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Animals In Print
The On-Line Newsletter

From 12 March 2008 Issue

HELP: USA Today hyping Iditarod in a big way!

USA Today is now hyping the Iditarod. The article below is the second one in a series of its Iditarod propaganda articles. Jon Saraceno works at USA Today but no longer writes a sports column. Clearly, editors don't care that the dogs suffer and die in the Iditarod. When Saraceno wrote the truth about the race, Iditarod lovers sent many emails complaining  about him exposing the grim realities. Now it's our turn to complain.

Please tell editors to stop publishing Iditarod propaganda and publish the truth: [email protected]

All in the musher family for the Mackeys

By Douglas Robson, Special for USA TODAY

Sled-dog bloodlines are meticulously bred to ensure the best possible genes pass on to future generations. The same can almost be said for the men and women who drive their dogs in the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.

A handful of the best racers come from lineages where mushing has been passed down from one generation to another.

"My parents tell me my first toy was a puppy, and my first word was dog," says Lance Mackey, defending Iditarod champion whose father, Dick, and older brother, Rick, were the first father-son winners.

Lance Mackey became the first musher to win both major long-distance North American sled-dog races back-to-back at last year's Iditarod and Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race. Both cover more than 1,000 miles.

Last month the 37-year-old former fisherman and throat cancer survivor won his record fourth consecutive Yukon Quest. Mackey is seeking double titles again at the Iditarod, which began Saturday in Anchorage and should conclude in downtown Nome next week. Mackey won last year in nine days, five hours.

"Every year is different," says Mackey, a native of Fairbanks, Alaska. "They're probably out to get me. I have to be on my toes, not make stupid mistakes."

As in years past, the 36th running of the Iditarod includes a number of racers whose siblings, parents or grandparents took part.

  Mitch Seavey's father, Dan, finished third in the inaugural race in 1973, and his three sons have all run it twice. Mitch Seavey, the 2004 champion, is competing in his 15th Iditarod.

  Ray Redington is running this year, following his brother, Ryan, his father, Raymie, and grandfather, Joe, who is one of the race founders. Together the Redingtons have finished 45 Iditarods.

  In addition to former winners Dick and Rick Mackey, two of Lance Mackey's other six siblings, Bill and Jason, have run the Iditarod.

  Four-time winner and speed recordholder Martin Buser is racing for the first time with one of his sons, Rohn, 18, who is named after a checkpoint along the route.

Most multi-generation racers hail from families deeply embedded in the sport. Out of necessity, children often help their parents feed, socialize and care for the animals.

"It's based on a subsistence lifestyle to begin with," says Bud Smyth, 71, who ran the first of seven Iditarods in 1973. Two of his 11 children, Cim and Ramey, are racing again this year. Cim Smyth, a firefighter from Big Lake, Alaska, led Sunday leaving the restart in Willow. Lance Mackey was fifth in line.

Mitch Seavey's son, Danny, who ran in 2001 and 2006, says he can't remember a time when he and his brothers weren't helping their father with his kennel or sled-dog business. "I never consciously thought at 16, 'Should I go out for the football team or dog mushing?' " says Danny Seavey, 25. "It was a given. I guess you could say I was born into it.

"It's also a sport that isn't limited by gender. Four-time winner Jeff King has three daughters who all did the Junior Iditarod. His eldest, Cali, finished the adult Iditarod.

Seeing the success of relatives also serves as motivation. "My dad started with being a champion," says Lance Mackey of Dick Mackey, who nipped five-time winner Rick Swenson by a nose at the finish to win in 1978. "Growing up around that leaves a pretty good impression on a young man's mind."


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