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Two Dogs Down
After two dogs freeze to death, is it time to rethink the Iditarod?

A few days before cancer-survivor Lance Mackey became the third person to win the Iditarod three years in a row, two dogs belonging to rookie racer Lou Packer died from exposure to high-winds and 50-below-zero temperatures. The story of Grasshopper and Dizzy’s demise is as harrowing as it is provocative. Already the questions are tumbling down. Was Packer a rookie who took unnecessary risks or is he to be admired for helping a fellow competitor earlier in the race and falling behind? Should race officials checked on him sooner?

Like a lot of people, I have mixed feelings about dogsled racing, and I generally don’t follow the big events. I know neglect and cruelty are often a byproduct of competitions involving animals. But I’ve also driven small recreational teams before—in Minnesota and Alaska—and it seemed clear the dogs relished the run. But I wonder is it right to celebrate competitions and provide cash incentives for events that can exact this price?

Lisa Wogan lives in Seattle and is the author of, most recently, Dog Park Wisdom. lisawogan.com
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Submitted by Anonymous | March 19 2009 |

When fame and fortune are the reward for running dogs into the ground, you've got a problem. People get to decide for themselves if they want the risk. Not so for the dogs. At least with snowmobiling races, the "machines" can't suffer.

Submitted by Idita-fan | March 19 2009 |

I think that the dogs and people are outstanding. However, I think this one was a bit disorganized. Lance Mackey is an amazing individual with amazing talents when it comes to dogs. You have to acknowledge that even if you hate the sport..or dogs. Dogs will do whatever you want them too. As a beginning musher myself I can honestly say if you have a breed of dog that is meant for the sport, it's no problem. I don't race my dogs though..we only have two.

Lou Packer and others like him had to scratch partially due to the extra and heroic efforts on his part and the part of I believe it was Blake Maltray? They rescued Nancy Yoshida when she crashed. If it weren't for them a lot more dogs may have died. Lou Packer maybe should have scratched sooner but perhaps it would be wiser next time to keep an "eye in the sky" on the back of the pack instead of the leaders like they did this year. The coverage of this race excepting the Iditarod website itself was awful. I am ashamed of the Anchorage and Alaskan Media in general for being so lame as to not even break into programming to announce Mackey's historic third win. Frankly, the dogs deserve better from the residents of Alaska who paid little or no attention while the money-makers (the dogs) brought more money into the economy of this state than most events do at this time of year save for Fur Rondy. (Which primarily helps Anchorage). The dogs are simply doing what they are asked, and what they are born and bred..remember that born and bred to do..what good is a Husky...if you aren't going to let him pull? That's what they were bred to do and to not let it is more cruel than the ones that froze to death doing exactly what they loved, were trained to do and were bred to do. Stop humanizing dogs..we do that too often. Dogs do what they were born to do. Hunting dogs don't pull sleds..they hunt ducks with people with guns.....aren't they in danger of being shot every time they fetch a duck? YEP but they are still used and dogs drown doing that job. Dogs die in Iraq hunting bombs too..you aren't picketing the military...how come that's okay?

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