Someone gave Joe and I tickets to the Yukon Quest closing banquet, so off we went last night. I wasn’t sure what to expect…it’s a world I know very little about; it is indeed a world unto itself. There were hundreds of people there: mushers, handlers, veterinarians, volunteers of all sort. It is said that for every musher there are 42 volunteers for this 1,000 mile race that runs between Fairbanks, Alaska and Whitehorse, Yukon. These volunteers come from all over the world on their own dime, returning year after year to help out. For instance at our table there was a woman from Australia who has been coming here regularly for years just to volunteer for this event.
Just about every year there is criticism from animal rights folks that this is a cruel event for the dogs, and it is true that occasionally dogs die on the trail. But from what I have seen in my time here in Yukon, and from what I saw and heard last night, there is a deep love and respect between dog and musher. I’d wager there is far more cruelty towards the general population of dogs (just talk to people who work at animal shelters) than there is towards these canine athletes.
Check out this YouTube video of this year’s Quest.