Two Dogs Down

After two dogs freeze to death, is it time to rethink the Iditarod?
By Lisa Wogan, March 2009

A few days before cancer-survivor Lance Mackey became the third person to win the Iditarod three years in a row, two dogs belonging to rookie racer Lou Packer died from exposure to high-winds and 50-below-zero temperatures. The story of Grasshopper and Dizzy’s demise is as harrowing as it is provocative. Already the questions are tumbling down. Was Packer a rookie who took unnecessary risks or is he to be admired for helping a fellow competitor earlier in the race and falling behind? Should race officials checked on him sooner?

Like a lot of people, I have mixed feelings about dogsled racing, and I generally don’t follow the big events. I know neglect and cruelty are often a byproduct of competitions involving animals. But I’ve also driven small recreational teams before—in Minnesota and Alaska—and it seemed clear the dogs relished the run. But I wonder is it right to celebrate competitions and provide cash incentives for events that can exact this price?