The Dog I've Always Wanted

Canine Behavior, Training and Photography

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My Lead Dog Was A Lesbian

April 30th, 2008 · · Book Reviews, Mushing-northern dogs

“There was an undercurrent of panic as we broke camp. Vague rumors were circulating about more storms on the way.I nearly lost it on Rainy when I saw her bite through another harness seconds after I had slipped it on. I smacked her on the nose with my mitt and yelled. The lesbian seemed not to hear me. Her lips were tight. Her attention was completely absorbed by the exodus taking place around us. My spares were shredded. I decided to let Rainy wear a crooked harness for awhile and see if that made an impression. I mushed from the village at 4:45 P.M., led by an unrepentant bitch trailing webbing in the snow.”

Brian Patrick O’Donoghue, newspaper reporter turned musher, has written a gritty and exciting account of his experiences in the 1991 Iditarod. This race is considered the ultimate test of a musher’s mettle. It is a 500 mile slog from Anchorage to Nome in Alaska. It can take several weeks to complete. The adage that to finish is to win is certainly applicable in this context. In recent years issues have arisen concerning the stress on dogs involved in the Iditarod; I don’t intend to address them here. As is the case in any extreme sport the Iditarod is not only a contest amongst the competitors but also a test of each individual’s inner resources. The weather changes, for better or worse, the mushers must adapt.The matter of logistics is complex and subject to various foul ups. Imagine being velcroed into a sled bag for the night while a blizzard rages, sucking on a piece of frozen salmon and wondering what the next crisis will be. O’Donoghue runs into plenty of them including frost bite,equipment problems, and dog management issues. Still he perseveres and finishes the race. Granted, he came last in 1991. But his tale is a fascinating and colourful account the kind of saga best savoured from the comfort of one’s favourite sofa.

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