At this year’s Iditarod, there was more than one winner celebrated at the finish line. The top prize was won by Alaska native Mitch Seavey and his canine team, who beat the record for the fastest run by clocking in at a lightning fast eight days, three hours, 40 minutes and 13 seconds. This one thousand mile record is made more impressive by the fact that Seavey set another record as the oldest musher to ever win the race, making him the fastest and oldest winner of the Iditarod.
Record by Ms. Rover- all original dogs crossed line together
Seavey wasn’t the only big winner on Sunday though. In a touching ceremony, Montana Musher Jessie Royer took home the award for Most Inspirational and the coveted Leonhard Seppala Humanitarian Award for her inspiring feat of finishing in fifth place and bringing all 16 of her original dogs over the finish line in Nome. Because of the brutality of the race, finishing with all dogs in healthy condition is somewhat uncommon; finishing in fifth place out of 75 teams and a fully healthy team is unprecedented. After the race Royer reflected: “There are 16 dogs, well I’m the 17th dog. We’re a team out there and you’re going to have highs and lows. You have to work through them and the dogs feed off the musher’s attitude… The good Lord blessed me with an awesome year and an awesome team of dogs.” This humble attitude really reflects what the sport of dog racing is all about. At the end of the day, the dogs and their musher share a special bond that can’t be replicated.
Importance of Musher (trains and leads dogs)
The sport of dog racing is unique in this sense, the success of the team is very dependent on the relationship between the dogs and the musher. This bond is created over a long period of time before the race, when the musher lives with, cares for, and trains the team every day for months and even years. Dog musher and trainer Meg Dowley says this about the special bond shared between musher and dog: “After all the hardship, the bond between mushers and their animals has been a pretty special thing. It’s like having 22 kids that I take care of. I take care of their feeding, injuries, and training, and I can’t help but take an enormous amount of pride in these guys!” This bond is really what is at the heart of the sport, and this year’s dramatic results only prove further that at the end of the day, the relationship between a dog and their human is the real prize.
by Jane Sadler