Almost time for Alaska’s Iditarod

By Earl Finkler

Medford, Wis.

Once again it is time for the annual Iditarod Sled Dog Race in Alaska. The race from Anchorage to Nome is listed at 1,100 miles through some tough country, but each year it seems to get more and more popular.

It commemorates a special relay of dogs and mushers in 1925 to get life-saving medication to Nome where there was diphtheria epidemic. The flying weather was not good, so it was left to the dog teams to get that medication to Fairbanks and then up to Nome.

Now as it gets close to the start of the Iditarod, there is a new book out by Debbie Clarke Moderow,  a former participant:  “Fast into the Night — A Woman, Her Dogs, and Their Journey North on the Iditarod Trail.”

In a recent interview, she told me that she just loves dogs, and so in 1979, she traveled from Connecticut to Alaska for a mountain climbing expedition. 

Once there, she met her husband, and stayed around to get into mushing. “

She worked hard, and got closer and closer to her dogs. But in her first Iditarod in 2003, she found it was very hard work, including work with a strong-willed leader Kanga.

Then, just about 200 miles from the finish, the dogs showed their inner resolve and stopped running.  I remember when we got two Huskies in Barrow, their owners told me “Huskies know what they like and expect to get it.”

But then in the next try in 2005, Debbie got to go all the way, finishing in just under 14 days. The dogs really worked as a team, she said.

The book contains much, much more about Debbie and the dogs. And what about when the dogs get too old for dog sled completion?  She said it is difficult, but she works hard to make sure each dog gets a really good home.

There are many good books on the world of the Iditarod dog teams, going way back to the dog sled relay with life-saving serum to Nome back in 1925.

“Mush, you huskies!"