Thursday, December 22, 2016

Delayed Update--Lots of News!

Hello folks. With the election drama  and fighting my usual winter seasonal blahs, I have kind of let things slip. While I was off track, there have been some real items of news –definitely not fake news here—which have major impact on the sled dog racing world, especially the Iditarod. I’ll share them here briefly. If further developments surface, I will try to keep up to date on reporting them.

First,  the ITC announced in late October that they have made a rule change. Mushers will not be permitted to carry dogs in a  trailer/caboose or other sled-appendage conveyance. Such devices can be used to carry gear and required items, straw or dog food etc. but NO DOGS.  There has been some outcry and a few whines but it has generally been accepted.

I am certainly not going to say this was in response to my letters to the board members last spring but my words may have added a bit of weight to complaints from others and some of the traditional-minded members and mushers who did not think this was a good practice. Safety of the dogs was the main reason cited. (i.e.) Since the dragged item is behind the musher who will be at the rear of the actual sled, s/he cannot keep an eye on the dogs being carried or will be distracted from the trail and the running dogs in trying to do so. I think this is a very good change.

Dogs can still be carried in the actual sled—but that means one or at the most two at a time and most mushers will use this only in the traditional and normal manner—a way to get a sick or injured dog safely to the next checkpoint where it can be dropped and given into the care of volunteers and vets, if needed. This is totally legitimate and not a ploy to rest some dogs while others work!

The new rule allowing mushers to carry cell or satellite phones was upheld. There may be some restrictions but I have not been able to read the entire rule. I have mixed feelings on this but will defer to the board’s wisdom here and the fact quite a few mushers were in favor. A safety net of any kind is probably valid given last year’s events.

On that subject, the trial of the young Mr Denosky who ran into Aliy and Jeff King with his snow machine was finally completed very recenty. He was given a six months’ sentence—most of which has already been served--and a moderate fine. The exact reparations paid to the two injured mushers for their losses and trauma is not clear from the articles I read but there are supposed to be some. I am not sure where those funds are coming from.

In a recent post on her SPK blog, Aliy admitted she is still struggling with the after-effects of this traumatic encounter and that she will never be quite the person she was before it occurred. My heart goes out to her. I still think there are facts that may never be revealed or made public. She did address him directly at the sentencing and found some closure there. He wept and said he was sorry but still insisted he had almost no recollection of the events. I just shake my head. It was a terrible thing but it’s over and done and everyone has to move on and do the best they can. Many felt a harsher punishment was called for but like many states, Alaska has legislated more lenient measures for many situations. Somehow the wrong doers end up with more ‘rights’ than the victims… No, I will stay away from anything even slightly smacking of politics!!

On another topic, there has been a lot of discussion on various sledding/mushing FB pages and blogs etc. about a recent video (film) made in Canada, with considerable financial backing from a government agency. The video is a vicious “expose” alleging the abuse and horrors for the dogs in all sports involving sled dogs from the long distance races to tours and expeditions etc. The film maker obtained a lot of footage on the basis of false assurances and purpose given to a few younger/novice mushers. They feel violated and betrayed, understandably, and the whole community is enraged.

One prominent Canadian official, equivalent of one of our national Senators, is investigating but the agency has allegedly done their own investigation and feels all is cricket. How this will eventually play out is still unknown. My hope is that it will not actually result in any curtailment or lasting damage to the sport and its adherents. The tourism involvement in both Alaska and Canada is huge and a source of income that would be impacted if such occurred.

Last but not least, I have been accepted to serve as a volunteer for the Iditarod and will probably serve my first race in the headquarters offices at the official hotel location in Anchorage. I expect to learn a lot and at least observe the ceremonial start and hopefully also the restart at Willow the next day. I’ll miss following the race on my computer at home  for the viewpoint will be very different. I will of course take one or more devices along to do that when I am not working even while I feel the excitement as the race progresses by following it with the formal organization.

This year’s one litter at SPK is growing and already at the leggy, lanky stage more dog than puppy. Last year’s two litters are definitely dogs now and starting to learn the trails a bit while the Surfivers are going to be running for real this season. Watching them grow and develop is exciting and I’ll be keeping a close watch on all these pups in which I feel I almost have a real interest and investment. Well, I do have a favorite for which I am a “fan” in each litter and contribute a small bit to their care.  Here is a photo from the summer of Aliy with Ginger.  More soon!