Must love dogs in Alaska

My contribution to the set Love, Christmas – Movies You Love is The Polar Xpress. Unlike the movie The Polar Express, mine doesn’t have a train as the primary means of transportation. It has dogs. The sled dogs and their ‘lead dog’ (musher) in my story come to the rescue of a downed doctor who is trapped beneath a snowmachine in the mountains near Talkeetna, Alaska.
Why did I change from a train to dogs for my story? Who wants to cozy up to a steam or diesel-powered iron monster? Yes, there are trains in Alaska, but to get up close and personal in the Last Frontier’s back country in the winter, you either need a snowmachine or a dog sled…unless you’re a superwoman and can handle cross country skis like Kikkan Randall!
I saw my first Iditarod dog sled race in 1992. In those days, the roads were blocked off so the dog teams could cross them on their way north. Flaggers stopped traffic while the teams of a dozen or so furry friends and their two-legged pets who ran behind their sleds crossed Tudor Road on the way to Eagle River and beyond.
I remember crying that day at the beauty and irony, Alaska’s traditional mode of transportation being granted first rights to the road as the modern exhaust-spewing cars waited for the fragile yet determined teams to pass. I was close enough to see their foggy breath, their smiles that proved to me that running is what they loved to do.
The race doesn’t start from Anchorage now—it’s only a ceremonial one. The ‘real’ Iditarod begins further north where there’s more snow. Those with pull (like a mother-in-law) or for a donation to a charity (there are many to choose from), regular folks can ride in a dog sled, bundled in blankets and furs as the teams scurry over the hauled-in snow-covered roads, the downtown Anchorage streets lined with folks waving as their favorite dogs and mushers hurry past.
I can’t think of any other sport that takes so long to finish and relies on the stamina and tactical skills of the coordinator who is not only a player, but also the chef, vet, mechanic, tactician and who is the only one who is allowed to take care of any problem that arises. The musher can’t get help from anyone (save a veterinarian). If a person so much as gives her a bucket of water for the dogs, she’s disqualified. Her months and years of selecting and training her dogs, vet bills to keep them healthy, costs of transportation to Anchorage and from Nome and the entrance fee, can all go belly up with one well-meaning spectator.
The trail is about 1,049 miles long, depending on where they start and whether the northern or southern route is used. Essentially, it’s from Anchorage or nearby and terminates in Nome. Note: There are NO roads to Nome.
A fast-paced race might take eight days for the winner. The last place or ‘Red Lantern’ winner—as in the caboose carries the red lantern—might come trundling into Nome thirty-two days after starting. The average is more like ten or twelve days, but either way, it’s a long arduous trail with snow melted over canned heat for water, food mixed in five gallon containers, booties put on the dogs to protect their feet, straw laid out for their beds, and if the musher is lucky, four hours of sleep for him or her.
Do you think you’re as tough as these guys and gals—barely eighteen to senior citizens—who run this race? And I do mean run: mushers might take a break by stepping on the runners, but they trot behind the dogs most of the way.
Enjoy my story of the California doctor who is rescued by the nearly blind woman who started Second Chance Kennels and dreams of running the Iditarod or ‘When worlds collide, there are sure to be sparks!’ Part of Love, Christmas – Movies You Love.

Amazon USApple iBooks  – Nook  –  Kobo  – Amazon UK

Dani Haviland

Dani Haviland, formerly of Connecticut, Arizona, and Alaska, recently semi-retired from selling tractor parts, tools, and roses. She moved to a more temperate climate in western Oregon to pursue her passions: writing, gardening, and photography.
 View website

Dani Haviland

About Dani Haviland

Dani Haviland, formerly of Connecticut, Arizona, and Alaska, recently semi-retired from selling tractor parts, tools, and roses. She moved to a more temperate climate in western Oregon to pursue her passions: writing, gardening, and photography.  View website

2 Replies to “Must love dogs in Alaska”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.