Shortly before Gay Salisbury was expected at her nuptials in Sun Valley, Idaho, a cacophony of barking washed over the 50 or so waiting guests. “My dad thought they were wild dogs and guests were thinking, ‘Poor Gay, that’s going to be distracting,’” Salisbury says. “Then, I come flying up.”
By flying up, she means arriving atop an all-terrain vehicle pulled by a team of fine Alaskan Huskies. They raced up behind the guests and threaded a narrow lane between the audience and the unwitting groom and minister.
“I never told my husband I had real live Huskies bringing me. It was just a big surprise,” she says. “Practically speaking, it could have been pandemonium.” But the dogs behaved beautifully, watching from the wings during the ceremony and dozing on hay beds during the reception.
It was about more than making a big entrance. Salisbury had fallen for her husband, Dr. Terrence Cole, when they met during her research for a book on the 1925 serum run, when sled dogs delivered desperately needed medicine to a freezing and isolated Nome. A professor of history at The University of Alaska Fairbanks and a specialist in Alaska history, Cole shared Salisbury’s passion.
Her book, The Cruelest Miles: The Heroic Story of Dogs and Men in a Race Against an Epidemic, was published in June 2003, and Salisbury and Cole wed that August, so the wedding became a celebration of the book, the dogs and their love.
Vintage sled dog themes carried through the wedding. The invitations featured an image of Huskies in front of the Sun Valley Lodge from a 1930s-era linen postcard. A vintage Marx & Co. toy sled-dog team surrounded the cake and guest book. (She bought it off eBay as a cake topper but turned out to be four feet long.) Each guest received View-Masters through which to view reels featuring Arctic images.
“These dogs, in very many ways, they led me to my husband, into his life, and into his world, and that’s why I thought, this is perfect,” she says.