Nala, the peppy cheerleader who’s a little afraid of bubble gum

A man cradling a full-sized sled dog in his arms like a baby
Nala, at Kathleen Frederick’s Shameless Huskies Kennel in Caswell, where Matt Pavelgio trained for the Iditarod this year. (Lex Treinen/Alaska Public Media)

When asked to describe one of the dogs on his Iditarod team, musher Matt Paveglio walks straight to 2-year-old Nala. 

She’s not the best runner of the field, though she is related to some of five-time Iditarod champ Dallas Seavey’s top dogs. She’s no great leader either — usually she runs in wheel or toward the back of the team.

But what Nala lacks in leadership, she more than makes up for in personality.

“She’s a peppy, cheerleader, sorority girl type of girl,” said Paveglio. “She’s not always the most heady, but she just drives.”

[Check out more Iditarod coverage here]

She’s also just weird, he said.

Recently Nala was running at the back of the line, and Paveglio was popping some bubble gum. Nala got spooked, throwing the team off its rhythm while she looked back to find the popping noise.

Despite the fear of gum, her endurance and determination earned her a spot on the rookie musher’s team.  

Nala is part of our “Dog of the Day” Iditarod series. Previously we met Butcher, who needs her space, Sherlock, just a big doofus, Tundra, an unpredictable captain, Steve, who’s kind of a jerk, Viva, an unflappable navigator, Stealie, who loves hugs, and Zeke the rescue dog.

Correction: this story previously misstated Nala’s age and the owner of the kennel where Paveglio trains.

Lex Treinen is covering the state Legislature for Alaska Public Media. Reach him at

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