Dogs and Mushers

Paws Along the Trail with Dog Stories

Marcelle Fressineau was mushing down the trail yesterday when a wood bison meandered in front of her dogs. Her lead dogs were spooked and ran back toward her.  She wasn’t sure if the bison was aggressive, so she ran up to the bison, waving and yelling.  It got off the trail when it saw this petite woman!

At breakfast this morning, she also told about coming to some overflow on the Kuskokwim River which soaked many mushers.  Four of her young dogs weren’t keen on going through the water, so she waded into the middle of it and then they happily followed her.

I commented that her dogs looked very energetic and excited when she arrived at dawn into Nikolai.  She told us that once a dog has run a trail, it remembers it the rest of its life.  Marcelle hasn’t raced since 2014, and yet her dogs knew they were coming close to the Nikolai checkpoint and sped up!

All day long I have observed evidence of putting the dogs first.  My spot on the first bush plane out of Nikolai this morning got taken by dogs.  It’s OK.  I know who is the most important.  Soon after that, I jumped onto another plane going to McGrath and got to observe mushers traveling the trail from the air.  Photographer Jeff Schultz was also in the plane which meant the pilot dipped and curved around so Jeff could get some great photos.  Because we were lower in the sky, I could see the dogs trotting happily along the frozen river.

Later in  Takotna, Matthew Failor was walking two dogs at a time around the checkpoint.  One of the dogs decided to go to the bathroom.  He asked for a shovel.  One of the check-in volunteers said, “Oh no!  We have a team who are just waiting for something to clean up.  POOPER SCOOPERS!” she yelled.  Immediately, three children from the town jumped up and began running down the hill to take care of it.  Keeping the dog parking areas clean are a high priority.

Ready to work!

Several mushers are taking their 24 hour mandatory stop in Takotna.  Their dogs are well-fed and relaxed, gearing up for their next jaunt on the Iditarod Trail.