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Iditarod Legend Dies
August 7, 2006 7:14 AM   Subscribe

Susan Butcher, pioneer in the previously male-dominated sport of sled dog racing, died on Aug. 5 from leukemia. Among her many accomplishments was winning the Iditarod race 4 times. She was 51.
posted by cass (16 comments total)

 
I think your first meant to go here?
posted by NoMich at 7:20 AM on August 7, 2006


Leukemia is a shitty way to go, but abusing a bunch of dogs into hauling your lazy ass 1000 miles is hardly an accomplishment.
posted by cmonkey at 7:43 AM on August 7, 2006


Remind me not to invite cmonkey to my funeral.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 7:47 AM on August 7, 2006


He's definitely not going to be asked to toast anybody at get-togethers...
posted by pax digita at 7:58 AM on August 7, 2006


Oh, and...


.

For some of us, Iditarod, sled dogs, and Susan Butcher are kewl.

When I get home tonight, I'll ask a friend of mine in AK whether state flags are at half mast or anything like that.
posted by pax digita at 8:01 AM on August 7, 2006


I was a dog handler at a couple of Iditarods and I did not see any dogs being abused. Dogs chosen to run races are dogs that want to run, that take joy in it.

Susan Butcher took better care of her dogs and had more respect and love for them than some people do their kids.

(This is not to say that abuse never happens, ok?)
posted by merelyglib at 8:17 AM on August 7, 2006


abusing a bunch of dogs into hauling your lazy ass 1000 miles is hardly an accomplishment.

Never been dog sledding, have you, cmonkey?

I am a big fan of dogs, and when I went on a 4-day dogsledding trip, I swore up and down I would never force a dog to do anything, and if they didn't want to pull the sled, then we would sit around instead.

But when the guy in charge sent us out to get our dogs, the anticipation of all of them, the absolute JOY written all of them when they were picked, was like nothing I've ever seen. Those dogs reacted to being chosen for the team like they'd just wandered into a room full of roast beef lying all over the floor. They loved to pull. They lived for it.

And I can tell you, you can't go dogsledding if you're not at the top of your game physically, because you don't get to sit still on the sled all day. No dog pulls a person up a hill or through a rough spot; you have to leap up and run alongside, pushing the sled in front of you. And running along with a pack of dogs, in the snow, is not exactly a relaxing jaunt down the street.
posted by Hildegarde at 8:17 AM on August 7, 2006


Sorry about the messed up link. It actually meant to go here. No matter what you may think about sled dog racing (whether it is humane or not), I still think she achieved something of merit. *shrugs* To each his/her own opinion. Here's her official website.
posted by cass at 8:22 AM on August 7, 2006


I'm sorry to hear about Susan Butcher, she was a pretty amazing woman.

I was about to jump all over cmonkey regarding his comment, but did some searching...

The Human Society of the United States has a pretty good page about the problems involved in competative mushing. It seems a bit more balanced than the PETA types of groups that are against the sport.

There does seem to be some problems, especially as regards the long distance competitions.
posted by HuronBob at 8:35 AM on August 7, 2006


When I read the FPP I was wondering how long it would take this thread to be derailed.

1) Abuse happens, but is no more prevalent among mushers than non mushers, and perhaps even less so.
2) Dog sledding is not a lazy sport, christ it's hard.
3) I can't speak directly to the Iditarod as I haven't been there, but the local big race, the Beargrease, has vets at every checkpoint. Dogs get pulled if they can't/shouldn't run any more.
4) I wonder how many personal pets would be confiscated if individuals where held to the same standard as mushers?


Back on track, sad to hear of Ms Butcher's death.
posted by edgeways at 8:40 AM on August 7, 2006


Causes of death during the last decade have included strangulation in towlines, internal hemorrhaging after being gouged by a sled, liver injury from collision, heart failure, and pneumonia. "Sudden death" and "exertional myopathy," a condition in which a dog's muscles and organs deteriorate during extreme or prolonged exercise, have also been blamed.

Yikes.
posted by docpops at 8:41 AM on August 7, 2006


I suppose the real point of this thread is to see how many dots we can amass, but maybe it isn't so truly awful to actually come away with a better understanding of the sport as well. Perhaps Ms. Butcher would have felt the same, seeing as how she apparently strived to set such a good example for the care of her animals.
posted by docpops at 8:43 AM on August 7, 2006


Living in an apt complex full of stupid fat hobbitses Ohioans who think that kicking their dogs is appropriate disciplining technique, I'm looking forward to seeing the tags above to find out what constitutes abuse among sled dogs.
posted by pax digita at 9:02 AM on August 7, 2006


Hildegarde writes "But when the guy in charge sent us out to get our dogs, the anticipation of all of them, the absolute JOY written all of them when they were picked, was like nothing I've ever seen. Those dogs reacted to being chosen for the team like they'd just wandered into a room full of roast beef lying all over the floor. They loved to pull. They lived for it."

HuronBob writes "The Human Society of the United States has a pretty good page "

HuronBob's link may explain why Hildegrade found the dogs so anxious to pull sleds:
What happens to Iditarod dogs off the trail?

Unfortunately, the remainder of the year may be bleak for many sled dogs. The majority of these dogs do not experience lives most Americans would consider appropriate for companion animals. Instead, these dogs are often raised completely outdoors in harsh northern climates in large "dog yards," where they are confined by tethers with up to 200 other dogs. While the tethers may allow them access to doghouses, they also purposely prevent them from interacting with other dogs.

For humane reasons, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) prohibits its licensed dog breeders from using tethering as a primary means of confinement. The HSUS also opposes tethering as a primary means of confinement for dogs.

Nevertheless, the ISDVMA "specifically recommends tethering as the preferred method of sled dog constraints and confinement." Likewise, former U.S. Senator and current Alaska Governor Frank H. Murkowski chastised the USDA for its position, saying that it is similar to those of "radical groups that oppose dog mushing," and that the USDA's "implication that [tethering] is inhumane is disturbing to those involved in mushing."

Those dogs or puppies who prove unable or unwilling to perform may be killed, a practice known as "culling." At least two of the 63 mushers who competed in the 1999 Iditarod have admitted to culling, according to articles published in the Anchorage Daily News.

During the last several years, some competitive mushers, including Iditarod participants, have been indicted and/or convicted on animal cruelty charges. These situations typically occurred after mushers became financially unable to care properly for the dogs they had amassed.
posted by orthogonality at 11:30 AM on August 7, 2006


A tip of the hat to a strong woman -- in more ways than one. RIP, Ms. Butcher.
posted by bim at 4:53 PM on August 7, 2006


.


you gave alaska and dog sled racing class, Ms. Butcher.
posted by quietalittlewild at 5:01 PM on August 7, 2006


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