I watched this young lady walk to each dog in her family's team, sharing whispers, hugs and kisses.
Jeff King started the race carrying 2 of his dogs in the sled.
He refers to his team as, "a set of fine china".
Sled dogs are bred and live to run, just like race horses. Sled dogs love to run like Labs loves to retrieve.
Yes, the conditions are often harsh and cruel on the trail, but I can assure you that the mushers take better care of their dogs than they do themselves.
There are veterinarians at each checkpoint to monitor the dogs' health. If a vet determines that the dog is unable to continue, the dog is given excellent care at the checkpoint until it can he flown back to Anchorage.
I am an animal lover (especially dogs) and I would not support any activity that I considered cruel or inhumane. After spending time with Wayne and Scarlett Hall and their dogs in Eagle, and now having been to the Iditarod, I am more convinced than ever that professional sled dogs are some of the happiest, luckiest, and most loved dogs in the world.