PETA reached out to me to write a short Letter to the Editor summing up my feelings on Dog Sledding. They want to send it to every newspaper in Alaska. At first, they asked if I would speak against the Iditarod. I replied that It would be better to go deeper than the race. They asked for 250 words. I came up with 300—not bad, right? This is the result.
There was a Winter I ran dogs.
My first glimpse of the kennel brought a double-take; 180 dogs chained up to wooden spools. Could we care for that many dogs? Is living there healthy for their minds? Then the guide behind strode on by and I shook my head clear. It was time to get to work.
Before long, snow came. All that mattered was feeding my dogs and hopping onto those sled runners for 20 short miles each day. The pups became the center of my universe. We ran till we could read each other’s thoughts. I told the boss—a race veteran-- I wanted to run the Iditarod. We shook hands and agreed it would be my ultimate test.
But the pup’s behavior was off. Temper tantrums. I saw why folks breed their tails out. Most were bowlegged from years of pulling. When the sleds stopped going out in spring, the dogs became unhinged. They knew they’d be stuck at their houses for 7 months. I imagined my mind after those 7 months. We ran those dogs hard. Had too, the season was short. Money was tight. They’re work dogs. But then, work is a Human word. One dog died at the kennel that year, dropped dead at his house. Another had a stroke. A couple dogs died on the Iditarod that year, too. Overworked.
I told the boss I changed my mind. Some guides turned on me. Some agreed that we took advantage of a dog’s number one quality: Loyalty. It sure was fun though. Nothing like your dogs and thirty below. You feel at home. Yet, I feel at home out there with no dogs. How often do we sit still enough to know why we do things? Everything we go looking for is already waiting inside.
Long Creek, South Carolina