On Saturday, March 2nd, the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race will begin. The race is entitled “The Last Great Race on Earth.” The sled dogs that participate in the strenuous 1,150 mile race will travel along a trail that alternates between two paths; the paths are determined by even and odd years, alternating between the two. The Sled Dog Competition traverses two mountain ranges in settings that vary from 30 degrees above to 30 degrees below zero.
Although the week-long Iditarod is a competition now for fun, a chance to win $69,000 and a new truck, it did not begin that way. In the beginning it was literally a race for gold, beginning in 1973. The trail was the main vein for transporting mail and supplies and could only be achieved by dog sleds.
Before that there was mushing. Various teams combined efforts to help Nome Alaska get medicine in the winter of 1925 when a diphtheria epidemic raged there. Twenty mushers and approximately 150 dogs gathered together to deliver said drugs in less than six days in order to save the town from complete devastation.
In fact, an animated historical adventure film, ‘Balto,’ was produced by Amblimation and directed by Simon Wells describing the lead dog from 1925 that earned national acclaim. The dog hero became so popular that a statue of Balto was erected in New York City’s Central Park. It is still standing today.
Although animal rights activists like PETA and the ASPCA pay close attention to this race because of some abuse that had previously been inflicted on some racing dogs, the race has led to many positive outcomes outside of accumulated winnings. One such outcome is that through learning the process of the Iditarod, it has led to saving the lives of our United States’ soldiers.
Through diligent research, it is determined how the sled dogs that race 1,000 miles perform as well as they do. Based on the results of this research, the way that the dogs are conditioned, cared for, fed and rested has changed, and has influenced the safety of our American soldiers while they fight in Afghanistan. Bomb-sniffing canines are utilizing the same discipline as that of the sled dogs.
From food and caloric intake to the analysis of gastric ulcers, both racing and bomb-sniffing canines are benefitting from what has been learned. While the breed of dogs varies, Husky varieties for racing and Labrador Retrievers as IED detectors, both working dogs’ performance is improving thanks to the notation of breakthroughs by those paying strict attention to the racing dogs throughout the years.
It just goes to prove that necessity can lead to fun and go full circle back to necessity.