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Entries Tagged as 'Mushing-northern dogs'

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

March 5th, 2009 · 1 Comment · 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. [Read more]

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Winterdance The Fine Madness of Running the Iditarod by Gary Paulsen

February 25th, 2009 · No Comments · Book Reviews, Mushing-northern dogs, Video clip

Order ''Winterdance'' by Gary Paulsen
Gary Paulsen is an Iditarod racer who happens also to be a writer or vice verso. This is his tale of training for and running his first Iditarod. It is an account rich in humour and profound insights into both his own nature and that of the dogs. An important component of Paulsen’s approach involved living so closely with his dogs that he essentially became a dog in his perceptions and point of view. He slept in the dog yard in a sleeping bag. This reminded me of very beautiful piece of writing by the late Canadian writer Timothy Findley who did exactly the same thing on his farm in south western Ontario. He too wanted to experience life from his dogs point of view in order to better understand them. It was important to him to see what it is that the dogs do out there alone, together at night. These are the actions of a person dedicated to a very deep relationship with dogs. Be the dog. [Read more]

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Cold Hands Warm Heart by Jeff King

February 7th, 2009 · No Comments · Book Reviews, Mushing-northern dogs

book cover for "Cold Hands Warm Heart"

Winner of many sled dog races and most notably 1150-mile Iditarod (1993, 1996, 1998, and 2006) Jeff King is an individual with tremendous competitive  drive and a talent for single minded focus. These capacities have enabled him to fulfill his boyhood dream of living in a cabin by a lake in Alaska and mushing. He now does all these things in addition to running a breeding program and producing and training his own dogs. In season, his home, Husky Homestead, is open to visitors and many tourists make the trip.

His story telling talents are well displayed in this book. His narrative accounts of his mushing adventures are punchy and vivid. The reader will learn how to survive a plunge into icy water and the subsequent freezing of clothing. I like to read the accounts of grueling mushing runs [Read more]

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My Lead Dog Was A Lesbian

April 30th, 2008 · No Comments · 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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