federal welfare programs that have anywhere from 10 to 57 dogs, no kennel license and no help to feed, clean up after and etc. No shot records and etc.

Why don't people take an interest in searching out these situations and leave the up-stat Mushers and the Iditarod alone???????????

Mr/Ms My View: My "hearsay and misleading information," as you put it, regarding over 140 dog deaths actually comes from published statistics from the Iditarod Trail Committe and the Anchorage Daily News. If you take issue with their reporting, perhaps you should take your complaints to them.

Your point about the conditionng and training of the dogs is well taken - not only is the race killing dogs, but it's killing some of the toughest dogs in the world.

As I said: People who *really* love their dogs don't risk their dogs' lives to feed their own egos.

That is right, DogFather, you don't understand because you are responding and reacting to hearsay and misleading information. These mushers aren't taking your over weight couch puppy who eats table scraps and doesn't even want to walk in the park for more than 5 minutes on a thousand mile run. They are taking dogs that are born and raised AND trained to race. These dogs have put on hundreds of training miles, just like human athletes put on hundreds of miles before their race. They aren't 'over worked and over run' like Lucy says, they are TRAINED to run and they love it! They aren't BREAKING any law... The dogs have a double winter coat and they are used to running in the cold. It is what they do. They are sled dogs. And Lucy, the size of dog house allows the dogs to stay warm in their house and the chains keep the dogs safe in the dog yard while allowing them plenty of space to run and exercise. Those dogs are well exercised and taken care of year round. All mushers I've met have free run time for dogs and many of the sled dogs spend time in doors from time to time. They are socialized, well loved, and they love back. Your comment about half the dogs 'not making' it to the end of the race has very little to do with the health of the dog. These 'dropped' dogs are not all injured, some are simply in season, for example, and cause a wee bit of extra distraction--- and don't finish the race due to that. But basically, the fact that those dogs don't make it to the finish line would be proof that mushers and veterinarians care about the dogs--- or wouldn't they just let them run? Your arguments against the race 'don't make it to the finish' line, come to think of it, they don't make it to the starting line either.

I don't understand how Mackey and mushers like him say they love their dogs yet they enter them in a race that usually kills dogs every year - over 140 in the Iditarod alone.

People who *really* love their dogs don't risk their dogs' lives to feed their own egos.

“Pushing through the pain” is what the dogs endure. The dogs “may be the toughest” athletes. “Iditarod subjects” the dog “competitors to bitter cold and sleep deprivation.” The dogs “race at all hours, in the prolonged darkness.”

Lance Mackey’s 11 dogs won this year’s race, with the help of his 5 other “dropped” dogs. What happened to them? Mackey has a choice; the dogs do not have a choice in this shameful race.

Sure, the dogs love to run, but not for 1100+ miles. The distance is too long and the conditions and terrain too grueling for the dogs. The dogs run over mountain ranges, ice, snow, rivers and creeks in harsh conditions (sub-freezing, breaking through ice, extreme wind chill, etc.). This race is a once-a-year, so-called “sporting” event that routinely kills young, healthy dogs and it has to stop. Six dogs died last year, bringing the total known to 142.

These dogs are among the best-conditioned dogs in the world due to their training year-round, yet, for example, during the last 8 years less than half of the dogs made it to the finish line. This clearly proves how severe the race is for them. Also, when dogs are dropped, it’s harder for the remaining dogs to drag the sled and musher to the finish line. Unfortunately for the dogs, they are so loyal that they will run to exhaustion.

These well-conditioned dogs consistently suffer injuries and illnesses, (hence the dropped dogs) and death. There are laws in at least 38 states against "over-driving" and "over-working" animals, which is exactly what the Iditarod does.

When they are not racing or training the dogs are kept tethered - every dog short-chained to its own small dog house. Take a close look at how Mackey keeps his 99 dogs, as the ESPN photo shows. This is considered inhumane and is illegal in many communities. Is this any way for the mushers to show love and caring for their companion animals?

I cannot believe that the mushers truly love their dogs, because they are subjecting them to the possibility of exhaustion, injuries, illnesses, and death.

As long as this race is hyped and the dark side not presented it will continue and the dogs will suffer and die.

Oh Margery, Margery, you really are pathetic. You are using the same negative, false propaganda you've been using for years. You still haven't checked on the truth of anything you spew out. One visit to a racing kennel more than a decad ago doesn't count as research. It only counts to show that you didn't like the kennel you visited and now you are still using the same old barn yard stuff you've used over and over again.
Where were you when a pet dog from your part of the world was left chained to a back yard tree without food or water. The owners abandoned the house and the dog. He was discovered TWO months later, still alive, barely when someone went to mow the grass. The grass had grown up around him. Where were you when a dog was discovered in King County living for months in a basement with his food and water pushed through a slot, but no human contact.
You have , for what ever imagined slight from someone at some kennel, declared a vicious vendetta against a sport that is world wide about which you obviously know absolutely nothing. Do some actual research. Read some books. Go get your feet and hands cold in Alaska, Canada, Norway, Argentina, Italy. Find out some actual facts about dog drivers and their dogs. Learn to deal in truth, it should light up your limited world.

It is too bad that someone who has never observed the race first hand takes the opportunity to attempt to mislead readers with copy paste messages from her collection that are designed to take a focus from what is true... The Iditarod dogs are bred, trained, and healthy. They must PASS prerace exams to prove they are healthy. This alone is proof that good dog care is a priority. The dogs love to run, pull the sled, and race. Veterinarians ARE at every checkpoint and the dogs are examined. Since the first Iditarod race, dog care before and during the race in general has improved as it has improved for pets in our backyards. The misinformed comment maker also forgot to mention that there were NO dog deaths last year, and taking into account that our pet dogs die of natural causes or are hit by cars or lost/run away, or get over fed and are not exercised and become unhealthy--- that again is proof that Iditarod and other dog mushing events put dog care at a priority. If the poster really wanted to make a difference, she'd donate money to the race and request the money go to continue to improve dog care. It is obvious this poster is not reliable as far as giving information goes. Who is reliable? Read Lance Mackey's book. Read other books and research the Iditarod website to see what is being done to take good care of the dogs--- Better yet, go to the race or watch video of it on line. GO dogs! Run, run, run! Cheer them on and celebrate their athletic abilities!

To all the Iditarod haters: My spoiled, indoor dog LOVES to run (side by side with me, not on a team, although he would absolutely love to do that too). He runs and runs and runs, and enjoys the bitter Fairbanks cold a lot more than I do. He would run until he had frostbite in every toe if I would let him. Every time we go outside, on or off-leash, he runs the risk of encountering moose, wolverines, snowmachines and cars...but so do I. It's just life up here. And when he dies, I might just make mittens out of his hide too, because then I'll get to keep him close to me forever, and he'll be keeping me safe and warm just like he does in life.

Margery, I also notice that you don't accuse Lance of any cruelty, which is good because he is a GREAT man who loves all dogs. I wish he was the public face of Alaska and not Sarah Palin.

If Glickkman is blaming mushers for sled dogs dying as a result of ATV, snowmobile, and semi trucks, does she write these messages whenever a pet dog is killed by car as a result of the owner's negligence to control their pet?

Once again Margery Glickman has taken everything revolving around the Iditarod out of context. Quite frankly, I'm sick of reading her rantings. She only writes about this because she can't do anything about the dogs in her own home state of Florida, so she picks Alaska because it's so far away. She has personally never visited a mushing kennel and has relied on statements from those who may be disgruntled former handlers. If you think the Iditarod is abuse you only have to visit Anchorage for the start and Willow for the restart to see how enthusiastic these dogs are to run. It's what they were born to do---not sit tied to a tree in someone's back yard. Dog care has improved immeasurably since the beginning of this race, because of this race. Vet knowledge has tripled about dogs and what they can and can't do because of this race. Yes, it is unfortunate that dogs have died in this race. But humans die in sports and I don't see anyone claiming abuse there. Dogs die in pet homes because they are over fed and fat.
The Iditarod is not a bottomless pit of suffering for the dogs. For the most part, it is a fun run for them and when they decide they have had enough, they stop running. You can't make them run. Whips are not allowed in the Iditarod. Why Margery continues to say this is beyond me except that her facts are not facts.
Come see the race, come meet the dogs, come experience the joy!

As usual, Majorie "Doesn't Know Crap" Glickman is at it again. Never having been to the Iditarod, never having been to Lance's Comeback Kennel, and up to her eyes in the garbage that she spews forth, she belongs on the trail with what the happy sled dogs leave behind!

Mackey's dog "Wolf" died in the 2004 Iditarod when he regurgitated food and choked on it. For the dogs, the Iditarod is a bottomless pit of suffering. 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, including two dogs on Dr. Lou Packer's team who froze to death in the brutally cold winds.

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, http://www.helpsleddogs.org


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Outposts' primary contributor is Kelly Burgess.