Dr. Roland Lombard was a veterinarian and a racer, who was on the "Meet a Pioneer" radio show on March 15, 1985 with Gayle Maloy for KFAR radio in Fairbanks, Alaska. Dr. Lombard was a famous dog racer in Alaska, even though he lived in Wayland, Mass. He won the Fur Rendezvous World Championship Sled Dog Race in Anchorage eight times in the 1960s and 1970s and was known for bringing innovative ideas about dog care to Alaska. In this interview, he talks about how he got interested in dog mushing, starting his veterinary career, coming to Alaska to race, methods for making a stronger race dog, his relationship with his dogs and other racers and the importance of having a good leader. This recording has been edited to remove the commercials from the original radio show.
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Winning a dog sled race to earn money to pay for college
How he got interested in dog mushing
Meeting Leonard Seppala
Becoming a veterinarian
His first dogs and getting dogs from Seppala
Starting his veterinary practice in Wayland, Massachusetts
The beginning of his dog racing career
Types of sleds used in the early years
Non-racing use of a dog team
Coming to Alaska for dog team racing
Training and caring for race dogs
His first North American Classic sled dog race
Winning his first race in Alaska
Dog mushers who were his competition
The mental aspect of dog racing and your relationship with your dogs
Sprint versus long distance dog races
The passion and competiton of dog racing
A bad experience on the trail
Favorite memories of dog racing in Alaska
Future of dog mushing
GAYLE MALOY: Good morning friends and welcome to KFAR Radio's Meet a Pioneer. Today is March 15, 1985. I'm Gayle Maloy. Each Friday morning at nine o'clock we meet a pioneer. We'll spend the next hour with Dr. Roland Lombard, honorary Fairbanksan from Wayland, Massachusetts. The doctor is best known for his 57 year long dog mushing career winning every major title in North America. Welcome to the KFAR studios Dr. Lombard. DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: Thank you. GAYLE MALOY: How long have you been coming up to Alaska? DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: Since 1958. GAYLE MALOY: 1958. Well, we're going to start at the beginning. You were born on September 17, 1911. Where were you born? DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: In Raymond, Maine. GAYLE MALOY: And big family, little family? DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: I have three sisters. GAYLE MALOY: Uh-huh. DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: And, of course, I suppose they've took to me as my family. GAYLE MALOY: Were you the -- were they all older than you? DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: I was the older. GAYLE MALOY: Oh, you were the oldest. DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: Yes. GAYLE MALOY: Had three younger sisters. Were you close? DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: Yes, very much. GAYLE MALOY: What was boyhood like in Maine? DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: Well, we all had to work to a certain extent and the -- I guess that's why I was able to earn money to go to veterinarian college, and that was the -- some money that I got by winning a very large race down there. GAYLE MALOY: You won a race that put you through college? DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: Well $2,000 around 30, 1930. That's a lot of money. GAYLE MALOY: Gee, whiz! And that paid for your education then? DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: Well, I had to work all to get by, you know. I mean it didn't just do it. GAYLE MALOY: Uh-huh. DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: And, of course, the family -- my dad he had to work very hard and he couldn't give me any help. And so that when I went to college I had to use just what much -- that money that I -- GAYLE MALOY: Uh-huh. DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: That I could. GAYLE MALOY: What was the race that you won that got you that money? DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: Laconia. GAYLE MALOY: Laconia. DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: And that was way back in 1930. GAYLE MALOY: Uh-huh. The start of the tough years there, huh? DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: Yeah. GAYLE MALOY: What school did you go to? Veterinary school? DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: The one in -- in Canada. GAYLE MALOY: Uh-huh. DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: Yeah. GAYLE MALOY: Well, when did you start mushing dogs then? How old were you and how did you happen to get interested in it? DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: Oh, I was probably about fifteen or sixteen when I started to race dogs. But in those days most of the teams were two and three dog teams. And they went over some fairly long races. And so later on Seppala came down and -- GAYLE MALOY: Leonard Seppala? DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: Yes. GAYLE MALOY: Came to Maine? Went to Maine? DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: Yes.
GAYLE MALOY: Uh-huh. DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: Yes, yes, that was after the big run to Nome with the diphtheria. GAYLE MALOY: Will you tell us a little bit about that, especially for those of us who are not really familiar with that? Give us some history on Leonard Seppala and that famous run. DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: Yes, well, he -- he missed -- he started out to do the whole thing to come here to Fairbanks and pick it up and then take it back. But the epidemic was so bad that they had to do it quicker. So they made the run. They had probably about 15 people that were taking it. GAYLE MALOY: That were mushing? DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: Yes. GAYLE MALOY: And that's from here to Nome? DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: Yeah. GAYLE MALOY: And the worst of the epidemic was in that area then? DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: That's right. GAYLE MALOY: Uh-huh. DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: And so, he missed his lap and he went through two or three and kept right on going. And so he -- he always had a large team and he was -- he -- GAYLE MALOY: What year was that? DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: 1923, I think. GAYLE MALOY: Uh-huh. DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: I'm not exact, but I think that was then. GAYLE MALOY: So as a boy he was a hero to you? DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: Yes, that was one of the things that got me started. GAYLE MALOY: Well, what was it like when you met him? What were the circumstances? How did you happen to run into him? DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: Well, after that he came down for speaking and so forth. And they went to Poland Springs, which is just about twelve miles over the hill from me. GAYLE MALOY: Uh-huh. DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: And so I got to know him there. They -- the -- it was a big summer place and the big hotels that were there. GAYLE MALOY: Uh-huh. DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: And they went in with him and he stayed there for quite a long time. And so I was too young to take the car or anything like that, so I'd take one dog that I had that -- that I went 10 miles, no, 12 miles I guess it was across there and -- and hung around the place there. And then I'd come back, you know. And so -- GAYLE MALOY: Boy, that must have been a thrill for you then. Here's your hero. DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: Yeah. GAYLE MALOY: Well, you'd been interested though, I guess, in animals as a lifelong interest for you? DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: Yes, yes. I have with cows and horses and all. GAYLE MALOY: Did you know when you were very young that you wanted to be a veterinarian? DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: No, no. As a matter of fact, when I got through school, high school, I decided that I -- I saw a lot of people that were being put through for their families and that couldn't really afford it. And they would go and not use the education that they were using. So, I stayed out for one -- one year and then there was two or three things that I thought that I would like to have and then finally it come down to being a veterinarian. GAYLE MALOY: Huh. DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: So, of course, it was kind of hard, because you couldn't get any jobs during school, because the people living in that area that was going there they wouldn't take outsiders quite, you know. GAYLE MALOY: Oh, in Canada? DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: Yeah. GAYLE MALOY: Yeah. Well, you went to -- you were going to school in Canada and it was kind of tough. You won $2,000 to help pay for things, but that didn't make it easy, did it? DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: No. I had to -- if I -- dad couldn't help me at all even if I had to drop out of school. GAYLE MALOY: Uh-huh. DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: He just was able to take care of the family. GAYLE MALOY: Now you had dogs during your college years? DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: No, I had to let those go and all except one that I kept. GAYLE MALOY: Because you couldn't bear to let them all go? DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: No, that was a little mongrel dog about the size of a Cocker Spaniel about -- but I ran him on lead just the same and -- GAYLE MALOY: Is that right? DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: Yeah. GAYLE MALOY: Huh, so did you have a particular breed of dog you used in those early years or was it just like this little one, a kind of a mixture. DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: Well, after a while Seppala allowed me to take two dogs, two Siberians. GAYLE MALOY: Out of his group you mean? DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: Yes. GAYLE MALOY: Oh, I see. DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: Well, they had a hundred or a hundred and a quarter I guess perhaps. GAYLE MALOY: Were they a gift or did you buy the dogs from his kennel? DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: Well, no, he just loaned them to me. GAYLE MALOY: Oh, I see. DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: And there was some problems with them, but we got that all straightened out and all and when the race was over and everything I -- he said they're mine and he gave me another one. There was three. He came up to Alaska to pick up Siberians and out of nine I got three after a while. They were not -- I mean easy ones to keep, you know. GAYLE MALOY: Their temperament? DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: Well, yeah, they didn't want to work and so forth, but I never had any problem with it. And they were fighters and -- GAYLE MALOY: Um. DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: My little mongrel that I had -- I took them in the kitchen with that dog and those dogs just kind of bristled up and started over to go over to get him and he will take a large dog and knock him down. But, of course, they'd get up and probably kill him, you know. But there was no biting or anything like that. I don't know how he -- he does that. And I took that one out and I did the same thing with the other three -- the other two. And they were the most -- they didn't know what to take and they never fought. GAYLE MALOY: Really! DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: Never fought. GAYLE MALOY: What a strong hearted little dog that was, huh? DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: Oh, yeah, he was -- his name was Bucky. GAYLE MALOY: Gee whiz. A kind of a special love for some of your dogs, huh? DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: Yes. GAYLE MALOY: There's some that stand out more than others? DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: Yeah, that was the one that we -- that I did keep, of course, and then he -- when I was in my veterinary office, he came with me and I went into Massachusetts rather than up -- I wanted more dog work. GAYLE MALOY: So you -- did you know anybody in Wayland or have any family ties? Is it just a place you picked to go and open a business? DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: Well, I looked around for quite a little while. GAYLE MALOY: Uh-huh. DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: And I worked for a man for about a month -- about a year, year and a half and then I picked out a place and fortunately they were -- I didn't have any money, you know, but they just -- somehow they just thought maybe I'd be sure to pay them back, you know. GAYLE MALOY: You had a trusting looking face. They could trust you. What year did you start your business? DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: 1938, I think. GAYLE MALOY: 1938 in Wayland, Massachusetts. What was practice like early -- those days of veterinary medicine? DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: Well, we did large animals also, but the -- we had a large, large group after a while. I had four other veterinarians working under me and so we -- it -- it got a little bit big. GAYLE MALOY: It was your practice and these others were working for you? DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: Yes, yeah. GAYLE MALOY: Gee whiz! You must be one of the largest in the area? DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: Yeah, I think so, except for the ones that they -- oh, I don't know exactly what to say, but it was -- they take them in for to take care of and so forth. GAYLE MALOY: Uh-huh. Were you -- so when you got into this business and business was doing very well and money was coming in, did you really get into dog mushing again and started new races? DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: After a while I did, yes. GAYLE MALOY: When did you -- when did your career start where you started winning so many titles? I know it all started back East, but at what point was it -- did you really start to rack up the winnings? DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: Well, probably somewhere in the late 40's. GAYLE MALOY: What were some of the races you entered? DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: Oh, golly, I mean they're just in New England. I mean we didn't go out -- I guess there wasn't hardly any races across the lower -- GAYLE MALOY: It wasn't big everywhere, but it was certainly big in New England area. DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: Yes. GAYLE MALOY: How were the sleds -- what kind of sleds did you have then and what was an average team -- size of a team? DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: Well, there were about seven -- GAYLE MALOY: Uh-huh. DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: -- by that time and we -- the sleds were very much like the same way. You know, we've done a little bit better on them and the dogs and harnesses are -- were not quite as good as they are now, but they -- GAYLE MALOY: What were they made of? DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: There were some leather ones, but mostly it's a webbing. GAYLE MALOY: Uh-huh. And were the sleds the short ones that they have -- that you see now in the races? Were they similar to that even then? DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: Very much. GAYLE MALOY: Uh-huh.
DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: Very much. GAYLE MALOY: Had you ever done any sort of racing other than or any sort of dog mushing other than racing? Was it utilitarian at all? DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: No. GAYLE MALOY: Uh-huh. DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: No. Well, yes in a way. When I was -- I had to go about 13 miles to high school. And I had a car and we -- some other people that were going that way why we'd fill up the car and take them. And then when the snow was good and of course, they weren't plowing the way they used to now, and I would go down with the dog team and they had a -- a lot of people were coming with horses and sleighs and so I just chained them up in the stalls. GAYLE MALOY: At the school? DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: Yeah. GAYLE MALOY: Gee, just -- Uh-huh. The dogs would just wait for you while you were attending school during the day. DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: Right. GAYLE MALOY: Well, at what point did you get -- think about mushing in Alaska? DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: Well, a number of people had asked me to come up and so forth. It used to be that anyone up here and I guess probably down below that when they got to be forty they would stop racing. GAYLE MALOY: Uh-huh. DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: And I was coming to about forty-five. And I said to myself, well, if I'm going to go, I'm over the age anyway and so I came up the first four times by air. Then I'd have to get a truck to haul them around with and all that sort of thing. GAYLE MALOY: You flew the dogs up. DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: Yeah. GAYLE MALOY: And got a truck here. Did you know anybody up here really when you first came up, what was it 1956? DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: I didn't really know -- GAYLE MALOY: Uh-huh. DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: You know, they'd been writing to me and things like that and so I thought well, gee, I guess I'll go, so -- GAYLE MALOY: Huh. Well, by this time I understand that you had started developing some ideas and methods of making a better racing dog. What were some of the things that you had been working on? DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: Well, the feeding and the watering and all the things. If it isn't icy and there's plenty of good snow, they can exist without having drinking water. GAYLE MALOY: Uh-huh. DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: But they don't get as much as they'd ought to get and so that we -- a lot of things like that. And when I came up all of the dogs were trucked in the back of a pickup truck. GAYLE MALOY: Uh-huh. DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: And just without any straw or anything, you know. Just a lot of things that we were doing down below. GAYLE MALOY: Now down below though you were using the straw and making more water available? You were doing that, but when you came here, you said you didn't notice those things being done? DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: No. They were just taken out open in the -- GAYLE MALOY: Well, how did you feel about that? Did that bother you? Did it make you worry about those dogs or what? DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: Well, they existed very, very well as far as that's concerned, but things have changed and -- GAYLE MALOY: What was it the North American Classic that you entered the first time, about '56? Was that the race? DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: '58. GAYLE MALOY: '58. DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: Yeah. GAYLE MALOY: And you won it, is that right? DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: No. I was, I think I was fourth. GAYLE MALOY: Oh. Uh-huh. DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: That first time. GAYLE MALOY: Uh-huh. DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: And when I came up -- when I hooked up my dogs, I went out and I got lost. GAYLE MALOY: On the trail? DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: Yeah. And then I broke my sled on that same run and the dogs got away and took off. So, Otto Lake was the one that told me where to go and everything and so he came and got me back. Then I hadn't been over the race trail and Earl offered to take me around on a big sled and show me the way to go. So, it was a little icy and it was just bumpy, you know. They didn't have any Skidoo's to work with or anything. It was just snowshoeing and the dogs packing it down. GAYLE MALOY: Uh-huh. DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: So I asked him how -- 'cause I was in this sled and that was bumping and bumping and bumping and I said to him how much of this trail can you run 'em wide open? Oh, he says we got to run them wide open. So I got quite a ride. GAYLE MALOY: Boy, I bet you -- and you stayed inside? You didn't get thrown out of the bucket? DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: No. No. GAYLE MALOY: I've heard you referred to as the Babe Ruth of Alaskan dog mushing. When did you meet your -- win your first Alaskan title? DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: That was in 1958, no, '59. I almost won the first time, but I did win on the second try. GAYLE MALOY: Was that exciting? I mean do you get thrilled when you win? DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: Oh, yeah, that's right, that's right. GAYLE MALOY: When you came back that second -- well, actually when you left the first year, were you -- and you hadn't won but you did pretty well, were you excited and anxious to come back? Did you know you'd come back? DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: Oh, yes. GAYLE MALOY: What was special? What made, you know, that you were going to travel, what, 5,000 miles? DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: Well, we -- I don't know, it kind of -- the trails were better and longer and more chance of -- to butt heads with the rest of the good ones, you know. GAYLE MALOY: Uh-huh. So, that was kind of exciting racing against some big names, huh? DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: Yeah. GAYLE MALOY: Who were some of those that you were racing with then in those days? DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: Oh, golly, I -- so many that. GAYLE MALOY: How about this? I found this 1958 -- remember, recognize some of those? DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: Oh. GAYLE MALOY: That's you in 1958. DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: Yeah. GAYLE MALOY: You got to know some of those guys pretty well. DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: Oh sure, Attla. We had a back and forth and back and forth, you know, there that -- GAYLE MALOY: Uh-huh. DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: Bergman Sam was great. And Doc Harris, Gareth Wright, Wilbur Samson, oh I tell you. GAYLE MALOY: Is it true that Gareth Wright ran Cocker Spaniels once? DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: He might have. I wouldn't take it away from him, but on the other hand, he's always having very, very good dog teams, very good dog teams. GAYLE MALOY: What dogs were you mushing here in Fairbanks in those days -- in those first years? DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: Siberians entirely. GAYLE MALOY: All Siberians. DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: Yeah. GAYLE MALOY: And was that from Seppala? That -- DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: No, we -- we had -- we had been breeding these dogs. GAYLE MALOY: In Massachusetts? DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: Yeah. GAYLE MALOY: That's important. What were you doing special about breeding these dogs? What were you looking for and what were you doing to make them a better racing dog? DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: Well, there were some very, very good ones. So, I don't think that at that point I could say that I had, you know, I was just getting some of the better ones. GAYLE MALOY: Uh-huh. Now at some point you switched to Alaska -- DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: Yes. GAYLE MALOY: Huskies? Now what prompted that? DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: There were more of them and -- GAYLE MALOY: Easier to get? DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: There was more of the Alaskan dogs. GAYLE MALOY: Uh-huh. DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: And you could hardily breed them and so forth. It takes a lot of dogs to get a good one. I mean you might get a whole bunch in a litter, but you have to have a lot of dogs to get -- GAYLE MALOY: What makes -- DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: To make the good ones.
GAYLE MALOY: -- that good dog special? DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: It's hard to say. You know, they have to be very courageous and just wanting to run and you can't make them go because they just won't. They want to do it themselves. I mean it's -- it's bred into them. GAYLE MALOY: Did you have -- did you feel any time in your career do you feel that you have some mental communication with your dogs? Do you feel like to get to know each other? DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: Yes, I do. And when you're coming up to a tough turn, one that the dogs don't know, if you aren't thinking of that, the dogs may go anywhere. And it actually -- I mean it's funny, but you've got to just think. GAYLE MALOY: And concentrate on that. DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: Yeah. GAYLE MALOY: And somehow the dogs -- your dogs will pick that up. DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: I think that -- I think that some of them do. GAYLE MALOY: What did you -- how did you develop this with them? Can everybody do that? DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: Oh, yes. I mean -- GAYLE MALOY: Did you work with them especially? Do you spend a lot of time with them during the day and are you their only feeder and that sort of thing? DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: Well, I try to most of the year. You see back then I had to have someone to -- because I was working. GAYLE MALOY: Uh-huh. DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: But the people that we had to do it were, you know, very special people too. You know, they liked the dogs and it wasn't just a job and -- GAYLE MALOY: Does that make a difference? DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: Oh, yes. Yeah. There's -- I've had people that come in and worked and so forth and the dogs -- some of the dogs just don't like them and I don't know why. GAYLE MALOY: Uh-huh. DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: I mean they're not mean to them or anything but -- GAYLE MALOY: In your career have you raced mostly short races? DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: Yes. GAYLE MALOY: All short races? DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: Yeah. I haven't gone to any of the longer ones, no. GAYLE MALOY: Any particular reason or -- ? DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: Oh, there's a couple. Number one, by the time that I -- that they started these longer races I was too old a little bit, you know, to stay out there in that cold. And I have great trouble with my hands. I've got some arthritis and so I have to be very careful with my hands. They'd freeze when somebody else could go out with just a pair of gloves. GAYLE MALOY: Uh-huh. Had these longer races started when you were much younger, would you have participated? DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: I don't know. I don't know. I've questioned over my time the -- this seems like the better one for dogs and the drivers. GAYLE MALOY: Physically? DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: Yeah. GAYLE MALOY: Uh-huh. DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: They're getting in some places not long enough trails to do it. Mostly because there isn't the room that we have up here. GAYLE MALOY: Uh-huh. Right. I could imagine there's not many places Outside where you could have a thousand mile race and be out in the wilderness. DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: Or even the 25 mile race is not -- it's kind of hard to get that much, you know. GAYLE MALOY: Uh-huh. You favor the three heat, is that what you call them, three -- DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: Yeah. GAYLE MALOY: Heat races? DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: Yes. Uh-huh. I think that tells whether they're really good dogs or not, but you can't run the dogs every weekend. GAYLE MALOY: Uh-huh. DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: Three days going and they'll get stale and they'll be tired and you have to give them either a short race on the next weekend or something like that or you have to skip a weekend. GAYLE MALOY: Uh-huh. Are you still in vet -- practicing veterinary medicine? DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: No. No. I sold my practice and then I worked for up to about three, four years ago I didn't -- I worked with some other people and so I've got all I can do to take care of my dogs. GAYLE MALOY: How many do you have at home? DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: Oh, altogether we have about forty. GAYLE MALOY: Uh-huh. There are none up here right now this year, is that correct? You're not -- DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: No.
GAYLE MALOY: -- entering any races?
DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: No. I raced down in the lower part. GAYLE MALOY: Uh-huh. DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: You know. GAYLE MALOY: Oh, you've just been in some races recently? DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: Yeah, even last week. GAYLE MALOY: Is that right?
DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: Yeah. GAYLE MALOY: So, how'd you do? DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: I was third. GAYLE MALOY: Uh-huh. DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: But there weren't too many big teams, you know, there. GAYLE MALOY: Uh-huh. DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: The reason that I didn't come up to race this year was that I only had 11 dogs that I could race with and the young -- the rest of them are younger and aren't experienced. So, we're hoping to be back up here with a dog truck full of dogs. GAYLE MALOY: So, you're going to do this again. You're going to be racing next year? DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: Oh, yes. Yeah.
GAYLE MALOY: Is it -- DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: Well, you know, something has to stop after a while, but on the other hand, I'm not going to let it go. GAYLE MALOY: Well, I hope not. Is it kind of -- does it get you frustrated to watch others going to be racing this week and you're not there? DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: Well, yes. GAYLE MALOY: Or not participating in the races? DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: Well, no, I mean I had a good reason for it, you know. GAYLE MALOY: Uh-huh. DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: If I just said well I don't think I'll go, it's -- I just don't want to be the tailwagger, you know, in those. If I can be up in the middle of the pack, I'm not happy about it exactly, but because I'd like to win. But on the other hand, I have to know that some of the bigger kennels and some younger guys that are pretty smart -- GAYLE MALOY: Uh-huh. DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: So, but if I can get in there where I -- but if I start getting back, way back then I'll know that I better quit. GAYLE MALOY: That spirit of competition is keen isn't it? DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: Yeah. GAYLE MALOY: It stays that way. The dogs feel it and you feel it. I understand in one of the articles I read that you felt that it was your responsibility to get excited and do that for the dogs as a coach and a leader. DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: Yeah. Yeah. GAYLE MALOY: Well, how do you do that? What do you do that shows your dogs you're excited? Do you do anything special or do you run around and you talk to them or what? DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: Well, you know, a lot of different little things, but when it's cold and blustery and they've been working pretty hard before, I have some dogs that if I go around the truck and clap my hands and they'll be pushing at each other and jumping and all that sort of thing, you know. Just kind of get them, you know, into the wanting to go. GAYLE MALOY: Uh-huh.
DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: And so -- GAYLE MALOY: You have a close relationship with them, huh? DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: Yeah. GAYLE MALOY: Not just a machine. Have you ever had any dangerous or frightening experience, anything awful ever -- kind of bad happen to you on the trails? DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: Not in -- on the race trail, but I think probably I come as near as can be after the race here in Fairbanks. We used to go across the Tanana to get some running on the flats. GAYLE MALOY: Uh-huh. DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: And we had some good trails there. So after the race was over and a day or two and I'd bought one or two dogs and I wanted to put them on a team before I went back home, because we don't have any snow there during, you know, by the time I get home. And there was one little dog that was a little female that I bought. And I put her on alone and I was going across the river and there was a great deal of snow so that you didn't see the water until you was right there. And I didn't know what the leader would do whether she would come around for me or not because the first time I was out with her. And that was probably about fifty feet across and opened up, and it was just boiling and I was right on the, you know, right on the thing, you know, because the snow over there so that you didn't see it until you was right there. And by golly I called -- I called her to come around and she did. GAYLE MALOY: Oh! DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: And I didn't step off my runners or anything. I was afraid that I was -- didn't have anything underneath me, you know. And when they got all the way around there, I just let them go, you know. You know, got -- turned the sled to come back and I tell you that was -- that was probably as close as I've been. GAYLE MALOY: I bet you were proud of her and shaking in your boots -- DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: Yes.
GAYLE MALOY: -- at the same time?
DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: Yes. Yes. And it was a bad thing. We took her home and she had a cough and I did everything that I could tell -- you know, to find out what was going on. And I took her into a large veterinary hospital that they had better facilities then what I had, you know. And so she had tuberculosis. GAYLE MALOY: Oh! DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: And they said that there's no way that they knew that they could take care of that. And so we had to put her down. GAYLE MALOY: Is that hard to do? DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: Well, I let them do that at that time. But with my own dogs. most of them. if they're happy after we stop going to races with them, a lot of them go up to 14, 15, 16 years and I don't let anyone put them down. When they're really ill, then I'll do it. GAYLE MALOY: There's nothing wrong with living to a ripe old age for the dog, huh? DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: No, we try to make them happy. GAYLE MALOY: Uh-huh. What was your most cherished memory? Do you have a particular one or many? DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: Well, I think what was -- when I first got to race here. And then that's very hard to think of another one. I mean -- GAYLE MALOY: You had a special glow inside. It just meant a lot to you. Well, you've come back up here a lot of years. There must have been a lot of special -- DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: Oh, yes. GAYLE MALOY: -- things that happened, made some special friends. DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: Yeah. Yeah. There's nothing like being up here. I mean I've raced down south and it's great, but, on the other hand, it's -- it doesn't seem like it's winter. GAYLE MALOY: Well, you've set the standard by which many mushers aspire to and set their goals. What do you see in the future of dog mushing? DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: Well, I think that it's going to keep going and I think that the people that are in it are pretty good people and so I -- they take good care of their dogs and they're -- they, you know, there is no fist fights or anything like that. I mean it seems as though things are going very well. GAYLE MALOY: Well, welcome to our city once again in 1985. It's a pleasure to have you here. The Grand Marshal? DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: Uh? GAYLE MALOY: Honorary Race Marshal? DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: Yeah, that's it. GAYLE MALOY: Of our North American Classic, starts today. DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: Yeah. GAYLE MALOY: And we're looking forward to seeing you next year too with your own dogs. DR. ROLAND LOMBARD: Oh, yes. I've got to do it.
Dr. Rollo "Van" Van Pelt was interviewed in 1982 by Susan Cortte for a radio series about the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. Dr. Van Pelt was an official veterinarian for the Iditarod Race and certified pathologist who performed autopsies on dogs who died during the race. In this interview, he talks about duties of a pathologist and race vet, caring for race dogs as athletes, the specialized physiology of a race dog, health and physical problems of the dogs, dog breeding, and use of medication for dog teams.
Click to section:
Role of a veterinary pathologist
Caring for race dogs as a type of sportsmedicine
Changes in dog care and dealing with injuries
Learning how to care for race dogs
Caring for race dogs as athletes
Physiology of the sled dog
Ailments typical of race dogs
Differences between sprint dogs and long distance race dogs
Breeding dogs for desired traits
Changes in health issues among sled dogs
Problems a musher might face in terms of dog care out on the trail
Use of medication for dog care in the Iditarod Sled Dog Race
SUSAN CORTTE: Dr. Van Pelt, you're the only certified pathologist in the state, as far as I know. What does a pathologist do, first? And how is that work different than -- than a normal vet or a regular vet? R. W. VAN PELT: Well, basically, I perform the autopsies on dogs either dying of natural causes or other reasons. We do a gross autopsy where we determine the basic cause of death, and then usually I collect various representative tissue specimens for examination under the light microscope, or maybe submission to a lab for bacteriologic cultures or viral studies, essentially trying to determine the cause of death, or in the case of a biopsy for a tumor or something like that, fundamentally whether it's benign or malignant. SUSAN CORTTE: Okay. You mentioned once while I was here that you feel that you're in a branch of sportsmedicine. Just judging -- just judging by the amount of dog mushers and dogs that go through this place, I'm sure that's true. Could you expound on that idea a bit, you know, what you think about sportsmedicine and why you think you're in a branch of it. R. W. VAN PELT: You know, that's correct, we are in a branch of sportsmedicine, or I should say I am, and that fundamentally, we're -- you know, we have injured dogs come in, we have ill dogs come in, and I feel I'm in no different -- in no different position than I would be if I were, say, a team physician or a physician with an Olympic team. And the East Germans and the Russians have advanced sportsmedicine so greatly to their advantage that I feel that while the U.S. has lagged behind it, and I feel that working with dogs or trying to overcome some of the problems in the racing dog, whether it be a sprint dog or a distance dog, is fundamental to the dog's health and its performance and well being. SUSAN CORTTE: Okay. You were mentioning one thing like ten years ago, for instance, a dog might -- maybe even five years ago, a dog would get -- maybe longer than ten, but a dog would, like, for instance, get a fracture in a foot, and you know, the -- I don't want to get down on the old timers but it would be more or less, well, that's the end of the dog, you know, you couldn't use the dog again, whereas now, that -- that isn't necessarily true. R. W. VAN PELT: That's correct. You know, ten years ago, and particularly, I hate to say it, in some of the old time mushers, they were more prone if the dog, say, had a minor fracture in the foot or a strain or a tear in a ligament or tendon, there's a tendency to put the dog to sleep; where now we can go in and fractures, even major fractures, correct and repair the fracture, correct and repair tendons and ligaments, and we can usually have that dog back on the next racing season. If we catch a minor injury early enough, even a minor fracture, we many times can get that dog back in -- in racing form within the same season very easily. This wasn't done much 5 or 10 years ago, and certainly not 15 or 20. It was unheard of then. And frankly, I have no -- I sort of had to learn it on my own in that we have no source textbooks to go for, for racing dogs. And I've applied most of what I know on the racing dog here in Alaska from experiences on the horse racing tracks in the Lower 48, and I did work the greyhound tracks at one time. And there's very little information on racing greyhounds either, either in textbook or literature. There's just practically none. So I sort of had to learn it on my own, and basically apply the fundamentals of anatomy, the physiology, and your use of various pharmaceuticals to the racing dog to the best advantage. SUSAN CORTTE: What about you also mentioned that you -- you know, you look at the dog, and just listening to you discuss dogs, you treat them as like superior athletes, athletes that are like Olympic athletes. What about that, what kinds of things do you think about with the dogs? And I guess it's everything from diet all the way up to training. R. W. VAN PELT: You know, that's correct. Even diet has come a long ways within the last -- even the last two or three years, and fundamentally, when we -- I examine a dog, basically, I look at the dog as far as his overall health. And he is an athlete and probably a very superb one, certainly far more superior to we as humans in that not many of us can go 50 or a hundred miles day after day or, for that matter, sprint 20 to 25 or 30 miles and maintain the performance over a two or three day race as the dog is, but he is a superb athlete. Probably the best animal athlete we deal with at the time, probably next would be the race horse. The greyhound is certainly up there, but he's in a sprint category, much like a racing quarter horse or a thoroughbred, but the -- the mushing dog is a distance animal and is an absolutely superb athlete. And the dogs we have come in that are in training are absolutely in superb condition and health. They have to be to perform. You just couldn't perform with dogs that are either in ill health or not up to health standards or not up to training performance. SUSAN CORTTE: What about, like, the physiology of the sled dog. Now, there was two things that I recall hearing. One -- one that surprised me as someone that didn't know much about dogs is that the sled dog's heart may be twice as big as a normal dog's heart; and also that the -- something about the fat on the dog is located inside the ribs or something like that. What about the difference in the physiology of the dogs? R. W. VAN PELT: That's correct. The sled dog, from doing a number of autopsies on sled dogs that have been brought in to me, I've ascertained that the heart on a sled dog is about a third larger than that of the average pet dog. The same holds true for the racing thoroughbred, his heart is also about a third larger than the average horse. And I feel that with the racing dog, or the dogs on the northern tier here, that they have a fundamental ability to store fat internally, even though they may appear thin outwardly, and I feel this is probably an adaptation over the years to the cold northern climates. In other words, he does have a reservoir of energy or fat which is internal. I see this also on the Malemute dog, too, and this was something that I had not seen or do not see in pet dogs or dogs from -- developed in the Lower 48 or in European countries. SUSAN CORTTE: Let's talk a little bit about the things that you'll find in, let's say -- first, let's just talk about Iditarod dogs. What kinds of things will you find in an Iditarod dog, I guess, in terms of problems that you might not find in other types of dogs? R. W. VAN PELT: Well, probably the first and foremost problem that comes to mind will obviously be the foot problems, depending on the terrain and the snow and the snow conditions. When a dog -- these dogs are forced to go over, or not forced, but have to go over a terrain- -- they don't have groomed trails, the dogs are in and out of drifts, where trails are drifted, so these dogs would be prone to various types of frostbite, not necessarily of the feet or the pads, but it will be on the ventral aspect of the abdomen and down between the hind legs. Other problems that would afflict the Iditarod dog and/or distance dog and particularly on a long race with a lot dogs is they seem to pick up various intestinal ailments, which with any large grouping of dogs would be expected. And certainly the sprint dogs get it, but usually they have contracted these things around town, and by the time they arrive at a race or a sprint situation, they are over them. SUSAN CORTTE: Let's compare Iditarod dogs to sprint dogs. What -- what differences were you aware of, let's say a sprint dog have that maybe an Iditarod dog may not have? R. W. VAN PELT: Well, basically, they both are essentially the same type of dog. There's a tendency now in Iditarod dogs for the Iditarod racer to move on to a slower type of sprint dog, maybe a dog that's even a little larger, although some of them are down now in that 35, 40, 45 pound range that most of the sprint dogs seem to run in. However, they seem to prefer a dog that will trot for miles at perhaps a 10 or 12 mile gait, as opposed to a dog who will be loping a good distance of the race. The sprint dogs will lope pretty well throughout the race, if it's any kind of a short race. It's fundamentally the same dog, though it's just a slower type of dog, and he's gaited down slower than a sprint dog because he's got to, to pace himself out for the distance. SUSAN CORTTE: With that breeding, I guess it's from my own experience of knowing mushers, they -- they really breed for different types of traits in their dogs. Could you talk about the breeding for a while, like what -- what -- it seems as though it's been going on for years and years, people breeding in different things, breeding out certain things. R. W. VAN PELT: Right. SUSAN CORTTE: A lot of people seem to think that if, you know, for instance, dogs out on the coast that are out there now, they wouldn't be out there if genetically -- genetically the poorer ones didn't make it and they are not there, like with bad feet, for instance. R. W. VAN PELT: That's right. It is as sort of, in a sense, a survival of the fittest in that basically, they try to breed for the dog who will maintain the desired performance. And they've introduced other lines of dogs; for instance, the Irish Setter has been introduced for its speed and stamina. The hound dogs have been introduced into the lines for stamina, the hound having a lot of stamina. They may be a little bit slow. They've tried other pet dogs. I've seen Airedale introduced into them, we've seen various hunting breeds, particularly the Labrador Retriever introduced, and I understand among some of the coastal dogs where at one time they had reindeer herds, the Australian Shepherd was introduced to herd reindeer and ended up intermingling with the coastal sled dogs, which gives them their odd tricolor that they have now and then, or the black and white dogs we see are what we call a Blue Merle type of dog, much like a domestic Collie. SUSAN CORTTE: What about along with the good points, there's always the bad points. You know, you start stressing -- stressing a dog, and of course, there's going to be some things cropping up. You mentioned before that there were some things that you've started to see in sled dogs that weren't there, perhaps, 10 or 15 years ago. What about that? R. W. VAN PELT: That's true. There's been quite a bit of interbreeding or line breeding or very close breeding. In other words, oftentimes a person has two desirable individuals, they'll breed, say, a brother sister mating, or perhaps a sire back to a daughter, or a mother back to its son, and this has introduced things like epilepsy in some of the dogs. We are starting to see things like one or both eyes being somewhat small in the dogs. We're starting to see some bone deformities, but usually these dogs are eliminated from the dog lot before they become too major because those dogs just will not run. We're seeing primarily now a condition that afflicts most dog yards and many of the top dogs, and that's where they have very low thyroid activity, and this seems to carry on down through family lines. It may skip generations, one or two generations, or it may show up every generation. And it's very definitely become a problem. Very much as many of the pet dogs. In other words, we're seeing the same genetic problems that are seen in the show or pet dogs. The one exception being is that we do not see the poor hips or dysplastic hips that we see in so many purebred pet dogs. The sled dogs have superb hips and obviously have to have superb bone formation and confirmation in order to run. They just can't do it without it. They are like a race horse or any running athletic animal. SUSAN CORTTE: I think I'm going to run out of tape there. R. W. VAN PELT: I get longwinded, too. SUSAN CORTTE: Oh, no. It's one of the best interviews I've ever done. What kind of -- this might be a little repetitive, but what kinds of -- could you go over some of the problems that an Iditarod musher is going to face with his dogs out on the trail. I know, for instance, like dehydration, foot problems, and stuff like that. Could you just sort of go over those briefly. R. W. VAN PELT: Probably the first thing that the Iditarod musher is going to face when he leaves Anchorage or wherever is his jumping off point is fundamentally probably most of the dogs are going to pick up some form of viral diarrhea like an influenza much in humans. And obviously, if this diarrhea is not brought into control or if there's any vomiting associated with it, we're going to be faced with a problem of dehydration. Normally the dogs don't have a problem with dehydration. Perhaps some if the weather conditions turn very warm, but basically no. The next problem they're going to have, and it's an obvious one, is going to be foot problems, particularly with poor trail or snow conditions, and maybe, as in years past, where they are going to have to run over open spaces of rock or sand, and it's going to be tough on the dog's feet, it's going to be tough on the sleds and the runners. And another problem that we do see in distance dogs, because of the physiology of the dog, is that we may see dogs show up with some exhaustion pneumonia. And this will be more pronounced if the weather turns warmer. The dog is an animal that must sweat through the lungs and oral cavity, unlike we humans or unlike horses who race, and so we do see fluid accumulate in the lungs on long runs with prolonged elevation in blood pressure, and particularly under warm conditions. And I do see this problem in sprint dogs on warm days, they salivate quite heavily, and they do have pulmonary problems with the heat. That's the only way the dog has got of cooling himself is through the lungs and via the oral cavity. SUSAN CORTTE: Okay. Okay. Now on to one -- one question that I'm going to read this directly so we can make sure I don't phrase it incorrectly, but there's two different types of thought on the drug rule of the Iditarod. One school seems to think that no drugs at all are -- you know, that that's the way it should be; and then there's another school that seems to think that drugs such as like take aspirin or foot medicine would be actually better for the dog than nothing else. For instance, I guess the argument is that, you know, like if you've got a headache, it makes sense to take an aspirin rather than sitting there and ending up, you know, with a headache, you can function better. What do you feel about -- about drugs on the Iditarod? R. W. VAN PELT: Well, drugs kind of brings up in people's mind the connotation of either using drugs that are stimulants or depressants. I like to think of them as medications much as you or I would take, for instance, if we have intestinal flu or going to take something to control the infection and control the diarrhea or vomiting. If we should get a blister on our foot or sore on our toe inside of a boot or something, we're going to do something about that rather than let it go. I personally feel that a lot of the medications should be allowed. I don't approve of either stimulants or depressants and wouldn't advocate their use. I personally don't think they do that much good, particularly over the long span of time, or long run. I definitely feel that there should be some sort of medication permitted so that the dog can maintain himself in reasonable health. The medications I would have in mind would be of a minor nature with respect to the overall health of the dog; and certainly if he became seriously ill or incapacitated, the musher would be dropping him off at a checkpoint anyway, and certainly the race veterinarians would ask that the dog be also dropped off. But he's going to be encountering things, the foot problems could be medicated while on the trail, the frostbite problems could be taken care of, the diarrheas could be taken care of, combatting the dehydration associated with the diarrheas, and also some of the early pulmonary problems before they got severe could be very nicely taken care of. And I just see no reason why that can't be done. I'm not advocating stimulation or depression at all.
Carol Kleckner was interviewed on July 31, 2011 by Robert Drozda and Karen Brewster at Elmer E. Rasmuson Library at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Carol is the vice president of the
Second Chance League
, which is a sled dog rescue organization in Fairbanks, Alaska. With a life-long love of dogs, it was only natural that Carol would become involved with dogs and dog racing when she moved to Alaska. She has had a successful career as a sprint and skjor racer. In this interview, Carol talks about how she became involved with rescuing abandoned sled dogs, the formation of the Second Chance League, and how dogs are selected, assessed and adopted. She passionately talks about both the joys and the challenges of sled dog rescue work, as well as tells some particular success stories. She also discusses working with the animal shelter to make the program a success as well as her feelings about over-breeding and culling of dog teams.
Click to section:
Introduction and coming to Alaska
Getting involved with sled dog rescue
Starting Second Chance League Sled Dog Rescue
Her dog racing career
How dogs are selected for Second Chance League
The process of assessing and writing up the dogs
Goal of Second Chance League
Application process and advertising dogs
Husky and Pointer-mix breeds of dogs
The benefits of a free-run kennel
Why she loves having a free-run kennel
Advice to others wanting to try a free-run kennel
A day's schedule at her kennel
Using a dog barn
Response from professional mushers to the Second Chance League
Cooperation from the animal shelter
Challenges of working with rescue dogs
Success stories of rescuing dogs
The importance of socializing and working with your dogs
Running the Yukon Quest with Second Chance League dogs
Joys of working with Second Chance League
ROBERT DROZDA: Today is July the 31st, 2011 and me, Robert Drozda, I'm here with Carol Kleckner. And Karen Brewster is here in the room, too. And Carol is the Vice President... CAROL KLECKNER: Correct.
ROBERT DROZDA: ...of the Second Chance League, which is a sled dog rescue organization here in Fairbanks. And we are going to talk with Carol today about sled dog rescue. Before we get into it Carol, let's maybe hear a little bit of your background, how you came to Alaska and how you got involved with dogs? CAROL KLECKNER: Well, I came to Alaska 26 years ago, but I got involved with dogs many, many years ago as a very young child. I've always loved dogs. My parents wouldn't let me have one. I made my little sister be a dog, fed her grape nuts and water out of a bowl in the ground. This was when I was five years old and she was three. I always, always wanted a dog. And so I think that kind of put my whole career of dogs into perspective as I grew up and was denied them. That once I was an adult and able to have them I kind of probably went maybe a little overboard. But I lived in Colorado for many years and then moved to Alaska and I really never thought I would get into dogs the way I got into dogs, but I love to ski. I love being outdoors and my friend, Lynne Orbison (phonetic), had a dog that she thought would be a good home or thought -- me have a good home for him. And so she said why don't you try skijoring? So, I tried skijoring with this dog and ended up taking Robin. And from then on in I just found out how many sled dogs were just kind of cast off from peoples' kennels when they didn't work out and how many ended up at the animal shelter. So, people would start calling me going, ah Carol, could you take this dog? I'm either going to kill it or I'm going to take it to the animal shelter and it's just not working out for my kennel. So, that is kind of how I got into dogs and taking on a lot of the rescue type dogs myself, even before Second Chance League got started. ROBERT DROZDA: Can we back up just a second? What was your educational background? What brought you to Alaska? CAROL KLECKNER: Well, my educational background, I was a biology and chemistry major and I worked a lot on my master's in environmental chemistry in Colorado. But then I went back to school and got my teacher's certificate in secondary science. And when I came to Alaska, I just came up to work for a summer in Denali National Park. ROBERT DROZDA: Uh-huh. CAROL KLECKNER: A friend of mine who had come up to Alaska in the early 80's had come back to Colorado and said Carol, you would love Alaska. It's like Colorado without the people. So, I thought well, I just got my teacher's certificate and I thought I can find a teaching job in secondary science anytime at all where that profession's certainly in demand. So, I thought nope I am going to go to Alaska and work for the summer. Came up and drove back that fall, packed up my car, and said that's -- that's it. I lived in Healy for five years, was the only certified substitute teacher in the valley. So, I did that and worked at the Park, generally as a waitress for all those summers. And then I worked out at Red Dog Mine for a couple years and then I moved into Fairbanks. ROBERT DROZDA: Uh-huh. CAROL KLECKNER: So, and went many different routes from being a science person and an educator. Once I got into sled dogs, I didn't want to work days so I worked nights. So, I'm usually a waitress, been at Gambardella's for going on nine years at Gambardella's as a waitress and work summers, both days and nights, work in the winter just nights, so that I can be with my dogs during the day. ROBERT DROZDA: Ok, good, yeah. I wanted to get a little bit of that. So, after then -- so we are back in Fairbanks and you got your first dog from Lynne and it grew from there. CAROL KLECKNER: It just grew from there and how I kind of started getting into the rescue mode was that I had about, I think, eight dogs at that point in time, all from somebody else, all who just wasn't working out for their team. And I spade and neutered them all. I knew there were a lot more puppies in the world than needed to be, and I didn't really want to breed any of the dogs that I had gotten. So, well, one day I'm driving down Peger Road and I never had gone to the animal shelter. I just never stopped there. And so for some reason my car just turned into the animal shelter and I walked in and there was this one dog, Pippie. And she was a Husky. She didn't have her dewclaws. They had found her out somewhere around Eielson Air Force Base. She was at Eielson for a while at whatever their vet facilities are and then they brought her into the Fairbanks Borough Shelter. And I had talked to some people there about her and they said well, she is going kind of kennel crazy. Because they had her inside and she was just -- concrete block walls, couldn't see any other dogs, could just hear them and she was going a little crazy. So I ended up adopting Pippie. She was my very first ever dog from the animal shelter and she is still alive at the age of 14 plus. But just walking around the animal shelter that day and I walked outside and all these sled dogs are chained outside and I'm like oh, my gosh there is so many of them. And I was talking to one of the animal tenders and she goes well, we just keep them for 72 hours and then we put them down. I'm like they don't even get a chance. And she goes well, nobody wants a cast off sled dog you know. Somebody drops these dogs off at the shelter for a reason and they are unwanted. And it just got me to thinking that I mean they were nice looking dogs and when I took Pippie home and started running her I mean she was just an amazing dog. Fast and driven and I'm just like, well, you know, she was worth saving. And so I had gone into the shelter and I said is there any way I can take out some of these dogs just to try them out. And Laura Hood was the manager at the shelter at the time and she goes, well, this is unprecedented, you know. We just -- we don't do things like this. And I said but you are killing these dogs after three days. I said maybe I can -- maybe I can find one or two homes. And so she reluctantly said well, ok, we will just see how this goes. And that winter I found homes for 25 dogs. And so then the animal shelter kind of scratched their head and went, hum, well, maybe there is a place for these dogs. So as the years went on Second Chance League was started. It was a group of people at first of like twenty people. And Second Chance League went through a lot of growing pains at the beginning. Our Articles of Incorporation were dated October 19, 2003 and we went through the first quite a few years -- I even got uninvolved in the whole organization just because with that many people with a lot of different ideas on how a Husky rescue should be run. There were just so many different ideas that I just dropped out. And there were lots of -- several different presidents through the first growing pains of the first several years. And then we just got to a point where it was either going to be dissolved or a small group of people were just going to come up and say we can do this. So, Don Kiely is the President. I'm the Vice President. Our board is Bruce McIntosh, Lisa Baraff, and Laura Katucki. And every year I am so grateful for our small board that really sticks in there with the organization. We have a lot of volunteers -- Lesley Hoffmeister (phonetic), Iris Wood -- behind the scenes that -- Pam Laker, that really do a lot of stuff for Second Chance League behind the scenes, too. And I'm just -- I couldn't do this by myself, you know. I did it by myself that first winter of just running the dogs and taking them out and test driving them and it's just -- it's a lot of work. And it's a lot of emotional pain, too, to see what goes on at the shelter and how many dogs you can't save. ROBERT DROZDA: Uh-huh. CAROL KLECKNER: So, that is kind of how Second Chance League got started. ROBERT DROZDA: And everybody you mentioned they're also, I mean, actively involved with rescue, not just on the board, but they -- they have dogs of their own? CAROL KLECKNER: Absolutely. Absolutely. Everybody has rescue dogs. Yeah, every one of those persons, and a lot of SCL dogs in that small group of people -- and fosters. So, yeah, they are very involved. They are mushers. They are skijorers. ROBERT DROZDA: And you have raced competitively with dogs from the shelter and some of these people have, as well? CAROL KLECKNER: Absolutely. Absolutely. And when I first started doing this, in rescuing dogs, I though, wow, I can make a big difference because I'm taking these rescue dogs and cast off dogs. I'm spaying and neutering them and I had a very good sprint career. I mean I was amazed really and -- because I didn't go out to race to win because I'm not that type of person with dogs. I just didn't think that, oh, I'm just going to drive these dogs until, you know, they can win or I'm going to get more dogs until they can win. I just went out to have a lot of fun with dogs. And to run dogs and to skijor and I just had no idea though that I would have this success that I did, sprint mushing with these cast off spade and neutered dogs. ROBERT DROZDA: Uh-huh. CAROL KLECKNER: And back in those days I really thought maybe I can change stuff. I really don't think I've changed stuff that much. Maybe some attitudes maybe in the rec musher world, but, you know, when people get competitive, it's like they're competitive for their own selves and not really for the benefit of the dogs. And I think that is anything in racing is that way. You know, horseracing, greyhound racing, dog mushing when you involve animals, it's like the peoples' egos always kind of start getting a little more in the way of truly the outcome of what it's for the animals to do these races. But especially sled dogs, it's like these dogs love to do this. They love to run. They love to pull. They want to work. So there is that big Catch 22 of and, you know, and my dogs knew the difference between racing and just going out on a training run. You know all the excitement of the sprint race, all the different teams and oh, my dogs -- they all -- oh, yeah, they knew. They just knew -- ROBERT DROZDA: They just feed off of all that energy. CAROL KLECKNER: Exactly. It's that wonderful, wonderful energy and the dogs just loving their job and loving to work and loving to pull. And then, you know, you have the little dark side of the mushing world where there is just so many dogs out there that aren't working out for teams, so much over breeding that so many dogs end up at the shelter that it's that Catch 22 we are going, ah. It's such a great sport but there is such, you know there's a lot of bad in it where, you know, if a dog doesn't work out, it's basically a farm animal. It's a working animal and when it can't do its job then it's time for that animal to go. So this is where sometimes I think rescue versus, some mushers that are into strictly for themselves or for the money. Which is kind of a laugh, when people think they are mushing for money because only very few people make good money at mushing, but -- ROBERT DROZDA: Uh-huh. Especially in the limited sprint classes where -- CAROL KLECKNER: Oh, yes. ROBERT DROZDA: How many dogs were you running when you talk about sprint -- four, six, eight like? CAROL KLECKNER: I was normally -- I would skijor with three dogs. I would run the four dog class and run the six dog class. ROBERT DROZDA: Uh-huh. CAROL KLECKNER: Those were my -- my three races. I have done the 10 dog class before. To me it's a lot of power. It's a lot of fun but I really am a person that I do like to have control over my dogs. ROBERT DROZDA: Uh-huh. CAROL KLECKNER: So thinking of taking out and running a 10 dog team on the snow when I stand on the brake and they are still pulling me down the trail at 20 miles an hour with my light frame, you know, I usually stuck to six dogs, sometimes eight dogs. I never raced eight dogs. I raced the 10 dog team twice, but -- ROBERT DROZDA: That's a lot of power. CAROL KLECKNER: It's a lot of power. It's a lot of power. It's a lot of fun. ROBERT DROZDA: Uh-huh. CAROL KLECKNER: It's a lot of fun if things go good, but if things start going wrong and you got to like hook down and then, you know, it's like I never really trusted myself to get out of any situation that I could be put in when I had that much power in front of me. ROBERT DROZDA: Uh-huh. CAROL KLECKNER: And my view was always the welfare of the dogs, so... ROBERT DROZDA: Well let's -- let's start talking a little bit more about the dogs again and how you go through the process of selecting dogs and that whole thing. When you go to the shelter, what do you do there? There are a bunch of dogs there. CAROL KLECKNER: Yes. We -- it's always nice when whoever takes the dog to the shelter, that they fill out the form that is there at the shelter. It tells why the dog is there, the dog's age, the dog's name. If we had information on every single Husky that was dropped off at the shelter, I would be in heaven. You know, I always try to not judge people that drop dogs off. My -- my main job there is for the dogs. To find the dog a home, to work for that dog. You know, if the person had way too many dogs or bred 40 puppies and dumping 20 at the shelter, I really bite my tongue to not be judgmental. It drives me crazy, things like that, but my views are this dog is an individual dog that needs a home. So I see all these dogs out back. Some of them have information written about them so that we do know, ok, at least they have been in harness or this dog is chronically injured, let's not take it. Or this dog is 14 years old even though it looks six years old. Maybe we won't take it. Being a part of SCL and running the dogs is very disconcerting to me at times because we make a lot of choices for these dogs, too. I mean mushers drop this dog off because it doesn't work for their team and then we're potentially writing a death sentence for this dog at the animal shelter because it doesn't run at all. KAREN BREWSTER: Do any of those -- do any of those dogs get adopted just as pets by other people, if it's one that you can't take as a second chance? CAROL KLECKNER: Sometimes. Sometimes. A lot of these dogs have not had any experience in a house or running free even or interacting with other dogs, in a like a two or three dog household. We have had a lot of the dogs adopted as pets, but we really impress upon the people to know what they are getting into. And this is when we run dogs in all of my write ups, I try to be one hundred percent perfectly honest. ROBERT DROZDA: Talk about the process, the write up and all of that. CAROL KLECKNER: Okay, so we see all these dogs. We -- I always take two good leaders from my home. Robin, who was my first dog, is a huge loss now. I lost him this past winter at the age of almost 15 and he was always the dog I took as a leader. He would get along with anybody. Dogs could hump him, could sniff him, could growl at him, could even go to fight him and Robin's just like, you know, we're here to do a job that is what we are doing. So we take -- usually we take an eight dog team. Sometimes on the sled, often on a four-wheeler. When I first started doing this myself, it was all either skijoring or on a sled because I didn't even own a four-wheeler back then. But -- so we'd take these dogs normally to the end of Peger Road at the dike and put a couple of my good leaders up front to start with, take six dogs that chances are they don't know each other at all. They are not even from the same place and we put them in the team and go and people are like how do you do that? How can you -- you don't even know these dogs. You don't know if they are fighters. You don't know if they are injured. You don't even know if they have been harness broken. And I'm like but they are a Husky and that Husky mentality that drive to run and pull, is like having a Border Collie and telling it not to herd. That instinct is so strong in a Husky, I've never had any doubts that I am going to put a harness on a Husky and he is going to go. ROBERT DROZDA: Uh-huh. CAROL KLECKNER: Even if they're not harness broken. We've harness broken a lot of shelter dogs that we're like, I don't know if that dog is gone or a Husky is brought into the shelter, say a military person adopted them as a little Husky puppy because they wanted a little Husky puppy when they came to Alaska and then realized that oh, my gosh, this dog is like barking and howling and digging in my yard and jumping my fence on Base. And so they bring it back to the shelter, a year old, a very well socialized Husky but never been worked. And, you know, you put the harness on and sure they jump around a little bit and they bump into the dog beside them, but it's like once they feel that pull, off they go. And I think in all the years that I've been doing this, we've maybe had to carry four or five dogs in the sled or the four-wheeler because they just won't go at all. So we hook them up, off we go down the dike, really carefully watch every dog. Watch -- look at their gait. Look at how they're pulling. If they're crabbing. If they're pulling straight. If they're favoring one side. We look at their knees. We look at their legs. We look at their back. Think of any chiropractic problems. A lot of people don't understand that when dogs don't want to pull I always think it's number one it can be a physical issue. When somebody says my dog's not pulling right or he quit pulling or whatever and I said look at something physical first. It could be a chiropractic problem. It could be the dog's thyroid. I got a couple of my dogs from the shelter the distance mushers had dropped off and they were actually pretty sprinty looking dogs and said the dog won't go more than 20 miles. Well, they're thyroid dogs and they, you know, they could go for 20 miles and then that's it. And I mean it costs eight cents a day for a thyroid pill and the dog could do a hundred miles a day. So just little physical things and chiropractic, you know. If a dog has a hurt back or something, sure it's not going to pull and a lot of people, you know, they say well this dog pulled at one time in its life, but it just, you know, last year it's just been horrible. And chances are it's -- to me it's physical. And so if you look at those physical things first, and then mental second, and then third it's just sometimes dogs just get soured. Just totally soured and sometimes just give them the time off will help them get going again. ROBERT DROZDA: You mentioned four-wheeler and sled, so there's a group of you. There's somebody sitting in the sled that's also watching it. CAROL KLECKNER: Yes. ROBERT DROZDA: How does that work? CAROL KLECKNER: Yes. There's always two people. And, in fact, in the four-wheeler we will take three people nowadays. It's usually Don and Leslie and I. And I'm driving the four-wheeler and Don and Leslie are sitting on the back. And so we got three sets of eyes there looking at the dogs. And if we have any tangles or something, two can jump off while I'm holding the four-wheeler. Especially on a four-wheeler, if you've got a strong eight dog team, it can pull that four-wheeler down the trail even with the brake on it. It's just like oh, my gosh hang on. So yeah, we always have a second set of eyes. When I first did it, it was just me. I'd just go out by myself that first year and, you know, write up my write-ups and do the best I could with being totally honest. Because our big goal for Second Chance League is we don't want to see these dogs back. ROBERT DROZDA: Uh-huh. CAROL KLECKNER: We want to find them a home that's really going to fit them. And if this dog was a distance dog that didn't want to do a hundred mile days, it might end up in a rec home that they do little trips and 20 miles a day. And same with a sprint dog, a lot of the distance mushers try to make sprint dogs distance dogs and found out these Pointer mixes, you know, their coats aren't really appropriate. Just different things with the Pointer mixes that didn't make them a good distance dog, but it makes them a good sprint dog or makes them a great mid-distance dog. So, our goal for SCL really -- and in critiquing these dogs when we'd run them was to find them a home where they fit in, and that they weren't going to come back through the system. We have had SCL dogs come back through the system that, you know, people just got in over their heads or thought they could take an SCL dog and ended up two or three years later, well we can't, you know, and -- But, overall I would say the huge percentage majority of SCL dogs have found permanent homes. And that's -- that's our goal. That's my joy is to find just a good home where the dog works to its capabilities. Isn't pushed for anything more than it can do. And to know that whoever takes this dog isn't going to shoot it when it's 10 years old. ROBERT DROZDA: Uh-huh. CAROL KLECKNER: So, we do have an application process that we do go through and do references and vet checks for people who want to adopt SCL dogs. Some people have said we're too hard and our criteria is maybe a little too stiff. But we just want to make sure that these dogs end up where they're not going to be another farm animal and come back through the system or get shot prematurely. ROBERT DROZDA: How do you advertise the dogs after you write them up? CAROL KLECKNER: So after we've run them -- and we always try dogs in lead, too. As we're going and trying these dogs out, we take each dog and some of them -- every now and then we'll have a dog that it's just too shy or you're just like no, I am not even going to try that one up front. The confidence isn't there, but the majority of dogs we put up front. And there have been a couple of dogs that have come into SCL that the people that have dropped them off have actually called me up going, "That dog leads?" Because they never tried it in lead. You know, as a musher and I know people have a lot of dogs that are racing, you know, 40 -- 40 dogs, 50 dogs. Some people have kennels of a hundred dogs. And they're going out and training 14 dogs at a time when they might not have time to put every single dog they own up in lead. And so some dogs they think oh, that one will never be a leader. We throw it up there at the shelter and that's where the dog shines. So -- so once we've run them and put them through the paces and tried them in lead and -- and also we really look at how the dogs interact with other dogs, too. Nobody really wants a fighter on their team or one that's going to create, you know, really havoc on a team. We do all that. We chain them very close together at the truck. My truck is only really set up to drop six to eight dogs. And sometimes we'll have -- with my pet dogs running around -- 10, 12 dogs around the truck sometimes. And I always like to have a loose dog to see what one of my loose dogs is like with the chained dogs. See if there's any aggression or a dog gets real territorial in its little space. So, we really, really do a pretty good job in a very short time with checking out these dogs and how they run, how they interact with other dogs. And then I go home and I write up a paragraph usually on each dog. And we send them out to at least five different e-mail lists in the Fairbanks area. There's a skijor list. There's the recreation dog mushers list. There's the Alaska Dog Mushers Association. There's sleddog.L, which goes all over the world. We send to sleddog.L and that's how a lot of our dogs have gotten to the Lower 48. The people in the sleddog.L list have seen my write-ups and e-mail me in Fairbanks, Alaska saying, "You know, I can't find a dog down here. What do you think about shipping a dog down here?" And we have. And they've worked out really, really great. And this says something too, I think, about the Huskies. It says something about SCL. And our volunteers. And what they write up and how people answer questions is that every single dog that we have sent to the Lower 48 is a star. I mean it's -- I have never had one person even remotely say this dog's not quite working out, because we really try to do the best job we can with matching these people up with a dog that matches them. And, yeah, when I see these pictures from the Lower 48 in Virginia and Boston and Wyoming and California, these dogs -- SCL dogs that have made it down there and they're just -- they're stars and these people love them and it's really -- it's really heartwarming and some people go, you mean to tell me that they can't find a dog in the Lower 48 for their team? I think in the Lower 48 the views are somewhat different than they are up here. I don't think there's that huge number of dogs that are sent to the animal shelters or cast off type of dogs. Many dogs that go down there aren't in places where mushing is usually prevalent. I mean Virginia and Maryland we have SCL dogs there. And they have actually some dry land racing there, but a lot of Siberians -- not the good old Alaska mixed breed Husky that people so end up loving. And so, you know, people have tried to like go to the animal shelters or they've called mushers down there and mushers go, "Well, yeah I got a dog to sell you. For $500 or $1,000." But, you know, it's people who are like, no, I just want a dog -- I just, you know, a mutt or whatever and -- And so, yeah, our adoption fees are $100. Normally, we find somebody to fly with the dog. The dog is $100 to fly and so a lot of the SCL dogs have become stars basically have cost the people $200, you know, and a health certificate, which is usually like $40. ROBERT DROZDA: And that includes a spay or neuter? CAROL KLECKNER: Oh, it includes a spay, neuter, rabies and a microchip. ROBERT DROZDA: Uh-huh. CAROL KLECKNER: So, we've always kept our prices low. Our $100 adoption fee has not been changed since we started. I think it encourages people to adopt, but yet it discourages people who just want a free dog to try it out and then like cast it off or something. So it's kind of that -- it's not too much money, but it's enough money that people like I don't want to spend $100 to just take this dog for six months, and then don't want it any more. So, all these dogs are written up over at the e-mail lists. I have my own website. The borough shelter has their website. We keep them up to date. They have the written little paragraph of how we've run the dogs on both websites. So that people if they're just kind of perusing the shelter website, they can go and say oh, they ran this dog and this is its -- kind of its write up. KAREN BREWSTER: So on the shelter website there's like a link that says Second Chance League and it explains the program or -- ? CAROL KLECKNER: Not at all. KAREN BREWSTER: Oh. CAROL KLECKNER: Not at all. I think the shelter does have a link to us, but basically on their pet finder site, you can just go to the shelter dog and it's written up there. So that dog isn't even a SCL yet, it's still at the borough animal shelter. And there have been a lot of dogs through the years. I mean I don't -- probably about as many as we've adopted through SCL, which has been over 350 dogs through the years. There's probably been at least that many that people have just gone directly to the shelter after they've read my -- our write-up and just adopted directly from the shelter. A lot of people do that. They just, you know, they don't want to fill out application or one thing or the other and they're just like, you know, that dog sounds good for my team. I'm just going to go to the shelter and adopt it. Even though it is more expensive adopting through the shelter, but some people just that's the way they want to do it. And so, yeah, many, many dogs have been adopted just directly through the shelter. Just from our running them and our write-ups and stuff. ROBERT DROZDA: Sled dog's kind of a generic term. What kind of dogs do you see a lot of at our shelter? CAROL KLECKNER: Ah, boy, sled dog is a generic term and it's funny because working with -- in the tourist industry particularly in the summertime at a restaurant. I get a lot of tourists. I have a lot of pictures that people express interest in sled dogs. I always pull out my little book and show them the Alaska Husky. And they're like well like this isn't a Husky. And I'm like oh, yes, no it's not a snow dog. No, it's not a Disney Husky because you're thinking the Siberian with a mask and the blue eyes. I said, you know, I try to explain the Alaska Husky and all the different dogs that have been bred in the Alaska Husky through the years. So, at our animal shelter you don't really see a lot of Siberians. And a lot of people don't run them up here. And you don't really see a lot of -- especially registered pure breed Siberians come through our shelter. We see a lot more Pointer mixes nowadays. When I first started this, you'd never see a Pointer mix. A lot of Pointer mixes now coming through the shelter people get into running these Pointer mixes and realize that, you know, they don't have a dog barn. They don't want to keep the dog inside. They're feeding the dog 10,000 calories a day just to keep weight on it in the winter. So we're seeing a lot more of these Pointer mixes coming through the shelter lately. Whereas, even five years ago, it was just the traditional Husky distance-type Husky with a good coat. ROBERT DROZDA: Uh-huh. CAROL KLECKNER: So, you know I think the worst thing for breeding in Alaska has been the introduction to the Pointer. Yes, they're sprint dogs. Yes, they're some of the fastest dogs in the world. People breaking all kinds of track records with these Pointer mixes, but they're not an Alaska dog. Forty, fifty below zero these dogs have a hard time surviving. We see just about every Pointer that comes to the shelter has divots out of its ears. Its tail -- the end of its tail is frostbitten off. A lot of frostbitten spots on its -- on its legs and its underbelly. You know, unless you have a dog barn, which I fully advocate because I've got one and I love it. You know, the Pointer is really -- it's kind of sad to have these Pointer mixes being bred and raised in Alaska, because they're so short coated. KAREN BREWSTER: Is that the same as I've heard you referred to as a bird dog or a Eurohound, are those the same? CAROL KLECKNER: That is correct. Yeah, these -- they -- the -- basically they've taken the Alaska Husky and bred in either German Shorthair Pointers, Wirehair Pointers sometimes, the Eurohound, the English Pointer, sometimes Saluki's, which are also short coated, Greyhounds. If you go to a lot of these sprint races, a lot of the dogs now are just -- are Pointers, but you can see some remnants of Greyhounds, some of that almost streaking. They look kind of like Zebras in a way with that Greyhound brindle look to them. A lot of the Pointers, the speckled legs. The Pointer mix is a really, really -- they're very easy to pick out even down to about an eighth Pointer. They still have all those Pointer genes. It's a very, very strong gene, but even -- even you get down to a fourth, an eighth, they still have a short coat. They still have, you know, a lot of that ticking with the Pointer. They still have the floppy ears that are prone to frostbite. So, yeah, they're a fast dog. They're a great personality dog. The Pointers do tend to have a different personality than the Alaska Husky. The Alaska Husky to me is much more independent. They -- a lot of the -- they have a stronger prey drive, I think. The Pointer is a much more people dog. ROBERT DROZDA: Uh-huh. CAROL KLECKNER: So, sometimes the thought of these Pointers all chained up in a yard without getting a lot of human interaction kind of breaks my heart. But then when I think too about -- and I was going to mention this earlier -- I always think about my attitudes. And the way that I think about dogs versus the way that some mushers think about dogs. Because some mushers that is that they're just a commodity and they're not, you know, to me every one of my dogs is also my pet. You know, I form a really strong bond with them. We have a lot of indoor dogs. We don't chain dogs. They're in -- they're in their little packs in all these big fenced in areas and every day we open the gates and all the dogs come in together. It's just this big happy family and sometimes, you know -- Somebody once told me they said, "You're just too New Age Carol. You know the line like this, foo, foo, New Age, spiritual, ahhh, fatalistic person with my dogs, but my attitude with dogs is they're really -- they're my companions, too. ROBERT DROZDA: Uh-huh. CAROL KLECKNER: Whereas, there are mushers that the dog is not a companion dog. It's strictly a working dog. It's more of farm animal. It's just here to do its job and not to basically be your little foo foo pet. So, when I, you know, kind of start getting up on my soapbox I realize that a lot of us that just recreational mush or skijor that our dogs are so much more a part of our family then say in some of the big racing world kennels. That, you know, the dogs are -- that are out there in the yard are their working dogs. And then I always get a big kick out of people driving up in their big dog truck and they have a couple of Jack Russell Terriers and a Poodle in the front of their vehicle. ROBERT DROZDA: Right. CAROL KLECKNER: And there's all their Huskies and then they lose their, you know, oh, man, I had my couple pet dogs die and I'm like, well, make one of your Huskies a pet dog. They make wonderful pets. And this is why people sometimes and you hear it a lot of times from different people's mouths. Huskies don't make good pets. But ah, to me they make fabulous pets. They're basically a nonaggressive dog. They -- yes, they may be a little more independent, but, you know, I see these people with Labs that you can sit there for eight straight hours and the Lab is doing nothing but bonking your arm to make you throw a ball for it. You know, and it's just like I can go out and run -- run with my dogs for an hour and a lot of my Huskies love retrieving. I mean I can go and throw the ball for a couple of hours for it, but then they're happy. You know, they're just to me if the Husky gets good exercise, it makes a wonderful pet because then they are really a satisfied happy dog, contented in the house. They're to me the most easily housebroken dog I've ever had to deal with. They -- especially these Huskies that have been chained outside for such a long time. It's almost like they're grateful to find a pet home. ROBERT DROZDA: Uh-huh. CAROL KLECKNER: You know, as long as they can do some work on the side. You know, it's a rare Husky that I brought into the house that has never been in a house and goes and pees in the house. You know, they just like, well I can't go in here. And it's like once they understand that you can take them to the door and they go out and they're like, oh, then I get to come back in. That's it, they're housebroken. It's like it's easy, easy, easy. So, back to the different breeds. It's like -- Yeah, we're just seeing a lot more smaller dogs. We do have certain people that they say if you ever see a dog that's over 70 pounds that comes in the shelter that's a Husky, give me a call. They will almost take it sight unseen, because so many of these hard working village-type dogs that were bred for a working purpose are not bred anymore. They've been bred down to be a smaller racing dog. Probably the average dog we see come to the shelter is 40, 45 pounds, because they're mostly all racing dogs. The true Bush working dog, there's very few that even exist any more. ROBERT DROZDA: Uh-huh. Very few people using those kinds of dogs. CAROL KLECKNER: Exactly. ROBERT DROZDA: Uh-huh. CAROL KLECKNER: And they certainly wouldn't use them to race. ROBERT DROZDA: Right. Carol, can you talk a little bit about your free run kennel and how that works. And some of the dynamics that go on in a free run kennel? CAROL KLECKNER: Yes. I think I encourage everybody to let their dogs off the chains. I think it makes for an extremely cohesive kennel. You can't do it all at once. I mean I don't tell people yes, just go home and like, let six of your dogs off the chain. You're going to have fights, because these dogs have been chained for most of their life. Their territory is their little circle and their doghouse. And you just, you know, to take the risk of just all of a sudden starting to let your dogs loose when they're not used to that, you're probably going to have fights. Ever since I got dogs -- I always had dogs and I chained dogs when I first got into mushing, because I really didn't know any better. I didn't know any different, you know. It was just like this is what's done to Huskies and -- But I always had a bunch of dogs that weren't chained. So my dogs that were on chains were used to dogs running free through their yard, through their circles. So my dogs never really had that territorial view towards their circle. Whereas, in a lot of kennels where no dogs are ever free then, you know, a dog comes running through their kennel and chances are that dog is going to get nipped at or, you know, punctured or something because the group isn't used to that. So I always encourage people to just, you know, start small. Have a -- get some fenced in areas, you know, one or two dogs that get along, throw a third or fourth in there and you just kind of gradually build up to where you know that -- what dogs get along. And there's always going to be dogs that don't get along or don't want to be in that loose pack. Even when I open all the gates, we have 24 dogs, there's 20 that like to be in the group and the four that don't they wouldn't even step foot in the yard. They're just like this is too much hubbub. It's too much chaos. This is not for us. So you really have to know your dogs, know who likes to be in the group, who doesn't. I think that having that cohesive group of dogs I rarely have a fight. ROBERT DROZDA: Uh-huh. CAROL KLECKNER: And it's not that I never have a fight, because you always have those hierarchy issues. And if you do a lot of study and let the dogs kind of work it out on their own, then the dogs they respect you as the leader and they respect the whole hierarchy of the pack. If you constantly are in there with every single time a dog growls at another dog and punishes it, then I'll say you're going to always have fights in your yard, because the dogs have not worked out their hierarchy themselves. I mean I never let it get to the point where there's a knockdown drag out fight. Because, you know, they -- the dogs respect us as being their leader of their whole pack. But amongst the dogs, you know, let a dog tell another dog off. It's the only way they communicate and say, you know, leave me alone, get out of my face. And if you do that and then everybody kind of gets to this status where everybody knows where they're at in the hierarchy, and then you just have a real cohesive dog pack. So when you're out there on the trail, on the Iditarod or Yukon Quest, and you'e got 16 dogs hooked up in front of you, you just know you're not going to have fights. But, you know, a lot of people it's a big fear in their mind -- ROBERT DROZDA: Right.
CAROL KLECKNER: To start letting their dogs loose, because they just think fight. ROBERT DROZDA: Uh-huh. CAROL KLECKNER: You think my dogs are going to fight. ROBERT DROZDA: Yeah, well, spats are common in any family and -- CAROL KLECKNER: Absolutely. ROBERT DROZDA: And you need to kind of recognize when to intervene and not. CAROL KLECKNER: That's exactly right. ROBERT DROZDA: Uh-huh. CAROL KLECKNER: So, you know, I love -- I love the interaction of the pack mentality. ROBERT DROZDA: Uh-huh. CAROL KLECKNER: I love to free run a lot of dogs. We -- we don't free run 20 of them, but we've taken six to eight out at a time. I always go some place where I know there's not any danger of them going to maybe chase a moose or, you know, rabbits are pretty smart any more. I don't think any of my dogs have ever caught a rabbit, but -- but I know, you know, there's neighborhoods that have goats and chickens and rabbits in cages and stuff and so, you know, you do want to be careful when you're free running dogs, because the Husky does tend to have a good prey drive. And so we're are always very careful with that and we do have dogs that have very strong prey drives that we don't take out in the woods on a free run. You know, their freedom is the yard and the fence and then running all the time. But yeah, to take them on a free walk would kind of, you know, be asking for some problems. But I think, you know, the majority of people who have had their dogs on chains for such a long time really have a fear of letting them loose. ROBERT DROZDA: Your advice would be to go real slow then? CAROL KLECKNER: I'd say to go really slow and have confidence in yourself, too. I think that's a huge, huge, huge, big thing. People that don't have confidence in themselves with their dogs and don't have the respect of their dogs, they're going to have fights. You're going -- if you're thinking right off the bat that you walk up to these two dogs and you're going to take them off the chain, you're going to put them in a pen, and you're already nervous that these dogs are going to have a fight, you're going to have a fight. ROBERT DROZDA: And then if you flip out, it just escalates it. CAROL KLECKNER: Oh, exactly.
ROBERT DROZDA: Uh-huh. CAROL KLECKNER: If you start screaming and, you know, and just like oh my gosh they're, you know, and your confidence is shot, your dogs don't respect you any more, yeah. Although I -- often with the spats that I have had and I've got a loud voice and if I start screaming, it's either that the dogs are like oh, she's one of us in the fight or oh, my gosh, we better break this up because the sound's coming from our master is like oh, my gosh, something's really wrong, break it up, you know. It's -- but you really have to have confidence in your own abilities as a dog person and being able to read your dogs and understand the dog mentality and the dog hierarchy, because if you don't, you're -- you are going to have fights. ROBERT DROZDA: Let's take a little break. So let's just pick up there again, Carol. I know in my dog -- in my kennel free running I like to just go out there and hang out. And you get this sense of really how varied the personalities of the different dogs are. I'm imagining you enjoy and find the same kind of thing. CAROL KLECKNER: Oh, exactly. I mean that's -- our afternoon basically is at least two hours of being out there with the dogs all loose in the same group. We do this in the morning. We actually broth in the morning even all through the summer. I just think it makes for a more contented dog. And then we always feed in the afternoons. So really our mornings consist of about an hour. All the dogs are loose and then I do chain up quite a few to feed. The ones that I know that are going to go and like just create havoc in other dogs' bowls. And we have dogs that are on some different diets too, so we do chain up several dogs to -- during feeding time, but there're quite a few that are loose also. That, so in the afternoon we have this basically two hour block of time. I get home from work. Don's already started the chores and we just sometimes pull out our chairs and we just sit out there with them. A lot of them we brush. Grooming in the afternoons's a big time for us. I walk around with my little FURminator brush. And some dogs -- I've got one dog that's like, you know, I said, I should like take a video of this because she's like this little show dog. She'll jump up on a house and she puts her front legs out like this you'd see a show dog and her back legs out and you can just brush this dog all over like she's going to be ready to go to an AKC, you know, dog show. And other dogs it has taken some time to get them used to being brushed. A lot of dogs that have come into our yard have really never been brushed. So, you know, you bring the -- they're like what are you doing and, but it feels so good. And even our -- our shyest dog enjoys being brushed. That, you know, get all that old fur out and we do a lot of nail clipping, just a lot of kind of dog maintenance during those two hour times. Our joy is to sit there and we'll be sitting in our chair and we'll look and we're like every single dog is laying down. ROBERT DROZDA: Uh-huh. CAROL KLECKNER: Because that usually doesn't happen. You know, there's always and the dogs that are over on the side yard that don't like to join the pack, they're over there and usually one of them's up and around and -- and, you know, there's always one of the 20 that they're like walking around and every now and then we're just like everybody's laying down. And, you know, it's just like you look around and you're going our dogs are so contented. You know, there's no twirling on the chain and, you know, just going bonkers all the time, because they get good exercise. They get good interactions with the other dogs and just for us to just sit out there. And some dogs, you know, I mean, one dog will just be between my legs the whole time and I'm just petting him. And, you know, other dogs are just like, okay, I had my five minutes of petting I'm going to go lay on the doghouse. ROBERT DROZDA: Uh-huh. CAROL KLECKNER: It's, you know, they're just -- And I think this just is a sign of a happy contented dog where they're not this needy, oh, my gosh, I'm off a chain I need your affection all the time, because I'm never shown any affection. They're just contented. So, you know, and I tell people to let dogs loose if you can just go over there and sit and interact with them for even just 10 or 15 minutes. I mean it's a lot more than most dogs on chains get in a day. You know, they get fed and of course in the winter they're run, but there's a good, what three, four, sometimes five months that a lot of sled dogs aren't run at all. And I've been a huge advocate that, you know, the second I hook up my dogs in the fall to run, you know, they can pretty much run five miles at 20 miles an hour, because that's what they have been doing free running all summer. ROBERT DROZDA: Uh-huh. CAROL KLECKNER: And the big thing I impress upon people about free running their dogs and letting them loose, is that I have rarely have wrist or shoulder injuries. It's rare, rare, rare, because my dogs, they're running behind the shed. They're making sharp turns. They're stopping on a dime and going the other way. Their muscles are really used to all those changes. Whereas, if you've got a dog on a chain, a lot of dogs like to circle one way. ROBERT DROZDA: Uh-huh. CAROL KLECKNER: You know, they'll get really strong on one side and really weak on another just from spinning around.
ROBERT DROZDA: Yeah. CAROL KLECKNER: One way. So if you can just let them loose. Starting out small. One time a day with a few other dogs just run and use all their muscles and it just, I think, it makes a much happier and much healthier -- physically healthier dog, too. ROBERT DROZDA: Uh-huh. Yeah. Earlier you mentioned your dog barn. CAROL KLECKNER: Yes. ROBERT DROZDA: Maybe you can talk about that a little bit. CAROL KLECKNER: People often say and you hear it all the time, oh, my Huskies would never come inside. It's too hot inside or they don't like to be warm or they've got a good coat or -- There was one time I looked out and even -- even before I had a dog barn I'd always on the coldest days I'd load my dogs up on my truck in my garage. My garage is always kept at 40 degrees and -- and it would be like my dogs were at the garage door scratching to get in it at 30 below zero. You know, at 30 below zero even your furry dogs aren't going to be laying out there in the snow. You know, they're in their doghouse. They're curled up. They're keeping warm. You stuff their houses with straw, but I just remember looking out once and I saw Chert, who's still alive. He turned 15 in May. And he put his head out and his whole face was just frosted with frost. And I was like, oh, my gosh, you know, because I never used to put the dogs in the dog truck during the day, it was just at night. And so that's when I built a dog barn that summer. And it used to be okay 20 below they're going in the dog barn. Then it was 10 below they're going in the dog barn. Then it was zero they're going in the dog barn. Well, now it's like they're in the dog barn every night. Number one, it's so quiet. You know, if a moose comes through my yard or outside on the other side of the fence, we don't hear it because the dogs are in the barn. My neighbors aren't woken up at two in the morning by my dogs going crazy with moose in the yard. And I just find that they recover so much quickly. And this is where a lot of mushers now are getting into dog barns, because they find out that after 50, 60, 100 mile run during the day at 30 below they put the dog in the dog barn and they just recover so much quicker to be able to then go and, you know, do some more distance the next day rather than, you know, trying to keep warm after running 50 miles in a little ball curled up in their dog house. And then have to get out the next morning and, you know, they're stretching and they're stiff from just the cold and the run the day before. ROBERT DROZDA: They've used up a lot of energy just trying to keep warm. CAROL KLECKNER: Just trying to keep warm, exactly. KAREN BREWSTER: It doesn't affect their acclimating to the cold and building up their coat? CAROL KLECKNER: Not at all, because they're outside, you know, they are outdoors enough. I mean even my dogs that are indoor dogs, let me tell you, when they shed in the spring, oh, my gosh, it's like they had -- they still get really thick coats, really super thick coats. And I have mainly sprint dogs. So, no, these distance dogs -- And you can talk to a lot of the distance mushers that have dog barns that now swear by them. It's like, you know, their dogs are outside enough and are marching through, you know, eight hours of training that they still get a good coat on them. But to just be in a warmer area where they don't have to curl in that little ball and get all stiff. I'm a huge advocate of dog barns. ROBERT DROZDA: What about the structure itself? CAROL KLECKNER: Yeah, I've just got a little 12 x 16. People, well, you have a big straw -- straw barn. ROBERT DROZDA: It's not that big. CAROL KLECKNER: Kind of in your yard, you know. It's just a bunch of straw bales all built up together and the dogs can go in there and it's amazing the warmth and -- ROBERT DROZDA: Three story. CAROL KLECKNER: Oh, my gosh. ROBERT DROZDA: We call it the condominium. KAREN BREWSTER: Is it like a horse barn where they each have their own little stall or you just put them all in there together? CAROL KLECKNER: Mine is -- they each have their own little area, yes. They have -- in fact, my boxes are two feet high by either two to three feet wide and four feet deep. So they're big. ROBERT DROZDA: Uh-huh. CAROL KLECKNER: They're big. I could fit two or probably three of my sprint Huskies in there, but I just wanted enough area so that the dog wanted to completely lay all the way out, they can. In my first years I just -- I always kept -- keep the barn -- I just have a little electric heater in there. And I always impress upon people if they're building a dog barn to have windows at either end. Because you put -- my barn is 12 x 16, you put 15 dogs in there and let me tell you it's humid. And one person once accused me of you're going to make you dogs deathly sick by doing that. You're going, you know, and I'm like, you know, if you have ventilation, I leave two windows cracked. I have a fan at one window. I keep my little electric heater -- it heats the barn to 40 degrees. My dogs will up the temperature by 15 degrees throughout the night. So sometimes I start out at 30 degrees, so it's not too hot in the dog barn by the next morning. But I always keep that fan running. It's never humid in there. Now if it gets as my house does at 40 below, oh, yes, that ice is going to build up on the inside of those windows. My dog barn is -- I mean the windows are cheesy little windows. It's not like I built a triple pane window dog barn. So, you know, if you keep good ventilation, keep a little fan going in there, my dogs have never in the nine years I've had a dog barn now have never shown any sort of bronchial problems or cold problems or anything with the humidity, because it doesn't build up in there because of my ventilation. But, and there's many different ways of doing that and you can ask all kinds of different mushers about their dog barns, but everybody says that ventilation's the key. ROBERT DROZDA: Yeah, I've seen some mushers' guest cabins where they've become dog barns. CAROL KLECKNER: Oh, exactly, exactly, yes, yep. KAREN BREWSTER: I have a question about -- back about Second Chance League before we finish, if I may ask it? ROBERT DROZDA: Uh-huh. KAREN BREWSTER: Which is what's been the reception amongst the more professional racing community and the ones who maybe have been the ones culling their dogs and putting them in the shelter? What's been their response to your efforts with the Second Chance League? CAROL KLECKNER: That's an excellent question. Gosh, it's a hard one to answer, because I would say some people think we're too New Age. You know, it's like we -- a rescue group is just -- we're too foo foo with our dogs. We, you know, it's like no, it's a working dog. When its life is done, it's done. What do you, you know, why -- why rescue a Husky when it can't work. KAREN BREWSTER: I mean there is -- yeah, there's a history within dog mushing in the villages. I mean people always culled their teams. CAROL KLECKNER: Absolutely. Absolutely, yes. It's -- I mean basically it is the history. And it's, you know, in the dog mushing world if I could just ask for anything in the dog mushing world would be to not cull so much and to not breed so much. Because so many people, I think, have gotten onto that mentality of that it's a working dog. We can breed 40 puppies this summer. If 20 of them don't work out, so what, we shoot them. You know, and in Second Chance League we do. Everybody that is involved has a totally different view of dogs and again it goes back to that view of dogs. Whereas, it's the working dog versus that this dog is an individual -- yes, a working dog, but it can be a companion dog and it's a dog. Dogs are, you know, they've been pets for years and mankind's main companion for a lot of history. And, so -- so the reception for SCL basically overall I think is very good. I have had mushers call me up saying I'm dumping this dog at the shelter. I hope you can find a home for it. And when we first started, we thought that that wuld end up being a lot of what would happen. Is that, you know, people would oh, well Second Chance League can find a home for these dogs so we're just going to go dump our 20 puppies off at the shelter that didn't work out. It didn't work that way. I think a lot of people almost got embarrassed in a way that some of their dogs end up at the shelter and then ended up on like winning teams. In a way it's kind of unfortunate, because then you realize that those people that don't bring their dogs to the shelter are just shooting them themselves. So these dogs aren't even getting a chance with somebody else. They're -- they're just gone. But I would say overall the response to SCL has been good and positive. But, too, I just mainly, you know, I don't deal with mushers who cull their dogs. You know mushers who adopt dogs from SCL kind of have the same mindset as I do. So, but I think overall the reception's pretty good. The shelter's been wonderful with us as far as nowadays and we -- I didn't talk about this but it's been the progression of the shelter through the years of taking these Huskies that were basically killed after 72 hours and sometimes keeping them for months. If we run a dog, if we think it's a good dog, even a potential for a pet home, the shelter as long as there's space, will keep it for a long, long time. And it's sometimes hard on the animal tenders that work there. It's a horrid job. I could never be an animal tender. Horrid, horrid job. They kill a lot of animals, not just dogs, all kinds of animals, down to ferrets and rats and birds and cats, of course. But their attitude was well, you've run this dog, it's a good running dog. It's a friendly dog. It's a nice dog. We'll keep it as long as we can and as long as we have space. So there have been dogs at the shelter that have been there sometimes for months and months. And it does get really difficult on the tenders when -- I mean they recently euthanized a dog named Willow. And, you know, she -- and I can get real emotional about these things so pardon me, but she was there for quite a long time. And she came in with her brother General and she came from a mushing home that had actually tried to find these two dogs pet homes. And they ended up in a pet home where they were basically locked in a back bedroom, because the people didn't have fenced yards. They didn't take these dogs for a walk. The back bedroom was full of feces. These two dogs came in just filthy. And Willow was pretty aggressive. She loved her brother. General is still at the shelter and this was -- they'd been there for months. Willow we -- the first time we ran her she tried to get into a fight with every dog we put next to her. So she ran beside General when we ran her. And she was spayed. She's such a nice dog. Pretty nice with people. She's a little shy, but, you know, nobody was looking at her. There was a couple mushers, actually a woman in North Carolina, but she had three other female dogs. And it was just like, I don't think I would send you Willow to North Carolina. You know, maybe up here to try her out with somebody knowing that we could take her back. But, you know, and everybody at the shelter liked her. And she was euthanized last week because nobody looked at her. So it's -- sorry -- So it's those things at the shelter that to me are really, really difficult to keep going time after time, and running all these dogs and knowing that this is a wonderfully individual nice, nice dog that does not deserve the life that it's had so far. And then in the end to just be euthanized anyhow is just heartbreaking and I see that all the time. You know, it's my hardest part of doing SCL and people have often asked me how do you continue to do that? Because, yes, sometimes I'm no better than some musher who's dumped off their dog to the shelter, because I've written a death sentence for dogs. You know, you run it or it's got, you know, it's -- we ran a dog not too long ago, super nice dog, its whole back knee was blown. So, you know, the dog's, you know, eight, nine years old that's got a blown back knee. Are you going to find it another mushing home? No way. You know, so that dog got put down and, you know, it's a horrible feeling for me because it's like, you know, that that happens. But, you know, I went to the shelter once with one of my favorite dogs that got euthed and I just sat on their doghouse and was crying. And the animal tender came up to me and she said you cannot think of all the dogs that end up euthanized. You have to remember Spiderman. You have to remember Misty and Cracker. You have to remember the dogs that you had a hand in finding a good home for. Because if you just think of all the ones that have been euthanized, you would just have a nervous breakdown and not be able to do this. ROBERT DROZDA: Yeah, they'll give up. CAROL KLECKNER: And give up. So I just always have to keep in my mind that, you know, that we just -- it's one dog at a time and we've made a huge difference in that one particular dog's life. And with the numbers up here, there is no way that we could save them all. ROBERT DROZDA: Uh-huh. KAREN BREWSTER: How many did you say you saved so far approximately? CAROL KLECKNER: I, you know, I haven't counted up for a long time. My guess is between 350 to 400, just through Second Chance League. That doesn't include the people who have gone to the shelter and adopted them directly. Probably I would say it's upwards to double that over the years. ROBERT DROZDA: Maybe we can finish up, Carol, if you have a particular story, a success story. CAROL KLECKNER: I just mentioned two of my favorite success stories. In fact, one belongs to me and one belongs to Robert, although, you know, there's so many success stories out there that I could write, you know, many, many books about them, but Misty and Cracker. Cracker came with the name Cracker Jack. And Misty they were confiscated from a guy who just got in over his head. His dogs were just breeding left and right. He had no money. He was feeding them lard. And Animal Control went and confiscated -- he had about 70 dogs, confiscated 40 of them. They'd called me at home and I ran to the shelter and by the time I got there three full Animal Control trucks had already been euthanized. So there was one truck left and they said -- and I said I want to save at least one dog for Second Chance League, you know. And actually some other people had grabbed dogs and we ended up -- then bringing into Second Chance League, from this whole group of dogs. But so I opened the back of the Animal Control truck and there's 15 dogs chained in the back of this truck, all in horrible shape. I looked and I looked and I -- just this one little white dog -- and a lot of them were white. So I just grabbed this one and she tried to bite me. I went and put her in my truck and the Animal Control officer looks at me and she goes you're taking that one? She tried to bite you. And I'm like, you know, call me New Age, call me fatalist, I don't care, I said this dog just called to me, I'm taking her. So we managed to like give her -- her shot -- her rabies shot and her distemper, whatever they do when you first bring them to the shelter. And so I thought ah, just I have got to take one more, this whole back of this truck. So, I open the truck door again and there was this male and he was -- they were all just emaciated, skinny. Fifty percent of the fur on Misty's body was gone. She looked like she had some sort of horrid mange, but it was all from nutrition and just feeding lard. So I grabbed Cracker Jack and Cracker Jack was just so skinny and mangy looking and just horrid. So I pulled them into SCL and took them home and it took pretty much three months before they would even like come up to me. And I could let them -- eventually let them loose. I had to chain them both, because I was afraid I couldn't catch them. And Misty I would just kind of put food in my hand and put my hand down and turn my back to her and just make her eat at least something out of my hand. The first few days she wouldn't at all. And I would just, you know, I would just kind of put it on the ground and gently walk away. And so after about three months they kind of started to trust us and I could let them loose, but I could only get them to come to us by offering them a cookie or something. And so long story short, Robert ended up with Cracker Jack after he actually went to a distance musher home where he wasn't working out. Cracker Jack should be -- have some other different name like Excavator. This dog dug such a huge hole in my yard at his house that his house was teetering on just this tree trunk size dirt pile. He would have to like stand on his very back tip toes, put his feet in the door of his house and pull himself up into his house, because -- he would even dig with his back feet as far as he could roam on his chain. This hole was probably at least like five foot down and six feet out as far as this dog could dig. ROBERT DROZDA: And he wore all his teeth down. CAROL KLECKNER: Yes.
ROBERT DROZDA: Uh-huh. CAROL KLECKNER: His teeth are totally worn down, but Misty now has -- she's a great sled dog. She's a leader. She has the most beautiful thick white coat you'd ever see on a dog. Everybody always comments. She's a beautiful, beautiful dog. She's like this 45 pound dog with a thick white coat and I carry her around the yard like a baby. She gets along with everybody. I free run her, can take her anywhere out in the woods and free run her. This is a dog that basically you could not touch. Could not touch this dog, could not catch her if she was loose and it just takes with a lot of these shy dogs it just takes time and trust in building this dog's confidence. And Cracker, he ended up -- he was out at Kantishna giving tours to -- yes, tours to tourists. I mean this dog that you couldn't touch that was so emaciated. I have a picture that Robert sent me of him holding out the line as leader out at Kantishna as he's putting the other dogs in line. I mean these are dogs that were so close to ending up dead. ROBERT DROZDA: Yeah, you have pictures I think on your website -- CAROL KLECKNER: Yes.
ROBERT DROZDA: Or Second Chance -
CAROL KLECKNER: Yes, on my web -- ROBERT DROZDA: Of both Misty and Cracker and they -- CAROL KLECKNER: Yes. ROBERT DROZDA: When you first got them and they both look just completely dejected and -- CAROL KLECKNER: Yes, and that's -- I love both of those pictures, not that they're because -- they're horrid pictures, but I love that you can look at their eyes and they're vacant. ROBERT DROZDA: Uh-huh. CAROL KLECKNER: And you look at their eyes now and these dogs are so happy. ROBERT DROZDA: Uh-huh. CAROL KLECKNER: And, you know, Robert has plenty of stories about Cracker and how he ended up, you know, he's a shy dog but follows Robert everywhere. And this is, you know, and this to me is the success of so many of these Huskies that if they're not socialized or if the only thing they've known in life is a chain, how they can with just giving these dogs some confidence, having them trust you as a benevolent nice person that they just come around to being the most wonderful, wonderful dogs. So -- KAREN BREWSTER: Can I ask one more question? ROBERT DROZDA: You may. KAREN BREWSTER: Assuming that I can hear this on the tape. That the way you talk about it's just this passion and this commitment and this time to build this relationship with these dogs and I wonder if the racing community that has 100, 200 dog kennels, is that part of it that they just don't have the time to be able to do that with rescue dogs? CAROL KLECKNER: I think these -- well, yeah, the big kennels rarely rescue a dog, but they -- Yes, I think it's just -- it's a time thing and it is my passion and I understand, totally understand, that the majority of people in the world don't take their passion for dogs to the extent that I do. I know many people that do -- that, you know, the Robert's of the world, the Katukie's (phonetic) of the world, you know. I -- the people that really, really love their dogs as companions as well as working dogs. So these big kennels, you know most of them do have handlers. A lot of them do socialize their puppies and I do like to see that. That, you know, that you can go into a lot of these kennels and see that their puppies have been socialized, that you can -- you yourself could as a perfect stranger could walk through this whole dog yard of chained dogs and every one of them is going to be jumping on you to be petted and loved and even -- even in my yard to this day I've got dogs that I would not suggest somebody walk into my dog yard because getting a dog that is totally unsocialized and some of these dogs I've gotten as five and six year old dogs that are so ingrained with the fear and not being socialized that I just kind of wouldn't trust them with a stranger walking right into my free kennel yard. ROBERT DROZDA: Yeah, that's probably the hardest thing is when you get a dog that wasn't socialized properly as a puppy. CAROL KLECKNER: Exactly. Exactly. So, I give huge credit to the mushers that really do socialize their puppies, that spend a lot of time, you know, taking them for little free runs and walks and holding them and handling them because a lot -- there are quite a few mushers that don't do this with their puppies. And you can pretty much immediately tell when you walk into somebody's yard like that, when the dogs aren't socialized. KAREN BREWSTER: But it's interesting that most of your, I guess clients, most of the people who take Second Chance dogs tend to be the more recreational type mushers versus the racing mushers? CAROL KLECKNER: That is correct. That is correct. Yeah. ROBERT DROZDA: And I think that, you know, a lot of a people don't realize just how many recreational mushers there are out there. CAROL KLECKNER: Yes. ROBERT DROZDA: And these can be the perfect kind of dog -- CAROL KLECKNER: Right. ROBERT DROZDA: For them, you know.
CAROL KLECKNER: Exactly. ROBERT DROZDA: We don't need to run 50, 60 miles at a crack, four or five days a week to train for the Iditarod or something. CAROL KLECKNER: Exactly. ROBERT DROZDA: And there's lots of different scenarios, too. It's not just, you know, big kennels, big mushing kennels, you know. I know of other situations and I'm sure you do too, Carol. I know at least a couple of guys who thought well, I want to run the Quest. I don't have any dogs and they wind up buying a whole team of dogs from somebody getting out of dogs, and they can't get the dogs to run for them. CAROL KLECKNER: Exactly. Right. ROBERT DROZDA: They just can't, you know, they don't have the time or they don't have any time invested with those dogs to make it work. CAROL KLECKNER: Right. And I think, too, a lot of that we see in the mushing world isn't so much the winners or it isn't so much the red lantern people, it's almost sometimes that -- that middle segment and not everybody. I mean there's -- it's, you know, it's probably not even a majority, but there's always that segment in the middle that say gosh, I know I can do better if I had different dogs. So, they get rid of all the dogs they have. Buy some $2,000 breeding pair from somebody. Breed their own dogs and they'e still in the same place. ROBERT DROZDA: Uh-huh. CAROL KLECKNER: Because those -- that little fraction of people I think just don't really understand dogs. And don't understand training and don't understand nutrition and don't understand hierarchy and pack mentality. And so it doesn't matter if you are going to give these people a team of dogs that were winning dogs. They're probably not going to be winning dogs for those people because it's just -- it's usually not the dogs. I find that it's usually not the dogs. KAREN BREWSTER: Isn't there an example of somebody who's run like the Quest with a whole team of your Second Chance dogs? CAROL KLECKNER: Oh, yeah, Iris Wood. Iris Wood is -- was -- was our -- our famous Yukon Quest musher and she got the red lantern. But that year many, many people dropped out. Many people dropped out. And that's a huge other success story. She had many Second Chance League dogs, several foster dogs in that team, but her star of her team was Twiggy. A dog that was at the animal shelter, came through the animal shelter. I think it was dropped off without any information. It was a big tall lanky dog. That dog ran single lead for Iris for half the Quest. So, you know, some dog that somebody thought was absolutely worthless helped a person. And it was really the reason that Iris finished the Quest -- that Iris finished the Quest because of Twiggy in single lead. Just almost unprecedented for any dog to run half the Quest in single lead. So, yeah, and a lot of sprint racing teams, lots of skijorers, lots of fast skijorers are racing dogs from the animal shelter. ROBERT DROZDA: Uh-huh. CAROL KLECKNER: So, they can be successful. You just have to find the right home, match up those dogs correctly. And I would just, you know, pray that in the mushing world that people would just quit breeding and culling so many dogs to get, you know, a team of so few of dogs. You know, this breeding 40 to end up with five good ones is like just, ah, wrenches my heart. But again, I have a different view of dogs and what they are in this lifetime than what a lot of people do. ROBERT DROZDA: Ok. CAROL KLECKNER: Thank you. ROBERT DROZDA: Thanks so much, Carol. CAROL KLECKNER: You're welcome.
Dr. Mark May was interviewed on May 19, 2011 by William Schneider and Karen Brewster at his veterinary clinic in Fairbanks, Alaska. Dr. May grew up in Wisconsin and came to Alaska in 1974, following his father, Joe May, who was trapping and running dogs in Trapper Creek, Alaska. Joe May later ran the Iditarod Sled Dog Race, winning it in 1980. Mark May attended the University of Alaska Fairbanks, earned his veterinary degree at the University of Colorado in 1989, and returned to Alaska to set up a private practice and continue his dog mushing career. In this interview, Mark talks about how he got involved with long-distance dog mushing, advances in dog care, research on dog physiology, training dogs, assessing a dog's health and condition on the trail, use of medication, and disease within dog teams.
Click to section:
Coming to Alaska from the Midwest
Using dogs for a trapline
Father running the Iditarod Sled Dog Race
Education and becoming a veterinarian
Returning to Alaska and starting his own dog sled racing team
Getting married and his wife's connection to mushing
Long distance trips with dogs
Advances in dog care
Research and testing on racing dogs
Changes in training which help prevent injuries
Assessing a racing dog's health
Internal medical issues
Medications for the dogs on the trail
Intestinal diseases on the trail
What mushing means to him
BILL SCHNEIDER: Okay. Today is May 19th, 2011. I'm Bill Schneider, Karen Brewster is here, too, and we have the pleasure of doing an interview today of Dr. Mark May, and we're here at his clinic. So thanks for taking the time to do this, Mark. DR. MARK MAY: You're welcome. BILL SCHNEIDER: Let's start by having you talk a little bit about your family history, where you were brought up and a bit about your parents. DR. MARK MAY: I grew up in Rural Wisconsin, and lived next to a big mink ranch when I was a boy, and my mother's parents had a small dairy. And we moved across the lake to Michigan in high school, and maybe we'll discuss later, but as soon as I finished high school, I left and came to Alaska. So a typical Midwestern transplant. It was a day and age where America was changing rapidly, my parents separated when I was just finishing up high school, and like many Midwesterners, my father had been dreaming about Alaska most of his life, liked the outdoors, hunting and fishing, and Alaska was really booming or opening up, so after my parents separated, he moved to Alaska. And it was '72, I think, when he moved up. I graduated high school in '74, so as soon as I was done with high school, my friend Curt and I hopped in a Rambler station wagon and drove across America. At that time, my father was living in a 16 by 16 cabin in a -- in a rural area, a community called Trapper Creek just south of the Alaska Range near Talkeetna. So I -- I lived with him for the first two winters that I was in Alaska. And at the time, the Iditarod was just starting to develop, and so we fell right into the first part of the Iditarod. He got lucky and fell in with people in the community that had had sled dog ties back into the '40s and '50s, so he was given some very fine dogs right out of the chute. We, of course, were trappers. The credible acceptable thing to do with the sled dogs before the Iditarod became the going thing was to trap, you know. So we lived in that community south of the Alaska Range and we had traplines and we used these dogs as trapping dogs. And I made it two years after high school before I realized young people really didn't have an option in Rural Alaska, and so I left for three years to -- in the Navy. And during that time, my younger brother came up and helped my father with the dogs. I think my father ran the Iditarod five times, he won in 1980, and so it was a very exciting time to be involved in sled dog racing, and especially in the Iditarod. I remember in 1980, we had this team that just could not be beat, and the dogs were really nothing special, they didn't cost a lot of money, but they were old racing stock, and the dogs raced five times that year and were never beat. So it was a very -- a very exciting time. I was -- I was sad I had to leave to go in the Navy, and all the time I was in the Navy, you know, I just burned to come back. Talking about my life as a veterinarian, my wife will tell you, it's the only thing you can do, it's the only thing you've ever done. So I did not have the silver spoon in my mouth when I was a kid, I had no promise of college, I had no inclination to go to college until I got out of the Navy, and then I had to do something. I had kind of a limited GI Bill. The State of Alaska used to really have an outstanding student loan program. And so I grabbed hold of all the free money, all the loan money I could, and I settled in Fairbanks, went to UAF [University of Alaska Fairbanks], lived on campus the first year. Second year I started working with sled dogs while I was still going to school with friends I knew here in the community. So for those college years here at UAF, I was involved in sled dog racing around Fairbanks. I didn't have my own sled dogs, but I was race marshal, race judge. I was working as a veterinary technician, or kennel boy, with Val Stuve at Aurora Animal Clinic, and so when I finished up with my Bachelors in Biology, I was accepted to Colorado. And went out to Colorado for four years. So, you know, it was in and out of Alaska trying to establish a career, if you will, or a life style, and so I graduated from veterinary school in 1989, came back to Alaska. We'd owned property in North Pole, so we never really left Fairbanks, and immediately went to work putting together a racing team. Bought out some of the dogs that my dad had sold when he got out. He had been through a change of life where he burned his snowshoes, bought a sailboat, and his wife and he were going to sail the world. Well, if you talk to them, they'll tell you all about pirates and other hazards of sailing, and they lasted on the boat for about a year and a half, and then they settled into Southeast. And Southeast was way too rainy, so they eventually wound up back in Trapper Creek across the road from their first place, but in a nice, old homestead with a view of McKinley. So he's still here in Alaska, and I visit him two or three times a year. He's still interested in sled dogs, but he doesn't run them. So that's it in a nutshell. I've been over here at this location for 16 years, I've raced many long distance races. I still have a kennel of sled dogs and I race as often as I can. I've got three children, and they are a priority, so I really haven't had an opportunity to race the thousand mile race in at least 10 years. And that's it in a nutshell. BILL SCHNEIDER: When did you get married? DR. MARK MAY: Oh, I better get this question right. Let's see. We were -- BILL SCHNEIDER: Just in terms of the chronology. DR. MARK MAY: '85. '85. I met my wife in Freshman Biology class, probably in Schaible Hall, and so we knew each other while we were at the university. And then it was in '85 as we were finishing up two bachelors in biology that we decided to get married. BILL SCHNEIDER: And she's very tolerant of your mushing? DR. MARK MAY: My wife grew up out in Salcha, which was a sled dog mecca at the time. Her brother, who is a little older, was involved in sled dog mushing as a young boy, and so she not only grew up in a hotbed of mushing, she grew up with a family member that was a -- involved in it. She didn't know that I was a musher until we had been dating for at least a year and a half, and it's a mixed blessing, you know, being a musher, and it's not always a good thing to put on your resume. So it was a year and a half after we had been dating that her brother finally said, "You know he's a musher?" And she said, "Get out." And he said, "Yes. His father won the Iditarod." And so she had no idea. I kept it perfectly hidden. BILL SCHNEIDER: Well, we should mention also you've done some nice trips with dogs, too. DR. MARK MAY: Right. When I first came back to Alaska, I really wasn't ready to race, and I've always -- always wanted to travel with dogs, and I'd just come back as a veterinarian, so I combined travelling and research, and I was working on training young dogs. And so we made a Serum Run from Nenana to Nome to Kotzebue shortly after I got back. I think that was probably '94. And had done several other trips like that. I think I'm probably the only person I know that has been over the Allakaket to Tanana and Portage, both ways. I've done it three times. And so I've -- I've been around a little bit with dogs. Raced most of the races and seen a lot of the state from the back of a dog sled. BILL SCHNEIDER: Okay. Well, let's talk a little bit about advances in dog care, in particular with reference to sled dogs that you've seen over the years. DR. MARK MAY: Well, I refer you back, if you ever have an opportunity to watch one of those old VHS tapes of the first Iditarod, the day and age is incredible. Now we're all digital and compact, but if you watch the videotape of the 1973 Iditarod, you realize in the back of your mind that this photographer was toting a unit on his shoulder that was the size of a bazooka, it was not plastic, it probably weighed 80 pounds, probably had a heavy lead battery in it, and they were filming with real film. So the fact that they could videotape any of those events is just incredible. And you go back and you look at those, and they are going through the process of rediscovering some things that ancient cultures already knew about dogs, but they are also incorporating new technology, you know. A hundred years ago the only fabrics were leather or cotton. So during those first Iditarods, they had been running dogs a thousand miles, they didn't have dog booties. So they brainstormed or daydreamed up dog booties. Well, it's something the Indians and the Eskimos had been doing with leather. How do you fasten them on the foot? Well, the first thing they used on the feet was electrical tape. You can imagine that caused some problems. So we've been through this basic husbandry process where we develop coats, boots, our gang lines and our sleds now contribute, too, to the safety. Our training techniques prevent a lot of injuries. So we really worked hard at that end of the deal. In addition to that external development, we've also been working on the inside of the dogs. The first trip that I took I called the Serum Run, and had worked with Ken Hinchcliff and some of the other veterinarians that were just starting to take a keen interest in the Iditarod dogs at looking what happens to the muscle, what happens to their thyroid hormones when you stress them. So that trip we actually stopped in the middle of nowhere 12 times and took blood samples from 24 dogs. We did full chemistry panels on the serum. And so, you know, that wasn't the first blood work study ever undertaken on sled dogs, but it was kind of the forerunner. And now, of course, when you sign up for the Iditarod, you're automatically enrolled in blood testing programs. So they've been looking specifically at issues like muscle damage through chemistry and enzyme studies. They also do ECGs. They are looking for heart changes, heart damage, and there have been some other studies, gastrointestinal studies. They look into the stomach with an endoscope, looking for ulcers. They'll also do studies on the other end of the dog. I went to Kotzebue to serve as race vet for the 440 once, and they had a team of researchers up from Texas A & M. And Professor Mike Willard was working in a makeshift veterinary center in a police building up there, and they would bring these working sled dogs in immediately after the race, they'd anesthetize them, he examined them with a proctoscope, get biopsies from their colon. And so we have looked at this sled dog under stress, in training, at rest from the nose to the tip of his tail. And we're trying to prevent injuries, improve their environment, their health, and so we have really poured a lot of money and time into research. And the premier researchers, the premier physiologist and echocardiologist in the world have a unique fascination with the Iditarod dogs, the Quest dogs, because they are incredible animals. They consume more energy, have more athletic potential than people could ever imagine. So we have a world renowned class of researchers working on these dogs to take care of them, promote better health. BILL SCHNEIDER: You mentioned that training to prevent injuries. What specifically have you seen in changes in training? DR. MARK MAY: Well, I'll put in a plug for my father. My brother, who was in Trapper Creek in the '70s, says that he was the guy that thought to put a snow machine drag behind a sled to slow the dogs down. When I first ran a big team of dogs, all we had was what we called a claw brake, and so training dogs, especially in the early year, was fraught with peril. People were always cracking their heads, breaking their backs, dog teams were breaking away, and so we just didn't have control of the dogs; it's very dangerous for us, for the dogs. And so as we developed a logical training regime for these long distance races, we incorporated -- first we used small pickup trucks. Well, the advent of the four wheeler and the modern recreational vehicle was occurring, so we would hook them in the four wheelers and large heavy objects to prevent them from getting away and from hurting so we could control the speed, we could brake. And then a fair number of us had started using snow machines to train dogs on. And it seems kind of ludicrous and the purists scoff at it, but it has really helped prevent the catastrophic injuries that you get into with breakaway teams. But it also helps you cross train. You can control the speed and you can do endurance work one day, you can do speed work the next, and so it's really kind of opened up the area to explore and see what works the best for distance race, see what works best for a sprint race, And so we've had -- once again, we've had researchers monitoring us doing biopsies as we go through training. And I'm not certain what the end result will be, but certainly, if you're training to go fast, you don't want to be doing a lot of endurance work, And so we all -- we all go through seasons in our life where we're doing different races and from year to year would change the way we train dogs. BILL SCHNEIDER: Okay. Here we are with a hot dog. So what do you look for when -- assuming a dog has just come in from a hard run? How do you assess a dog in terms of its health? DR. MARK MAY: I have to set in context specifically because many of the times I'm racing dogs, and so if you've been running a dog, you are intimately familiar with all of the weaknesses of the dog and you're constantly scanning them to see for a fact that he's not going to fall down or you're going to have to load him. When these dogs come in at checkpoints, it's a little bit hard to get an accurate assessment on them initially because they are very excited to be coming into a checkpoint. Dogs that are raced, even single day sprint races, know all about villages and checkpoints and crowds, so a dog that is dragging, tired, ready to cave in and collapse would put on a burst and develop a new enthusiasm as it nears a crowd and a checkpoint. So as a veterinarian, you want to be at the finish line watching the team from as far away as you can. And you may see, if you've got decent vision, 2 or 300 yards out that a dog is not pulling, is tired, but by the time they get to the checkpoint or standing next to their truck or standing on straw beds, you've lost an opportunity to assess that dog at the end of his run. And they recover very rapidly. Certainly dogs that come in and immediately flop, lay on their side, and pant so hard that you can look right down their trachea are overheated, exhausted, and run near the limit of their capability. You want to be looking for dogs that come in and are immediately looking around, twitching, jumping, barking. Those are dogs that are in good health, haven't been winded. And then you want to work through the process of going over each dog, looking for orthopedic injuries. Certainly if you're next to a dog team as it finishes and it's still standing, whether it's a sprint race or a distance race, you'll be able to quickly scan the team and look for dogs that are obviously lame, holding up their feet. And after you get over that stage and those dogs are either bedded down or put in their truck, some of that may develop muscle soreness that was not obvious while they were still cooling down. So after you go through the team immediately after the race and verify injuries or write them a clean bill of health, you'll want to come back and check them occasionally. Depending on the race, the use of the dog, they may or may not feed water immediately after the race. Watching dogs to see who is eating and drinking will help you determine who to watch closer down the trail, if it's a multi day event, or if it's a long distance race where they will have to continue. The dogs that eat and drink all the time are going to be more likely to complete races in good health than dogs that are picky eaters or that are run so hard they are kind of nauseous and they don't eat. So you want to come back to a dog team, if you can, if it's a multi day race, or if it's a long distance race, actually pick up the parts on that dog. And so with a dog like Zeke, if he was a nice, social dog, you would come up, pick up a leg, just do some light range of motion. Bend them at the wrist, flex the elbow, especially the shoulders in these dogs, you want to stretch out an arm. And then you want to work on their back. Dogs use these lumbar muscles as they run and they flex, and so one of the key places that they will fatigue is up here. They will develop lactic acidosis, so a lot of times these dogs will be sore and stiff up here. And then certainly the rear limbs also. We see a fair number of Achilles tendon injuries with long distance racing dogs especially, and those will develop because of lactic acid buildup back in those big gastroc muscles. So sometimes you can go back to a dog that came in fine and you can detect a stiff shoulder or a cramping muscle in the rear end, and those are dogs that may or may not be able to continue racing. Certainly the feet are very important on these dogs. These dogs don't go anywhere if they have sore feet. So part of your job as a race veterinarian is picking up these feet, and you want to look at toenails, you want to look inside that foot at the interdigital tissue, you want to look at the pads, you want to make sure that those feet are being cared for. And you can look at the joints, the wrist, and the hock for swelling, too. Sometimes over the course of these races, you get repetitive motion type injuries, you develop synovitis and inflammation in the wrists or the hock, and those are problems that can be treated on the trail while they are still racing, using liniments and wraps. So you want to work them over immediately after they come in, you want to work them over two -- and probably two hours after they come in, and then certainly if it's a distance dog, he's going to get up in five or six hours and go. If he's a sprint dog, he's going to get out of the box the next day in the starting chute, and you want to look at them there and you can sometimes pick up dogs 24 hours later or 6 hours later, they are obviously unfit to continue. So you want to just keep constantly watching these dogs, and you can tell by their behavior. Dogs, when they are healthy, just have a bright look in their eyes, their heads up. As they become weary, they'll drop their head like we do and their ears will hang, they just look depressed. So you want to assist in evaluating those dogs and keeping them out of trouble. So that's it in a nutshell. And certainly there -- there's a lot of working that goes into these dogs before they get into the race. Many of these races have pre race veterinarian checks, so by the time a dog actually makes it to the starting line of a race, he's been trained, examined, and nobody wants to take a dog that's unfit. So by and large, the dogs that you're seeing at the start are the cream of the crop and they are all exceptional athletes. BILL SCHNEIDER: Are there any other internal issues that you look for? DR. MARK MAY: Well, there's certainly a lot of other medical issues that affect a dog's fitness as an athlete. One of the most overlooked ones is dental health. These are eating, drinking, living organisms, and we just take for granted with ourselves that we need to brush our teeth, go to the dentist. It is only in the last 10 or 15 years that anybody thought of assessing a dog's dental health. So something internal as basic as a tooth root abscess will take an important dog out of the race, it will ruin your lifetime of preparation for your one shot at the Iditarod. So as I said, these dogs are all checked internally with blood work, ECGs, general physical exams. Certainly most of them are intact reproductive animals, so there are many things associated with their reproductive status that will make them fit or unfit for a race, too. You can imagine being in a thousand dog racing event with a bitch in heat, things like that are definitely internal and they will affect the health and wellbeing of a team and a race. BILL SCHNEIDER: Okay. What are we forgetting? KAREN BREWSTER: Medications for the dogs on the trail, and the rules about that and hear your thoughts about that. DR. MARK MAY: Medication, vaccination, health risks, you know, we are taking a stressed animal, combining him in a very dense social structure, and also we're importing them from around the world, so we are not only setting them in a pressure cooker of disease, we're bringing it all together from the far corners of the globe. So these dogs have to be vaccinated and dewormed, fed to the nth degree, and also nursed with dewormers, some of them take Vitamin E as a prophylactic therapy to prevent muscle damage. Some of them take Famotidine to block acid production. Looking at these dogs, you can see that some of them are stressed. Some of these dogs are high strung dogs, and they will develop stomach ulcers, so we have to avoid using performance enhancing drugs in these dogs, so as a general rule, you cannot use a corticosteroid or an anabolic steroid. All of your muscle building and blood building schemes to capitalize on athletic performance have to be natural, nutritional, or holistic. Nobody wants to hear that we are using performance enhancing drugs to drive these dogs beyond their capability. So generally speaking, when you're racing a dog, if he has to have an injectable medication, or IV fluids to address a medical condition, he's removed from the race, either put in the dog truck or into the veterinary -- the care of the veterinary hands. So in between that situation and the start of the race, you know, we're doing everything we can with nutraceuticals, vitamins, probiotics, prebiotics, to keep them happy and healthy. So there's certainly some folkloresy things we do with these dogs. Some of our liniments stink like turpentine, and you'll see us dressing these dogs up in fine florescent clothes, and some of those clothes have big, whole body heat packs in them, so we really pour the attention and the TLC to these dogs to keep them comfortable and performing. BILL SCHNEIDER: Okay. KAREN BREWSTER: Alright. Two -- two more questions. One is about the prevalence of intestinal diseases that spread through teams when they're in those big races, what do you do about that? DR. MARK MAY: Right, you know, ask me something that I know. Because these dogs eat raw meat, there is concern about having them contaminate the environment for us, so there's a public health aspect to this that many people aren't aware of. Dogs also transmit some tapeworms that are deadly for humans, like echinococcus, and they can be contracted and passed on to humans. So we -- we have to feed them as they have naturally evolved, and so they eat raw meat, as a general rule. We -- we look at the protein and the fat and the carbohydrate, so they will get some grain, like rice, they will often get fish. Historically speaking, when they lived with the Eskimo, they ate marine mammal. And when they lived on the tundra, they ate caribou. And there are still some subsistence -- subsistence cultures where they can eat that. The average dog here in Fairbanks, during the summer, eats what we commonly refer to as commercial kibble. And it's essentially a grain based diet with some byproduct meal. So as we train them harder and prepare for the racing, their diet shifts to almost predominantly meat and animal fat type food. Once again, in the big world structure of veterinary politics, we have concern with transmitting diseases associated with certain meats like beef. We are concerned especially about diseases that infect humans, like salmonella, and e coli. Dogs, just as an evolutionary development, have become resistant to many of the things that will make us sick. So there have been many studies testing fecal cultures from dogs, dogs under stress, dogs at rest, looking for parasites like giardia, and other illnesses. Zoonotic disease, as we call it, that would be transmitted from dogs to humans. KAREN BREWSTER: It seems like often you hear on the Iditarod or the Quest, you know, somebody's team being struck by some kind of intestinal disorder, and they have to take out a number of dogs out of the race. DR. MARK MAY: Yeah. And as a sled dog racer, I think many a time it's just bad luck, and it's not always that a pathological organism like a virus or a parasite has went from one dog team to the next to the next to the next. It may be that during shipping the meat heated up and spoiled, or the fat went rancid, and if you are not dealing with the finest kind of nutritional products, these dogs won't perform because they'll have a big tummy ache, they will do an intestinal flip flop that we refer to as bacterial overgrowth. A normal organism in the stomach called clostridium will go into hyper drive and overgrow, secrete a hemotoxin and an enterotoxin, and all of a sudden that dog is dehydrated and aches, so he will quit performing and have to leave. KAREN BREWSTER: My last question, why -- what is it about dog mushing that you love it so much? DR. MARK MAY: Well, as I said, my wife told me that it's the only thing I can do. So it's a combination of growing up in the country and man's natural love for dogs, and then just kind of falling into -- falling into it. And you can call it serendipity or God's grace, or luck, whatever you will, but I just happen to be a young man in Alaska at the time where sled dog racing went through an incredible rebirth and boom, and I was fortunate enough I could develop it as a profession and work with these dogs and still pay my bills. Call it what you want. BILL SCHNEIDER: Thanks. DR. MARK MAY: Yeah. Well, that was fun.