I don't believe that any musher begins the race imagining that one of their dogs could possibly perish during the Iditarod. Just as I don't think a jockey or owner considers that their horse could sustain a life-threatening injury during the Kentucky Derby.
Each musher starts out with the intention of arriving in Nome with all 16 dogs, healthy and happy!
I will say that not all musher have the same level of experience, which can sometimes prove to be detrimental to the dogs' well-being.
Case in point, Rob Loveman was withdrawn from this year's race due to being "non-competitive".
Nuclear physicist Rob Loveman bumbled his way toward the start of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race here Sunday.
Where experienced Alaska mushers like Jeff King and five-time champ Rick Swenson from Two Rivers were all speed and efficiency in preparing their dogs for the 1,000-mile trail ahead, the Iditarod rookie from Seeley Lake, Mont., was the opposite.
Wrestling with a canine shoehorn, which seemed more hindrance than help, Loveman took minutes per dog to wrestle on fabric booties that help protect against abrasions on soft snow trails. In the time it took him to do one dog, Swenson or four-time champ King from Denali park could deftly bootie most of a team of 16.
Two dogs from Lou Pack 's team died after he apparently got lost on the trail. Lou is a doctor from Wasilla and one of the fourteen rookies running this year's race.
From NPR (before dogs' deaths):
Packer also seems to be having a good time. He even jokes about the potential danger.
"No musher has ever died doing this, but of course my wife is convinced I'm going to be the first one to get that dubious honor," he says, looking down and frowning at his overstuffed sled. It has a classic "rookie bulge" on top: bursting with a lot of unnecessary gear — including two sleeping bags.
But he says he's intent on surviving the experience, so some of that extra stuff might come in handy.
The latest info from adn:
Cause of Packer dogs' deaths remains unknown
Anchorage Daily News
Published: March 17th, 2009 11:12 AM
Last Modified: March 17th, 2009 11:51 AM
A pathologist working for the Iditarod Trail Committee could not visually determine why two 5-year-old male dogs in Wasilla rookie musher Lou Packer's team died, the committee said today in a press release.
Rescuers who pulled Packer from the trail about 22 miles north of the ghost town of Iditarod in the desolate and frigid Innoko River country found the two dead dogs, Dizzy and Grasshopper, with Packer -- along with 13 dogs still alive. Exactly when the two perished and what caused their death is not yet known.
Packer was flown to Unalakleet and has scratched from the race.
Further testing on Dizzy and Grasshopper, including a histopathology, which examines microscopic changes in organs due to disease, is expected.
Packer was part of a group of three back-of-the-pack rookies who ran into trouble after leaving Iditarod on the long 65-mile run to Shageluk. The other two, Blake Matray of Two Rivers and Kim Darst of New Jersey, also scratched.
Packer, 55, was born and grew up in California, receiving his medical degree in 1981 after studying at UCLA and the UC-Berkeley.
He moved to Alaska 22 years ago and runs Urgent Care at Lake Lucille.
"I watched the seventh Iditarod start when the pope came to visit," he wrote in his official Iditarod biography. "I realized it was a sign from the heavens above that I should run the Iditarod. After all, dog (spelled) backwards is GOD.
"Being immediately hooked, I ran a couple of other people's dogs a few times and each time my craving for dogs got worse and worse."
He started seriously training dogs in 2006.
He and wife Ellend have three children: Avalon, 10, Cirrus, 7, and Gazelle, 5.
I don't think Dr. Pack gave the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race the respect it deserves. Unfortunately, his dogs paid the ultimate price. I will definitely keep you posted.
Many critics have suggested that the Iditarod should not require one team of 16 dogs per musher. The original Diphtheria Serum Run to Nome involved several teams running a relay, with no single team running more than 100 miles. This would certainly more accurately reenact the event The Iditarod commemorates and be less dangerous for the dogs and mushers.