The 1,000 mile Iditarod Race begins on the first Saturday of March every year. Iditarod.com calls it “the last great race”. A few years ago, my mom and I went on a wonderful vacation in Alaska and one of the things we did was take a dog sled ride, in August! We went to Seavey’s Ididaride Sled Dog Tours. (Get it, I-Did-a-Ride vs. Ididarod?!?!) I know it was a tourist experience, however, we got a very real idea of one family’s dogs outside of the race. The Seaveys have been racing for 3 generations. Mitch Seavey has run Iditarod many times, winning in 2004 and 2013. His father was one of the founders of the race, and his son Dallas has won the race 4 times, setting the record in 2016.
I know that giving tourists rides in the off season provides income to the family, however, they also gave great information and the summer rides greatly benefitted their dogs. Our tour and ride was guided by one of the Seavey sons. Here are the highlights of what I learned:
- Their best sled dogs are NOT Huskies like portrayed by Hollywood. By the look of them, they’re all 80-90 pound mix breeds that LOVE to run.
- When harnessed to the sled, which is on wheels due to lack of snow, the dogs barked continuously until the driver said “Mush”. Then they were immediately silent and went to work.
- By doing the off-season rides, the dogs stay in shape and in practice.
- We were able to go in and play with the puppies – SO ADORABLE! They want them comfortable around people.
- When they’re training and racing in the snow every dog wears booties. I can’t remember how many pairs of booties the young man said they took with them for the race.
I can only attest to my experience and this family knows how important strong, healthy dogs are for their livelihood. It was great to see working dogs with a job to do.