Stealie, the unexpected leader who never looked back

A white man with glasses and a beard holds a black and orangish dog
Iditarod Rookie Eric Kelly of Knik holds his dog Stealie, named after a Grateful Dead album. (Lex Treinen/Alaska Public Media)

Rookie Eric Kelly was racing the Willow 300 last year when his team leader got injured. That left an opening for Stealie, who’s named after the Grateful Dead album art. 

“I had to put her out front and she just stepped right in, and she hasn’t turned back,” said Kelly. 

Now, 4-year-old Stealie is Kelly’s main leader. He says she’s affectionate when out of the harness, and loves hugs and cuddling. She can be playful in the dog yard, but when she’s harnessed up, she doesn’t mess around. 

“She starts to shake her adrenaline and goes forward,” he said, “There’s no playing around.”

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Lex Treinen covers culture, homelessness, politics and corrections for Alaska Public Media. Reach him at ltreinen@alaskapublic.org.