Sunday, March 20, 2016

The Iditaord , Making a Positive Difference in the Lives of so Many


“What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.” ― Jane Goodall

Wade Marrs
Photo courtesy of Stumping Jump Kennels


No words rang a greater truth than in this year's 2016 Iditarod. I believe the Iditarod is not just a race or sport, but a time of community, learning and camaraderie. These mushers and this race make a difference in the life of so many.

As I reiterated in my book, "Furry Philosophy and Memoirs Set in Stone" a quote by Dee Dee Jonrowe, "Musher’s win in the manner they take care of their dogs, in the way they treat people in the villages, and how courteous they are to the volunteers."

Some of these communities that the race runs through are very poor, or small in the middle of nowhere. These towns look forward to this event and love to come out and participate with signs of support. 
Dallas Seavey
Photo courtesy of Jeff Schultz

I would like to congratulate Dallas Seavey on another win, his 4th of the last 5. He started out the race very sick. Dallas at only 29 years, is in excellent shape and has been athletic his whole life. 
He chose to make a difference by example and push on. He chose to find his inner strength and determination and followed it all the way to first place under the Burled Arch again. I would also send a special congrats to Mr. Wade Marrs. I just adore Wade's disposition and his care of dogs. He is making a difference by continued dedication to detailed care of his dogs. He attributes his continued success to "looking at his own faults" and working on improvement. It was a nail biter back on the back and  forth race to the finish with Peter Kaiser. The last stretch of the race they were running only a mile apart. Wade also started this race coughing and sick. He flew in, out of breath, into the finish line saying, "I never worked that hard in my life" but with a huge smile on his face. His hard work is showing. In just 5 years he has gone from, 47th to 4th place. I whole believe with all my heart, this ethical, hard, 25 year old musher, who started at 8 years old, is someone to watch! 

This year's Iditarod experienced a horrible tragedy when Arnold Demoski of Nulato intentionally drove a snowmobile towards Aliy Zirkle , Jeff King and their dog teams. The tragedy harmed 2 dogs and sadly killed King's dog Nash. I send love to Nash and Mr. King. Both Aliy and Jeff chose to push on. I would like to congratulate Aily on finishing 3rd and Jeff on finishing 9th, and overcoming adversity. I also believe into every storm a little sun must shine. I believe both mushers have made a difference by showing strength and determination. As Laura Wright, Teacher on the Trail writes,  "The tragic situation outside of Nulato has created a 'teachable moment' for educators who are following the race in their classrooms."  Children are making inspirational signs. Just to quote a few, "You are brave and brilliant and oh so resilient , Go Aily" , "Don't say 'Why me' say 'Try me' Go Mr. King" and "Aily ~Winner's are not people who never fail, but people who never quit." I believe these life lessons are one that our future leaders will remember and hold in their hearts
Aliy with Kodiak at 2016 Iditarod Ceremonial Start.
 Photo courtesy of the SP Kennel

The fact the overuse of alcohol was a factor in this tragedy will teach lessons that will make a huge difference in the life of so many. It is a know fact there is a problem with alcoholism in Alaska. I believe the isolation and lack of sunlight greatly contribute to this.  Musher John Baker, his wife Katherine and Governor Bill Walker formed ACT a state-wide wellness initiative. Their "goal is empower all those residing in Alaska, especially native villages, to establish healthy wellness goals, prevent substance abuse and suicide." Wade Marrs was also asked to be an ambassador of this group and he accepted. Since I have been following Wade, I have seen him work in many ways to make a difference in the lives of so many including the dogs. 
Martin Buser
photo courtesy of Happy Trails Kennel


Sadly this past summer there was another tragedy with the Alaskan fires.  Dee Dee Jonrowe lost her home and sadly one of her dogs. So many lost so much. Everyone showed such camaraderie helping to get dogs out and to safety. The Buser's housed hundreds of dogs and welcomed them to their home. After showing such kindness sadly, the Buser's experienced a horrific tragedy in their life when son, Nikolai suffered extensive injuries in a bad car accident in Seattle WA on Jan. 22nd. Martin spent all his time at the hospital and was not even sure he would race. He was not able to do the training that he needed. He also came down with pneumonia. Dee Dee also was not able to do all the training she wanted. I believe they both made a difference by showing determination and getting out there anyway. I also believe that the Iditarod was healing to them in many ways. Being alone, one with the wilderness and your dogs can work magic. At a checkpoint interview Dee Dee said when talking about the Iditarod, "Something in my life I understand what is going on." Mr. Buser is was having a hard year and also pulled a hamstring so terribly that he blacked out. He was asked at a checkpoint interview, "You're not going to scratch?" He replied, "Scratch? That would be like quitting, I can't quit." "I gotta prove that when you start something, you gotta see it through and I kinda wanna do this for my son who since January 22nd has a hell of a lot more to overcome than I have." I hope that both Martin and Dee Dee found some peace on this trip. When 4 time Iditarod winner Martin Buser crossed the line in 37th place this year he was asked how was the race. He replied, "What race? My camping trip, just did a fun camping trip." I hope you enjoyed your camping trip. You deserved and needed the solitude. I also want to give Dee Dee and Martin a four paws up for making such a positive difference in the community. The both are ambassadors for ethical treatment of the dogs. Dee Dee is a founding member of Mush with PRIDE, "which provides responsible information of a dog's environment, exhibiting her commitment to set the standards for all aspects of sled dog care". Martin regularity talks to the youth at schools on the humanitarian care of animals. I believe educating our future leaders on ethics is one the biggest and most important differences we all need to strive for. 

I believe one of the biggest differences we can make in the world is to be happy, share our happiness and stay positive as much as we can. I believe also we learn by example and can make a difference just by being kind and ethical, especially to the voiceless, the dogs in the race. One of my favorite parts of being a member of the Iditarod Insider is the footage and the interviews and I see this infectious joy, and love for the animals being shared! When watching Paige Drobney and her husband Cody I was very inspired and resonated with Paige's feelings. She loves being alone in the wilderness with her dogs so much "she cried tears of joy". They both mush for the right reason, the love of the dogs and nature. Aily was interviewed while camping on the very windy Bering Sea. She thought she was going to run a little longer but the dogs needed a break so she did was best for them and stopped, in the wind, to rest. She made the best of things with a smile. She said with a grin, as the wind whips in her face, "It's pretty look at it, most people wouldn't choose it, but it's sunny." Miriam Osredkar, a rookie this year running the puppy team for Joar Leifseth Ulsom has a contagious smile and a joy for this race that is quite infectious. You can feel her love for the dogs. Brent Sass has always been know for being positive and he has a logo with the word "Believe" on it, one word that says so much. He states at the finish line, "Places in the end didn't mean anything to me. It's all about the dogs." It warms my heart to see how much the mushers in this race make sure the dogs are put first and foremost and shown so much love. 
Grandpa Phil volunteering on the Pee Team


I believe one of the biggest keys in this race is the volunteers. Without these volunteers there would be no race. My friend Grandpa Phil Cady, was one of the very first volunteers of the race when it started. This year, at 89 years young, he came in all the way from Florida to volunteer on  the "pee team" to test for drug screening to ensure the safety of the dogs. All the vets that ensure the safety and good health for the dogs at every check point are not paid and all volunteers also. 
Once a dog is "dropped" for being tired or injured they must go somewhere to be properly cared for.  There is a "Prisoner Sled Dog Therapy Program" that provides this care. Women from the prison come to care and love these dogs very much. Inmate Danielle Carrier states while stroking a dog with a gentle hand, "There is a lot to be said about dogs, not for just a mental health aspect but definitely  for recovery and substance abuse as well."  Veterinarian, Dean Bauman states, I am so thankful they are willing to work with us on this. It's a win- win situation, not just for the dog's but the inmates too."  I commend these volunteers for their dedication and love of the dogs. They are making a difference in so many ways.

To this author The Iditarod is not just a sport, but a way to make a difference. It is making a positive difference in the lives of so many. It inspires our future leaders and adults to be the best you can be, teach by example and love the voiceless animals, always treating them with the proper care they deserve.

To learn more or become a member for next years adventures go to Iditarod.com.
To read a little bit more about my views and love of the Iditarod you can read older entries on my blog www.furryphilosophy.blogspot.com. 
You can also read my article in  the 2016 March -April issue of http://lastfrontiermagazine.com/ .

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