A live husky for a hat
February 22, 2016 10:02 AM   Subscribe

How not to get into the Iditarod by Blair Braverman (SLStorify)
posted by metaquarry (29 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
Good story with dogs!
posted by wemayfreeze at 10:08 AM on February 22, 2016 [3 favorites]

Good story with dogs!

posted by wemayfreeze

You would say that.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 10:21 AM on February 22, 2016 [5 favorites]

That was when I thought it might be a good idea to put the blind dog in lead.

Oh god...
posted by sciatrix at 10:29 AM on February 22, 2016

That was a great story that I would love to see turned into a complete essay.
posted by not that girl at 10:30 AM on February 22, 2016 [3 favorites]

And I see she is indeed a writer with a forthcoming book. I like her style and attitude as it comes through in her tweets and so I'll probably pick up her book when it comes out.
posted by not that girl at 10:36 AM on February 22, 2016 [3 favorites]

At least she saved someone - that's gotta be some sort of sponsor material for her next attempt.
posted by Nanukthedog at 10:50 AM on February 22, 2016 [1 favorite]

You know, After an exhaustive image search, having something on a dog's head is clearly a meme, but having a dog on your own head is clearly not.
posted by Nanukthedog at 10:53 AM on February 22, 2016

Gary Paulsen's _Winterdance_ is another good newbie-runs-Iditarod read.

The skunk advice is the best.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:03 AM on February 22, 2016 [4 favorites]

1. The hypothermic musher had her dogs sleeping near her. But one of them was sitting bolt upright and never looked away.

Dogs are the best people

2. I told them they had to take her service/sled dog.

Excellent dog-personing!.

3. The dog leapt up into her lap and she managed to close her arms around it, which was the first movement she'd made since 3 am.

Seems to be getting a bit dusty in here....

4. Later I saw a pic of her hooked to IVs in the hospital. The sled dog was sprawled on top of her. Didn't even glance at her plasticky omelet.

...aaaand, I've lost my shit, tear valves are wide open. I need to go pet my dog.
posted by VTX at 11:27 AM on February 22, 2016 [10 favorites]

Dropping out as a result of saving someone from freezing to death still counts as winning in my book.
posted by tavella at 11:54 AM on February 22, 2016 [23 favorites]

Wow some elementary mistakes here. When you come across someone unconscious in the snow you slice open a tauntaun and stuff them inside, but she says she was sleep deprived so she probably didn't remember.
posted by um at 4:25 PM on February 22, 2016 [6 favorites]

Such good story. Such good dogs.

But surely that's not a husky on her head? I am curious as to whether it's only northern breeds that can race.
posted by Countess Elena at 4:59 PM on February 22, 2016 [2 favorites]

Gary Paulsen's _Winterdance_ is another good newbie-runs-Iditarod read.

I read Winterdance every couple years and laugh like a loon. The ending is a real downer, but Paulsen bred and trained dogs for years afterwards.

(sadly, the movie sucked)
posted by BlueHorse at 5:09 PM on February 22, 2016

But surely that's not a husky on her head? I am curious as to whether it's only northern breeds that can race.

Nearly all the dogs who run the Iditarod are Alaskan Huskies or Eurohounds, which is to say they're purpose-bred crossbreeds. (The line between the two is a fairly fine one--Eurohounds tend to originate from mushers in Europe and often have a lot of pointer for endurance and close, short coats, while Alaskans tend to be slightly thicker-coated and pointier-eared, more like what people think of when they think "husky." That said, people can and do cross them and it's not like there is a breed registry, especially for Alaskan huskies; many people would refer to any dog bred to mush as an Alaskan husky.)
posted by sciatrix at 5:20 PM on February 22, 2016 [2 favorites]

Here's the Instagram for her racing team.
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 6:02 PM on February 22, 2016 [3 favorites]

Wow some elementary mistakes here.

Thanks, Reddit
posted by pullayup at 7:25 PM on February 22, 2016 [1 favorite]

The dog on head photo is great. Is there a photo of the service dog on the hospital bed?

Dropping out as a result of saving someone from freezing to death still counts as winning in my book.

I agree, and I wish that there was a way that people who do that would get a pass to the next level, so that there isn't even a moment of "should I continue?" thought for anyone, ever.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:40 PM on February 22, 2016 [1 favorite]

I just asked Mr. Palmcorder if we could move to the mountains and become mushers and he said no.

Our Chihuahua should probably feel relieved.
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 8:01 PM on February 22, 2016 [6 favorites]

Palmcorder_yajna, it is time for you and the mister to rig up a tiny little sled to your chihuahua and offer rides to babies at the park.

Stories like this one make me wonder why dog sledding is not more popular as a spectator sport in the lower 48, being so full of human drama, requiring more endurance than NASCAR, and also having cute dogs. And those mushers love their dogs.
posted by ejs at 8:07 PM on February 22, 2016 [2 favorites]

But surely that's not a husky on her head? I am curious as to whether it's only northern breeds that can race

Sciatrix has it. The dog on her head is Husky enough. The breeds that can race the Iditarod, specifically, are limited to northern breeds "suitable for Arctic travel" (that rule changed in the early nineties after a team of poodles completed the Iditarod but with concerns for their safety/suitability) but based on her Instagram her team looks it. Most dogs that run long-distance races, at least in Alaska, are some variety of Alaskan Huskies, and most of them look like rangy mutts, not like poofy malamutes. Here are some pictures of some of the top 20 teams from last year: Aliy Zirkle, Dallas Seavey and Dee Dee Jonrowe.

Dogs bred for sprint mushing (distances of anywhere from 4 to 100 miles) tend more towards the Eurohound model and usually have shorter coats and more pointer in them. My own majestic mutt Kesugi is a sprint kennel reject and has no undercoat but has never gotten cold outside in Alaska, ever, because he has never stopped moving, ever.
posted by charmedimsure at 10:11 PM on February 22, 2016 [4 favorites]

Palmcorder_yajna, it is time for you and the mister to rig up a tiny little sled to your chihuahua and offer rides to babies at the park.

She does already have a towing harness. Not because she ever tows anything, but because, being thick in the neck and kind of tadpole-shaped, it's the only kind she can't squirm out of.

I don't think she could tow an entire baby, though. Maybe a couple of guinea pigs, or a smallish, patient cat.
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 11:33 PM on February 22, 2016 [3 favorites]

It seems like a cute story but I was kinda agog after this:
"I was just in my first 200+ mile race, an #Iditarod qualifier. I'd never run 12 dogs before but shh that's a secret."

Maybe it's just because a teacher at my elementary school was a real honest-to-god Iditarod musher and dog breeder and she emphasized the danger of it and care necessary for it, but the idea of taking yourself and 12 dogs out on a 200+ mile sled route without experience handling 12 dogs or the rigors of a multi-day race just seems irresponsible to me. I know she made it out okay and even saved a lady, but that lady lying in the snow is just all the more evidence the author shouldn't have been out there in the first place if she's inexperienced at it. She's talking about being sleep deprived and semi-delirious before she gets there, and then she doesn't make a fire when she knows she's going to be stopped for a while, and as a result she and her dogs are freezing up. When I was 9 I knew that any stoppage in the rough meant a fire, if for nothing else then the dogs. She had a hypothermic person and didn't think of fire. A dog, a sled dog no less, that can't run or keep up because it's too cold and stiff is a really bad sign. Sled dogs are quite literally bred, born and raised to run in the cold, so long as the human helps them. Additionally, this is barely after the halfway point, and she still tried to push on, with 1/6 of her dogs out of commission and the rest pulling extra weight on cold, tired muscles. This is not the act of either a rational person or a concerned dog owner, but rather someone who wants to finish for themselves.

Coldness is actually a really dangerous thing and combined with sleep deprivation and exhaustion it's often fatal. You might as well be blind drunk. You might ride into something, you might stop the team because that snowbank looks real inviting for a nap right now, you might forget the trail or nod off and find yourself way off course, you might (and in this case did) forget to take proper care of the dogs.

I'm actually mostly mad at her for putting her dogs at risk, and for putting s+r and medical workers at risk. You have every right to do dumb stuff that can kill you, but once you directly involve dogs that love you and don't understand that you are not always right, and indirectly involve professionals and volunteers who might have to look for you, who do this on the assumption that you wouldn't lie about your skill and competency at this.
posted by neonrev at 12:24 AM on February 23, 2016 [5 favorites]

Also, my girlfriend who is from northern WI was quite upset at the idea that a fellow Wisconsinite could be so irresponsible as to do this, and decided to check on the author, who as it turns out is actually from CA and is a fairly recent transplant to "Northern WI", by which she means just north of Green Bay, which is not "Northern WI" to anyone who has been there. Like, laughably so.
I'm from Aberdeen SD, home of the "Often times coldest place in America, colder than mars at times, and colder than Antarctica" claims to fame, and I had the exact same gut feeling as her. People who grow up with the cold, who have had to work in the cold and who respect the cold would never do this, and neither would people who grew up with, worked with or respect working dogs. The longer I think on it the further my disgust grows.

Also, I am getting kinda sick of the same people who call us the flyover states parachuting in to write about our regional quirkiness and pluck so they can move right on back to "civilization" with some stories. I cannot describe my utter disgust with anyone from an urban area deciding to "spend some time in the country" so they can talk about rural people like they are one, and this rings my alarm so hard for that. She's a fraud of a musher who put dogs at risk for a good story. People who live their entire lives mushing and dog tending often can't compete in Iditarod-level qualifiers, let alone some transplant from where there is no snow or mushing who's mostly writing a book.
posted by neonrev at 12:40 AM on February 23, 2016 [1 favorite]

She doesn't know the difference between hay and straw. I don't think she's quite Iditarod ready.
posted by fshgrl at 12:51 AM on February 23, 2016

My point is that she was barely holding it together at about 1/10 the length of the actual Iditarod, and qualifying routes are to test whether you can actually preform at bare minimum to compete. They are not the bunny slope of sled dog racing. She couldn't, probably knew she couldn't and still went out there with 12 dogs... for what? A fun story?
posted by neonrev at 12:57 AM on February 23, 2016

It should be noted that this Iditarod qualifying race she attempted is the John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon.
posted by RedEmma at 7:21 AM on February 23, 2016

I think that the most dangerous thing about cold like that is that when you realize you've made a terrible mistake and are in real danger, the mistake as well as the opportunity to do about to correct it, likely happened hours ago so all you can really do is wait to die or get lucky with a rescue.
posted by VTX at 7:24 AM on February 23, 2016

Neonrev, I think you have more experience with this sport than I do. Out of curiosity, if the qualifying routes are that dangerous for the ill prepared--and she put herself and her dogs in danger as well as this other musher who wound up in a very bad situation--is there any kind of safeguard designed to keep the people doing the qualifying routes from injuring or killing themselves or their dogs? I know the Iditarod itself has vet checks at checkpoints designed to make sure the dogs are safe, but I'm really not sure what's up with other races.

I am also curious to know whether you're aware of writing about this topic that's done right. I'm aware that Gary Paulsen (for example) has come under similar criticism for safety when he's written about his own Iditarod run, and I gotta say this lady seemed way less.... uh, dangerously clueless than he did in Winterdance to my inexperienced eyes. (I mean, if nothing else, she didn't get herself lost on a hundred-mile detour immediately as she started, and she also doesn't have stories of being completely lost and confused by the ability of a well-conditioned, under-exercised dog to gnaw through a dog house. She also has way fewer stories of being mauled by her own dogs than Paulsen.) I follow a couple of mushing hobby blogs, notably Mush Baby, but I'm not aware of any other writing from people aiming at higher-level runs.
posted by sciatrix at 7:41 AM on February 23, 2016

One of my first memories is sitting in a dogsled being pulled by huskies and they were puppies! We lived in Whitehorse for a few years and a guy my Dad worked with bred and trained sled dogs.

I remember being all PUPPIES squee! They were so excited and kept getting tangled as they were bouncing around so much. Then they got it and we were off! Whee! So much puppy and little kid joy.
posted by Jalliah at 7:56 AM on February 23, 2016 [3 favorites]

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