People everywhere watched in awe recently as Olympic athletes skied for miles, skated for hours and performed amazing physical feats. But even gold medal winners wouldn't be equal to what the dogs in the Iditarod will be forced to do in the next few weeks.
There's nothing sporting about an event in which animals routinely die, as they do in the Iditarod. One dog has already collapsed and died from gastric ulcers during this year's "Junior Iditarod," a test run for young mushers. It's time for this grueling race to be relegated to Alaska's history books.
The Iditarod's 1,150-mile course means that dogs run more than 100 miles a day for almost two weeks straight. They must pull heavy sleds through some of the worst weather conditions on the planet.
The dogs' feet are torn apart by ice and rocks. Many dogs pull muscles, get stress fractures or suffer from diarrhea, dehydration, intestinal viruses or bleeding stomach ulcers.
Mushers ride, eat and sleep while the dogs pull. One musher admitted to smoking pot. The official Iditarod rules only require that the dogs be provided a total of 40 hours of rest--even though the race can take up to two weeks. Many dogs don't survive. Rule 42 of the official Iditarod rules says that some deaths may be considered "unpreventable."
Six dogs died in last year's race alone, including two who were believed to have frozen to death. No records were kept in the early days of the event, but it's estimated that at least 150 dogs have paid with their lives in the Iditarod. And that awful number doesn't include the countless dogs who are killed when they don't make the cut.