A completely disgusting article is up on the NBC Sports website, reporting on the so-called ‘winner’ of the IdiocyRod Sled Dog Race, as the oldest person to ride in the back of the sled that crossed the finish line first in the animal-cruelty competition.
The sled-rider is 53 years old and was quoted as saying, “This is for all of the gentlemen of a certain age.” The story reported on his race time, when all he did was ride in the back of the sled. The lead paragraph claimed HE won the “grueling test of endurance.”
In reality, it was the dogs who suffered, while all he did was ride along – yes – in the cold weather. If he had pulled the sled or walked the 1,000 miles, that would be an achievement. The article went on to claim his “victory came after a dueling sprint” with another sled-rider. NO – the dogs sprinted.
And without noting the dogs that have died over the years in this event and the thousands that have reportedly been killed through the racer-selection process, the article gets mushy about how the riders hugged the dogs at the finish line.
The article was so full of crap, it nearly gummed up my desktop computer. I realize the writers were given an assignment to cover it, but they did not have to become race promoters. The best phrase I can come up with is – disgusting.
The reporting is beyond irresponsible and NBC Sports should issue an apology for posting the article on its website. I hope they don’t decide to start covering dog fights.
Okay, I know you mean well, but please read what I have to say in response.
I’d really appreciate it if you would do a bit more research into this matter. I grew up in the interior of Alaska, and my experience is that while the average family might not treat their sled dogs beautifully, and yes, there are some families in the bush in Alaska who treat their dogs quite badly, professional mushers are very different — they appreciate their dogs, and they do this sport because they love their dogs. They sure aren’t making much money doing this! Unlike most dog owners in the lower 48, who keep their dogs as “pets” and then don’t take time to exercise them or spend much time with them, mushers DO take time to be with their dogs, make sure they get plenty of exercise, feed them a diet of foods that are considered delicacies in most lower 48 restaurants (salmon and whitefish), and generally fuss over them and love them to pieces.
Also, did you watch any video of the Iditarod? Mushers work very hard. Mitch Seavey was ski poling and pushing with his feet to help the sled along faster, while Aliy Zirkle was ski poling so hard to help her dogs that her palms are covered with blisters. If the mushers did nothing but ride, then it would be possible for MUCH older people to win this race — but Mitch Seavey thinks this is the last year he could possibly handle this test of endurance.
Also, I don’t know about Mitch, but Aliy has won two humanitarian awards for how well she treats her dogs — and if you watch her with her dogs, you can tell she considers them to be people. For one thing, she always asks them if they are ready before leaving, and never forces them to go when they don’t want to (though I don’t know when that would happen — sled dogs love to run, except when another dog in heat is close by — in that case they’d like to go investigate). If you watched Aliy cross the finish line, you’ll see that her dogs look pretty happy and proud of themselves, all wagging their tails and looking alert. I’ll agree with you that the dogs deserve the MOST credit, and the mushers are the first to say so (Aliy’s kennel, SP Kennels, has been reporting all along on which dogs were running and how they are doing, and you can see the dogs highlighted in Aliy’s Meet the Dogs videos on You Tube) — but on the other hand, the dogs also don’t read the newspaper or surf the Internet. They just want plenty of love and attention and salmon treats — and they ARE getting that.
As for cold — the mushers were heading into Nome in what they called “the heat of the day” — ten below zero — and they were sorry to be leaving in that much heat because the dogs don’t like it so warm for running, they prefer it colder. Like all athletes, they warm up while exercising. The dogs speed up when the sun goes down and it cools off more. In fact, with global warming, they may end up pushing the Iditarod earlier in the year to accommodate the dogs. The mushers would prefer the warmer temperatures, like most humans, but they don’t want their dogs having to deal with that.
A final thing I want to say is that I am very aware about animal rights. I am a former member of PETA and a vegan. So this issue is very close to my heart, and I know that you mean well in writing this — but I strongly urge you to take a closer look, please.
Thank you for offering your thoughts here.
The fact is I have done my research on this topic. I know dogs die during the race and I know dogs are “culled” who don’t make the ‘grade’ as racers – as is the case in greyhound racing. Thousands of dogs have lost their lives to keep this event going. This fact alone is a terrible aspect of sled dog racing. We cannot overlook this.
I’ve seen how many of the dogs live – tethered to small dog houses.
There are a number of troubling aspects to sled dog racing. The fact that some sledders take better care of their dogs does not negate the horrors of the industry.
The facts I have noted here are indeed facts and I must speak out when animals are abused or die in this way.
People who support greyhound racing make the same claims of how much the insiders love the dogs and how well they are cared for. But we know better. We know dogs are dying for entertainment.
As we learn more and more about animals and better understand their level of self-awareness, we must work together to end their suffering and exploitation.
But again, thank you for offering your opinion. Everyone is welcome to do so here.
Read quotes from Mitch Seavey’s book Lead, Follow or Get Out of the Way! He encourages people to whip dogs who disobey, punish dogs who won’t eat, give dogs contaminated food and “candle” a dog’s feet. Seavey said his book is meant to help people “develop a long-distance team and gain understanding of dogs in general.”
– Mitch Seavey tells people to whip and hit dogs:
“Distance racing does have its negative moments (gasp!); time when Fluffy would rather not do what I want him to do, like pull the dang sled.
‘Fluffy, hike up!’
Fluffy thinks, ‘No thanks. Actually I’m a little tired here, and pulling would be a negative experience so I don’t think I would like to pull the sled. No, I definitely don’t want to pull the sled right now.’
Collect yourself a stick, give the verbal command ‘hike up;’ stop the sled, pull back on Fluggy’s tug line, and whack Fluffy’s butt.”
— Mitch Seavey tells mushers to carry stick so they can hit dogs:
“Call his name and a command, like ‘hike up.’ When he doesn’t respond, stop, go up to the dog, pull back on his tug line and with a pre-selected willow stick about 1/2 inch in diameter and three feet long, give him a good whack on the butt as you repeat the command. You have to whack him good, too.”
— Mitch Seavey tells mushers to hit dogs on the nose:
“If he turns around and goes back, catch him and cuff him on the nose. Line him back up, push his rump forward, and repeat the command, ‘stay.'”
– Mitch Seavey says to punish dogs who don’t eat:
“If the dog doesn’t eat everything in about 30 seconds, do not just leave food laying around thinking he may eat more at a later time. Take the food away. Give the dog only clear water the next day and half rations the following day. Resume regular feeding the fourth day.”
“I have also skipped the evening meal on a few dogs that decide they don’t want their morning broth.”
– Mitch Seavey tells mushers to give dogs contaminated food:
“Add enough hot water to cover the stuff in the bucket and let it thaw all day.”
“Some people get pretty finicky about dirty buckets and bowls, and bacteria counts in food, etc., so I probably should defend myself and my unsanitary practice of leaving meat sit around thawing all day.
But I won’t.”
– Mitch Seavey says to candle dog’s feet:
“You also need to trim the hair on the bottom of the dogs’ feet to prevent ice balls from forming and clinging to the hair. You can use a scissors or an electric clipper to trim it even with the pads. Don’t take it out from between the toes though, because dogs without any hair between their pads can form big ice balls in there when running barefoot in the snow.
After you’ve trimmed the hair you need to ‘candle’ their feet, or singe the ends of the hair that you trimmed. This make snow even less likely to collect in the foot hair.
Notice the term is ‘candle’ the feet. My boys are always looking for faster ways to do their chores. I suppose that is why they started using a propane torch to ‘candle’ dogs’ feet. That in turn explains why, upon entering the shop one winter’s day, I observed the back half of my best leader apparently going up in flames. This gives a whole new meaning to the term, ‘Put the dog out, son!”
According to the Indianapolis Star, Mitch Seavey has 200 dogs. Do you think he pays for even routine veterinary care for the dogs?
FOR MORE FACTS: Sled Dog Action Coalition, http://www.helpsleddogs.org