Monday, June 8, 2009

Alaska Cruise - Day 12 - Tuesday, June 2

After a relaxing morning we finally got up and went and got everything ready for our departure later in the day. We then went and got a late lunch since none of us were very hungry after the late dinner last night. In the afternoon we took a trip out to Jeff King's Alaskan Husky Farm. Jeff has won four Iditarod races and has a husky farm where he breeds and raises his dogs for his team. Those he does not choose for his team he will sell to other racers or anyone else that is interested in racing dogs. He usually will sell about 30 dog each year for about $1500/ea. When we first got there they let us hold the new puppies for a few minutes and take pictures with them. Then they showed us the older dogs. They were all in the yard tethered to their houses so they would not be running all over the place and getting into mischief with other dogs. One of the workers started howling and then all the dogs joined in, it got pretty noisy. Then they brought in a 4 wheeler that they use in the summer to train the dogs. They hitch up the dogs to the 4 wheeler and they then pull it instead of a sled. As soon as they brought in the 4 wheeler all the dogs started going crazy. They were barking a jumping around as if they were saying, pick me, pick me! It was quite a site. They then took about 10 dogs and hooked them up and off they went. They do this all day long, so all of the dogs get their chance to pull it. When they come back from their run, there is a puddle that they all lay down in to cool off and get a drink. They also have this large wheel (like a hamster wheel) that a dog climbs into and starts running. That wheel got spinning pretty fast. They also had this merry go round like thing that several dogs were chained up to and when the lead doge was put in the house on the top, he started barking and the dogs took off running. The lead dog continued barking sounding out commands to the dogs pulling.

We then went inside and watched a short DVD about the Iditarod race and some of the things Jeff has done with the dog training. Jeff's daughter told us what it was like growing up in Alaska and as Jeff's daughter. She has competed in the Jr. Iditarod as well as other races. She is not sure if she is interested in running the full Iditarod race or not. After she was done, Jeff came in and talked and answered questions anyone had. When it was time to leave I purchased his book and he signed it and took pictures with us. This was one the best side tours we took. One the way back to the lodge, we came across a moose that was alongside the road eating the leaves off the trees. We stopped and took pictures (see below), then got to the lodge, retrieved our luggage and boarded the coach to go to the train depot for the ride to Fairbanks.

On the ride from Denali to Fairbanks we saw more beaver dams and trumpet swans. Our guide showed us the Nenana river and there was a sand bar in the middle of the river and she asked us if we knew what the sand bar was called and she said: nenana split! She we also saw a bald eagle flying around as well as raven. She told us that ravens have five pinions on their feet and the eagle has six. She said the difference between a raven and an eagle was a matter of a pinion (opinion)!!! Oh, these tour guides are funny.

In the town of Nenana, they have the ice classic, where people bet on when the ice will break up, usually late April or May. A tripod is setup by the river where there is a clock ticking away and everyone writes down the date they think break up will happen. When the ice breaks up the clock stops. The person(s) closest to the date wins the prize money. The annual payoff is more than $300,000.00 and is often split by several contestants.

We ate wonderful dinner on the train and just as we were finishing up, we were pulling into Fairbanks - good timing. We hopped aboard our motor coach and headed to the hotel and settled in for the evening. The picture of the sunset at the bottom is from our hotel room and was taken at 1:00 am. There was a sign on our hotel room that says the later the sun will set at 2:30 am and rise again at 3:30 am. One June 21, the summer solstice the sun will literally rotate all the way around - not setting at all. Crazy stuff.


  1. Jeff King didn't tell you the real deal about the Iditarod. For the dogs, the Iditarod is a bottomless pit of suffering. Six dogs died in the 2009 Iditarod. Two dogs on Dr. Lou Packer's team froze to death in the brutally cold winds. What happens to the dogs during the race includes death, paralysis, frostbite (where it hurts the most!), bleeding ulcers, bloody diarrhea, lung damage, pneumonia, ruptured discs, viral diseases, broken bones, torn muscles and tendons and sprains. At least 142 dogs have died in the race. No one knows how many dogs die after this tortuous ordeal or during training. For more facts about the Iditarod, visit the Sled Dog Action Coalition website, .

    On average, 52 percent of the dogs who start the race do not make it across the finish line. According to a report published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, of those who do finish, 81 percent have lung damage. A report published in the Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine said that 61 percent of the dogs who complete the Iditarod have ulcers versus zero percent pre-race.

    Iditarod dog kennels are puppy mills. Mushers breed large numbers of dogs and routinely kill unwanted ones, including puppies. Many dogs who are permanently disabled in the Iditarod, or who are unwanted for any reason, including those who have outlived their usefulness, are killed with a shot to the head, dragged, drowned or clubbed to death. "Dogs are clubbed with baseball bats and if they don't pull are dragged to death in harnesses......" wrote former Iditarod dog handler Mike Cranford in an article for Alaska's Bush Blade Newspaper.

    Dog beatings and whippings are common. During the 2007 Iditarod, eyewitnesses reported that musher Ramy Brooks kicked, punched and beat his dogs with a ski pole and a chain. Jim Welch says in his book Speed Mushing Manual, "Nagging a dog team is cruel and ineffective...A training device such as a whip is not cruel at all but is effective." "It is a common training device in use among dog mushers..."

    Jon Saraceno wrote in his March 3, 2000 column in USA Today, "He [Colonel Tom Classen] confirmed dog beatings and far worse. Like starving dogs to maintain their most advantageous racing weight. Skinning them to make mittens.. Or dragging them to their death."

    During the race, veterinarians do not give the dogs physical exams at every checkpoint. Mushers speed through many checkpoints, so the dogs get the briefest visual checks, if that. Instead of pulling sick dogs from the race, veterinarians frequently give them massive doses of antibiotics to keep them running.

    Most Iditarod dogs are forced to live at the end of a chain when they aren't hauling people around. It has been reported that dogs who don't make the main team are never taken off-chain. Chained dogs have been attacked by wolves, bears and other animals. Old and arthritic dogs suffer terrible pain in the blistering cold.

    Margery Glickman
    Sled Dog Action Coalition,

  2. Interesting comments. How did you find my site, so fast. I have not published anything except to my friends and family.