Iditarod Madness, Doggie Style
March Madness has begun.
I’m not talking about college basketball; I’m a dog after all. No, it’s the first weekend in March and that means only one thing to all pups across the world. It’s time to put the stuffed toys and tuggie ropes away and focus on the Iditarod dog sled race.
The longest and most grueling dog sled event of the year has just begun and I’ve compiled some frequently asked questions and answers so you are well informed when discussing the subject at the local fire hydrant tomorrow morning.
What does Iditarod mean?
Iditarod is believed to come from an Athabaskan Indian word pronounced "Hi-dit-a-rod." It can mean several things based upon context including: 1) a distant or far off place i.e. Alf came from Iditarod; 2) a stupid cat, i.e. Mothball sure is an Iditarod; or 3) a close encounter with Alex Rodriguez, i.e. Last night I got drunk and Iditarod.
Why participate in the race?
For dogs it’s simple, they don’t have a choice. Not all of us were lucky enough to be adopted by a clueless suburban couple. No, some of us rolled the dice and came up with Cornelius Klondike instead. But it beats the alternative of being in a cage at a homeless shelter (Psst…make sure to get your owner to adopt from a shelter!).
For humans there’s an even simpler answer, the chance to win $68K and a truck. That isn’t bad, especially when all that’s required is to stand on a sled and say things like, “Mush, “Mush, stop begging for my ice chips, “Mush, you know you’re not allowed on the snowbank.
How long does the race take?
The race covers close to 1,100 miles. Based on the average stride length, it would take nearly four million steps from start to finish, or just over one million if chasing a chipmunk.
The fastest time ever was by Martin Buser who whipped his team to a stunning finish in just under nine days. Rumor has it the impetus for the quick ride came from the lead dog, Rufus, who had a date with a bi**h at end of the race.
Is it warm during the race?
It’s considered warm only if you take into account the scotch coursing through the mushers’ veins. Seriously, temperatures range from a balmy 45 degrees all the way to a squirrel chilling negative 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Throw in the snow crystals attracted to toe fur and you have the recipe for the brain freeze that killed Elvis’ dog.
How many dogs on a team?
The maximum number of dogs to start the race with is 16. The minimum number of mushers to start with is 12.
That may seem like a lot, especially if you consider that The Grinch only had one dog, Max, to pull a sled filled with an entire village’s worth of gifts onboard. Come to think of it, even Santa only has 8 Reindeer (9 if he needs some deer to guide his sleigh), but then again they’re reindeer and should be able to pull more than a dog. Hmm, they do have to fly though. I don’t know if that helps or hurts.
Anyway, 12 - 16 start and on average only 8 – 10 finish. Why the drop off? Some stop at rest areas, drink too many margaritas and oversleep.
What’s the best strategy to win?
All former winners agree; the best strategy for winning is to get to the finish line before everybody else.
Hopefully that gets you up to speed on all things Iditarod and you won’t look the fool at your next canine get together.
Until next time, I’m going to curl up in front of the fireplace and dream of Iditarod glory.
Bo Hoefinger is mixed breed shelter dog, known as ‘The Human Whisperer His out of the dog pen thinking has helped him become a master trainer of humans. He teaches other dogs how to manipulate and control their humans without their knowing it. His amazing insight into canine thinking is what led him to writing his first book, Bad To The Bone: Memoir Of A Rebel Doggie Blogger. To learn more about his book and training techniques visit his site.
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