15 March 2010

March Addiction

Most of you, at least by now, know that I am mildly obsessed with dogs. And after three trips to Alaska for a mission trip, a job interview (during college, so don't freak out...we're not moving) and to run my first marathon (I wanted to run my first 26.2 in my favorite place in the world), I'm mildly obsessed with our 49th state. So it should come as no surprise that this time of year I'm glued to my computer, keeping track of my favorite mushers as they compete in the world-famous Iditarod.
This is my March addiction. Some people have the NCAA brackets to keep them occupied. My husband has the start of high school baseball season.
I have dogs and sleds and half-frozen people running across the mountains and rivers of Alaska.
When Matt and I were in Anchorage for my marathon, we had the opportunity to travel to Big Lake to the Happy Trails Kennels - the home of Iditarod Champion Martin Buser...who is also the current record-holder for the fastest Iditarod finish time ever. He was awesome. Very down-to-earth, very personable. My favorite thing? All of his humanitarian awards, given to the mushers who take the best care of their dogs out on the trail. I was in awe to be in the presence of someone who's actually completed - and has won multiple times - the Iditarod. I almost couldn't speak.
Here's Martin explaining the workings of the sled and what to expect out on the trail.
Martin's world-record trophy...try fitting that one on your mantle.
My absolute favorite picture of me and Matt. It wasn't cold...it just looks that way. :)
Anyway, back to the race.
I also like Lance Mackey - who's currently in the lead, and if he wins this year it will be a record-setting four years in a row for him - and he's also a man who is a throat cancer survivor. My favorite thing about Lance is that he is quick to give credit first to his dogs before he talks about himself.
And new this year: Newton Marshall, a musher from where else? Jamaica. I love the pictures of him at the ceremonial start in Anchorage and all of the posters that say, "Mush, Mon!" And there really is a Jamaican Dogsled Team. How. Cool.
But one of my favorite favorite mushers is DeeDee Jonrowe. Not only is this chick out there racing against big, burly men (and usually beats most of them), she's a breast cancer survivor who harnesses her dogs in bright pink. According to her bio on her website, DeeDee is the foremost female dog musher competing in the world today. She has both the fastest time of any woman in the history of the Iditarod and 14 top ten finishes in her career. Her second place finish in 1998 was the fifth fastest Iditarod time ever recorded at that point. She's also competed in the Ironman Triathlon (2.4-mile ocean swim, a 112-mile bike race and a 26.2-mile run) and about a gazillion other sled dog races. Rock on, woman!
Check out her photos!
As I was going through my list of Iditarod sites to check on the current standings, I came across an article about DeeDee that made me want to cry.
Seriously. This lady is amazing.
Courtesy of Loren Liden at Iditablog.com:
As DeeDee Jonrowe approaches Unalakleet, I imagine she is getting anxious. Not just to make it to the next checkpoint, but to make it to what she called her “favorite checkpoint this year.” Jonrowe has led a fundraising campaign to raise support so that Logan Erickson, a 9-year-old, autistic boy in Unalakleet, could have a service dog.
When Jonrowe visited Unalakleet earlier this year, Erickson was fascinated by her dog, Miyagi, calling for him after Jonrowe had left. Logan didn’t speak before this. Obviously Logan benefited significantly from the presence of a dog, and DeeDee, like most mushers, understands the benefits that dogs can have on humans. Specifically, service dogs for autistic children provide emotional support, as well a significant safety net.
For those of you who don’t know, autism manifests itself in children through lack of social skills, as well as a tendency to wander off and difficulty sleeping. 4 Paws for Ability, the organization through which Logan will receive his dog, is the first and continues to be the largest organization that places service dogs with autistic children. They have an intimate understanding of autism, and have developed training for their dogs to best suit the children they will be serving. For example, these service dogs are not only trained how to aid a child in behavioral and social contexts, but are also trained in search and rescue so that when their child wanders off they can track him/her down. Pretty impressive if you ask me!
This dog will clearly make a significant impact on the life of Logan, and on the rest of his family (4 older brothers, and parents Jeff and Donna) . As such, several other mushers jumped on board when they heard what DeeDee was up to. Martin Buser, Aliy Zirkle, Lance Mackey, Mitch Seavey and William “Middie” Johnson have all gotten involved by either donating items or experiences toward the auction or soliciting pledges for their race.
When Logan receives his dog here shortly, DeeDee and fellow mushers will have run a successful race – one that will forever change the life of a little boy. That, in my opinion, is worth running a thousand miles across Alaska for.
-Loren Liden for Iditablog.com
That is the kind of story that makes you have faith in humanity.
Here's the link to read about Logan: 4 Paws for Logan. What a cute little boy. And I just cry all over when I think about his first word ever was - at the age of nine years old - the name of one of DeeDee's dogs. Isn't that the greatest thing?
Good luck, Logan! I hope you get your dog.
And good luck DeeDee...we're cheering you on to Nome! Almost there!
For more Iditarod coverage, click HERE. But only if you want to get really, really hooked on Alaska and some amazing people and dogs. Trust me on this. It's addicting.
As I mentioned on Twitter (@runsforcupcakes) the other day, I know the mushers like Matt knows MLB players...and we still make our marriage work.


Mel C said...

I find the Iditarod slightly fascinating!! It's not only an athletic competition, it's mental, it's endurance, it's adventure... What could be better?

Rebekah Williams said...

You look gorgeous!