Sunday, March 8, 2009

Iditarod Dogs

I watched the Iditarod start in Willow. I focused on the dogs.
-One black and tan wheel dog seemed thrilled to be on camera, until the talking heads said "You are only as fast as your slowest dog." As if he he understood, he snubbed the camera with a closed-eye-nose-high turn of his head, miffed.
- Some dogs sat patiently waiting for the start of the race, staring at the trail, conserving energy. Others strained at their harness, all their weight tensed against bulging haunches, cowed by the crowd, flitting eyes and pasted ears praying for the brake to release and the team to take them out the chute onto the trail. There were goof balls with grins and floppy tongues; criers and singers, bouncers and spinners, bashful brutes and divas who practically princess waved to their audience four deep.
- Each team had a character of it's own; some dashing out of the gate, others deliberate, some in efficient formation, others in chaos. As the trail deteriorated, many of the lead dogs veered from the chewed track and instinctively chose unbroken footing, the rest of the team snapping to the new course and the sled popping out of the ruts onto fresher snow.
- The dogs looked fit and happy. Perhaps, in a thousand miles, I might see where folks might raise the flag of abuse, but here, with the cameras rolling and the mushers fresh, the dogs and masters were respectful and even affectionate. The outfits brimmed with hi-tech gear and high senses of purpose. Insiders, bon-voyaging their families (mushers AND dogs) with hugs, kisses, prayers and tears, watched with chapel reverence as all sixty seven started without incident on what is predicted to be the most difficult trial in years.
- Here's to the great Alaskan race. May we all emerge stronger and richer for the experience.

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