February 10, 2010

Sled dogs

It's one of the best collections of sled dog photos ever, all posted at The Big Picture. Most are from Europe, including the gem below. Look! Bijou is herding!

Meanwhile, the Iditarod is just around the corner. Drug tests this year — for the mushers:
The Iditarod plans to test mushers for drugs and alcohol in March, a change many mushers have no problem with -- but one that three-time champion Lance Mackey scoffs at.

"I think it's a little bit ridiculous," Mackey said Wednesday night from his home near Fairbanks after a training run. "It is a dog race, not a human race. It (using a drug) doesn't affect the outcome of the race."

Mackey, a throat cancer survivor who has a medical marijuana card, admits to using marijuana on the trail and thinks his success has made some of his competitors jealous.

"It isn't the reason I've won three years in a row," said Mackey, though he concedes marijuana helps him stay awake and focused during the 1,100-mile race that takes winners nearly 10 days to complete. [ADN]
As a supporter of California's "legalize it, regulate it and tax it" initiative, I'm rooting for Lance. [Full disclosure: your blogger never smoked, but did inhale. Damn dorm-room hippies.]

I'll watch the Iditarod as always, though each year it feels more like a countdown to the inevitable dog deaths. Six dogs died last year. And yes, they "love to run"; but breeding dogs with off-the-charts drive and then pushing them not merely beyond their capacity but to their deaths — holy crap, Iditarod people, this is not what the serum run to Nome was all about. Wake up, smell the medical marijuana, and create an exciting race that doesn't kill dogs every frikkin' year.

Iditarod links, and a moment of silence, dammit


Sled Dog Action Coalition said...

Please read about the Myth of Effective Drug Testing and how the Iditarod won't commit to punishing drug and alcohol users. Start reading from http://www.helpsleddogs.org/remarks-mushersmistreatingdogs.htm#Myth . Iditarod Rule 29 about drug testing is nothing more than a public relations ploy.

Anonymous said...

The problem with the Iditarod starts long before the race- for each dog that runs there are a few hundred chained to metal barrels with little to no human contact. Some kennels kill dogs that can't run (and I don't think it matters if they shoot them or give them an injection- dead is dead). In fact, I'd say the great majority do. The sled dog industry is built on breeding huge numbers to find the few that will race. Then those "lucky" dogs are exposed to conditions like the Iditarod and their unlucky siblings end up dumped in a shelter or dead at the hands of their owners.

Smart Dogs said...

Odd. I live in Minnesota and there are a couple of sled dog kennels not far from where I live. I have not seen the lonely dogs chained endlessly to toxic 55-gallon drums who are then killed for not running. I see healthy, well-fed dogs who are treated more like star athletes in training than meat on the hoof.

If you are such an expert on sled dogs, please come out of gutless anonymity and tell us who you are.

Luisa said...

Janeen, don't get me started. Some sled-race bashers create their own reality, as opposed to recognizing, say, facts you can actually look up. [I'm comment #7.]

Many Iditarod mushers are among the finest dog people on the planet, and I admire the living daylights out of them. In case it wasn't clear, I'm for making the Iditarod a safer race for dogs. That's all.

[German sled dogs on YouTube. All dogs should be so mistreated.]

Smart Dogs said...

Sorry I wasn't clear - my comment was directed at "anonymous". Gutless, snipe-and-run commenting is more useless than spam.

And I'm with you on breeding over the top dogs and running them to death.

Human greed for ribbons of all flavors has made the dog's genetic plasticity more liability than asset.

Donna said...

omg - those photos, those photos!

anyone with half a brain can see that those dogs are in ECSTASY when they're running, and just plain thrilled to be alive when they're not.

thanks for posting that link, L.