Saturday 9 June 2018

Iditarod's New 'Dead Dog Rule'

In the hours since Iditarod announced that all mushers that have a dog died on the race (unless it "was caused solely by unforeseeable, external forces") will be withdrawn from the Race,  I have been asked for my opinions a number of times.

I hate talking dog deaths, the wounds on that issue are still raw for me. 

For those of you unaware, my lead dog, Snickers, died of a gastric ulcer in Grayling during the 2007 Iditarod. I have throughly examined the events leading up to that so many times. I shared her necropsy report with many highly respected vets and asked their opinions. My head knows that I did right by my girl, my heart will always ask, 'What if....?'. 

I almost quit racing after that night.

Ultimately though, everything in life has risks - even sitting on the couch is a risk. I make decisions for my dogs that mirror the decisions I make for me. I am not a foolhardy person, I take my wellbeing seriously and I do the same for my dogs wellbeing - but I also want for all our lives to be rich and full.

I look at and reevaluate that balance often.  You may not agree with where my balance point is, I may not agree with yours - but the point is that it was made thoughtfully and caringly, so it should be respected. 

I don't disagree that this new rule might make an uncaring musher think twice about leaving a dog in a checkpoint 
(though it should be noted that there are already rules in place to deal with mushers whose dogs die a preventable death)  - and that is good thing but what I also see is what it may do to a musher who really does care and really was doing their best for their dogs - a musher who really views their dogs as a member of their family, as I did and do. 

As I write this my mind is in Grayling. I remember everything about that night. The fear, and eventually,  the sorrow, but I also remember the support. The community, the vets (oh, the vets!!), the officials, and my fellow mushers all offering such tremendous support and compassion - and once I got home, I was overwhelmed by the outpouring from fans. I can't even begin to say what that meant to me.

Now, I fear that the new rule will take some of that away. I was given the room and the support to make the choices that I needed to make for me (my choice was to scratch - my heart just wasn't in the race anymore). Now, I fear, when the worst happens, there will be a black cloud of suspicion over a musher - the suggestion that you did do something wrong and have been judged and penalized for it without your story even being heard.

I was reading some comments on the new rule on FB today and saw some already saying that it was good because whether or not the musher cared, they still made a mistake that led to the dog's death. The judging has begun. Life is tenuous and fragile - living it 'mistake free' does not guarantee that it will be long.

I believe there are pros and cons to this new rule - but, in my mind, what it boils down to is whether you believe most mushers care about their dogs or whether most mushers don't.

I believe that most mushers care about their dogs.


Unknown said...

Absolutely most mushers care, or they wouldn’t spend the hours loving, training, finding the right diet, scooping poop, sitting up nights with a sick dog. I have seen it, and I have no doubt mushers care, they love their dogs and sometimes the worst happens. Our pets die unexpectedly, through no fault of ours, and all we can do is grieve.

Finns Pops said...

as an outsider but avid fan, I see this as propaganda material for those seeking to destroy this race altogether. It's like making a rule that says if I beat my wife again, I'll go to jail. Well, I never beat her in the first place, but now the perception is the rule was needed to prevent it from happening.
I wouldn't want to be those in charge of deciding rules for this race, but I don't myself see where this rule was necessary. And I do see the harm it may cause.
But that's just from an outsider. You know, those they're depending on to support the race.


well said, Agree 100%