The Dog I've Always Wanted

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Race Across Alaska first woman to win the Iditarod tells her story Libby Riddles and Tim Jones

March 5th, 2009 · · Book Reviews, Mushing-northern dogs, Video clip

You’ll like Libby Riddles after sharing the detailed account of her 1985 Iditarod victory. Essentially a trail journal, with a separate thread addressing various subjects including technical information and anecdotes, the narrative moves along with each chapter covering a separate leg of the race. The title page for chapters includes a map showing the team’s progress. Narrated in a straight ahead manner the book gives one a remarkable insight into the qualities it takes to run the Iditarod and win. It is impossible not to develop a good deal of empathy for Libby as she pushes herself on and on through levels of exhaustion that most of us can (thankfully) only imagine.

Libby Riddles hails from Madison, Wisconsin and came to Alaska at the age of sixteen and never left. In fact she became a true Alaskan. Her courage and determination fill the pages of the book. Her ability to persevere under extreme conditions is admirable. Although as she says herself, “I had never thought much about being the first woman to win the race. I thought of myself as just a sled dog racer, not a woman sled dog racer.”; she is an undeniably strong role model for young women. Mushing is an unusual sport in that men and women can compete as physical equals; to a large extent age isn’t even an issue. Perhaps the same intangible element powers both the successful mushers and their dogs, the will to keep going forward.

In addition to winning the Iditarod that year Libby received the humanitarian award, a prize given by the veterinarians for the driver who was most conscientious in the care of their dogs during the race. All along the way, through blizzards, over ice and in darkness, Libby Riddles never falters in her appreciation for the abilities and the sheer heart of her dogs. Her pride in them particularly near the end of the trail pulling into Nome is wonderful, “…they broke into a lope. Not bad for a bunch of dogs who had just come twelve hundred miles. The sudden burst of speed gave me a thrill. What heart these dogs had, after so many days on the trail. Oh, the things I was going to do for them when this was all done! A box of dog biscuits and a steak for each one, mountains of fresh straw to lie on, days of leisure to soak up the sun.”

There is a lot of mutual trust in the relationship between an outstanding musher and her dogs. It is all recorded here in this vivid account. For Iditarod fans this book is educational and inspiring; for anyone this book reads like a thrilling adventure yarn with one difference, it is a true story.

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1 response so far ↓

  • 1 Beth Grgurich // May 26, 2015 at 3:44 pm

    Just finished this book. It was mesmerizing. I couldn’t put it down. I am completely in awe of Libby and her dogs.

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