Learn From the Dogs

Paws Along the Trail with Life Lessons

Exxon Mobile is a major sponsor of the Iditarod Education Department.



You can learn a lot from a bunch of dogs!  Exxon Mobile, a major sponsor of the Iditarod Education Department, is correct with this logo. Cindy Abbott, recipient of the 2015 and 2017 Red Lantern Awards,  is a musher with outstanding persistence and a strong sense of adventure.  Her answers to my questions demonstrate that she has learned life lessons from her dogs.


Practice Teamwork

I have a great relationship with every dog on my team, some from the time they were born. In turn, they love to please me and I them.  It is a team!  So, for the most part, they are happy no matter what we are doing. Do they have a sense of accomplishment, happiness?  Absolutely! Are they mopey, tired? I work very hard to keep my dogs’ spirits upbeat and happy. It takes work on my part, but I feel that they are the most important aspect of racing. I am always positive and give them lots of hugs and kisses.

If you love what you do, you won’t work a day in your life.

The dogs love what they do, and they trust and love me. So, no additional motivation is needed. 

Love and Loyalty

At the finish line of the 2017 Iditarod, right under the burled arch, my main leader Banana was posing for a photo of me hugging my leaders (the other one was Panther). Banana is a big, happy boy and his way of hugging is to lean on me. So as the Red Lantern Winner, there were lots of people taking photos/video so we were in the pose for a while. I was tired after our 12 day, 2 hour run. After about five minutes of Banana leaning on me (his hug), I started to tip over. I told the photographers, “Get your last shots, I am going down.” And pouf! Banana took me down. I love that dog! He led every step of the way in the race – amazing!!!!

Face Your Fear 

By normal standards I guess running a team of dogs across Alaska is dangerous in itself. I have had encounters with moose and been in some bad storms. Yes, I guess I have been worried a time or two but being prepared and having the knowledge of what to do is the key to keeping things from getting bad.

Pull Together

Training, running the miles it takes to get the team into  marathon running shape, and to keep them at that level is the aspect of training that takes the most time.

Summer runs

Cindy Abbott is a presenter for the Iditarod Teacher Summer Camp.  If you want to learn first hand what it is like to be a musher, touch the equipment they carry, stand on a sled, and help with the dogs, consider attending Iditarod Educator Summer Camp held for 10 days in June.  It is a professional development dream!  Registration will open soon.  

Here is a lesson plan based on a book by Shelley Gill, Alaska’s Dog Heroes.  Teach life lessons, new vocabulary, and reading comprehension skills through these amazing stories!

Lesson Plan Life Lessons From Dogs

Life Lesson Topics

 Other Iditarod Teacher News

Coming up soon is the 2018 Iditarod Conference for Educators, February 27 – March 2, in Anchorage, Alaska.  Come get recharged with using the Iditarod to “Make Sense of Problems and Persevere in Solving Them.” Along with this tremendous professional development opportunity, see vet checks with the canine athletes, Alaska in the winter, and then stay a couple extra days to actually attend both starts of the Iditarod Race. Learning with other passionate educators energizes us teachers.  Click here for more information.