Story From a Handler

Paws Along the Trail with a Dog Handler

A hard-working handler, Matt, harnesses sled dogs to the gang line

Mushers often employ dog handlers at their kennels.  These people work hard keeping the dog yard clean and getting to know the dogs through feeding and watering, harnessing,  and socializing them.  Many of the Iditarod competitors were once dog handlers before trying their hand at the big race.  It’s hard work, but dog handlers are willing to get dirty to enjoy a life of being outside and working with their hands and hearts.

Susan Butcher, a famous Iditarod competitor, got her start handling the dogs of Joe Redington, Sr. founder of the race.  Love can also bloom in the dog yard.  Iditarod finishers  Jaimee and Justin High both handled for veteran musher DeeDee Jonrowe before marrying.   Dallas Seavey met his wife, Jen, when she was working for Mitch Seavey.

The first Iditarod Teacher on the Trail™, Andrea “Finney” Auf Der Heyde, worked as a dog handler in Alaska during her summer breaks. She tells a story of having to learn problem solving under a musher/mentor’s patient guidance.  Fitting color coded harnesses on different sized dogs took some memorization.  

Color coded harnesses for varied sizes of dogs

In conclusion, behind every great Iditarod musher are hard working dog handlers who may one day become competitors themselves in the Last Great Race on Earth®.

Read Finney’s story about problem solving as a dog handler, helping your students learn the reading strategy of using context clues for unfamiliar vocabulary.


Working as a Dog Handler Activity

 Lesson Plan


Other Iditarod Teacher News!

Each year at the Mushers’ Banquet, centerpieces grace the tables, created by school children around the world.  Does your class have an idea to submit?  Read over the Musher Banquet Table Top Contest and send in your idea!  It must be received by November 15.