Hundreds of sled dogs dashed across 1,000-miles of remote Alaska for this year’s Iditarod.
They faced fierce wind, bone-rattling moguls and snowless ground.
Meet 12 of the Iditarod dogs who made the trek happen.
Viva, the sled dog queen
Rookie Gerhardt Thiart has a very specific story for choosing Viva for his Iditarod team. He said the team got lost on lake ice. He remembers the look she gave him before she found their way out.
“She got that 1,000-mile look and, in her eyes, I could see she was telling me, ‘Shut up. I got this,’” he said.
Stealie, the unexpected leader who never looked back
Stealie is 4 years old and rookie musher Eric Kelly’s main leader. She’s named after Grateful Dead album art, he said.
He described her as an affectionate dog when not in harness. She loves hugs and cuddling.
But when she’s in harness, he said, she’s straight business and “there’s no playing around.”
Tempest, who barks at the sparkles in the snow
Tempest is a little more chatty than most dogs. She’s Jessie Holmes’s lead dog, and she barks at just about anything, he said, “sparkles in the snow, pretty trees, little bit of wind.”
Holmes said if teams are in front of him, they can’t stand it. Once his dog team hits the coast at Unalakleet, he said, Tempest will not shut up.
And while he tries to rotate other dogs into the lead-dog job so they can get practice, it makes Tempest very sad.
“It just breaks her heart,” he said. “She loves being up here so much.”
He said she’s his best friend.
Zeke, the rescue dog
Zeke is one of two dogs in rookie musher Kailyn Davis’s team that she adopted from the Fairbanks animal shelter. Davis first spotted Zeke six years ago. Then, he had just tufts of fur and scabs. Davis said running with a dog team helped save him.
“So we just kept that up and kept going on more, and more and more runs. And he started growing more hair back,” she said.
It made him less anxious. He seemed less itchy. Now, at age 7, he’s on his second race to Nome.
Nala, the peppy cheerleader who’s a little afraid of bubble gum
What Nala lacks in leadership, she more than makes up for in personality, said Matt Paveglio.
“She’s a peppy, cheerleader, sorority girl type of girl,” he said. “She’s not always the most heady, but she just drives.”
And if you have gum? Please do not blow any bubbles near her. That’s scary.
Chevelle, who loves to race
Chevelle is eight years old and she loves to bark, said musher Paige Drobny.
“If the team slows down too much, then she starts barking to get them to go faster,” she said. “If we’re going too slow on a hill or if she sees a team ahead, she loves to race, and she’s like, ‘Hey, I see you!’ and she starts barking like, ‘Hey, let’s catch them! Let’s catch them! Let’s catch them!’ And so she adds a lot of energy to the team.”
Butcher, who needs her space
Anja Radano said she feels like she has a lot in common with six-year-old Butcher, one of her lead dogs.
“A lot of dogs here, they love to be hugged and cuddled and snuggled. And she likes it to some extent, but then she wants her space,” said Radano. “And I’m the same way.”
But it’s more than that.
Radano said she feels a really strong connection with Butcher.
“There’s a lot of times where it’s just weird, like, I look at her and I know she knows exactly what I’m thinking,” said Radano.
Sherlock, just a big doofus
Sherlock, at 76 pounds, is the largest dog that musher Ryne Olson has ever run. He’s also one of her favorites. But he doesn’t live up to his name.
“He would not be a very good detective,” she said. “He’s not the sharpest tool in the shed.”
But he makes her laugh every day.
Steve, who’s kind of a jerk
Lisbet Norris doesn’t hesitate to say she has a favorite dog on her team of fluffy Siberian huskies. It’s Steve. Even though, she said, “he’s kind of a jerk.”
“A lot of my runs are spent going, ‘Steve! Steve!’ because he wants to pick on his neighbor,” she said.
For that reason, she often runs him as a wheel dog — closest to her sled — alone.
But, she said, he’s also really loving to her, and he has her wrapped around his paws.
Franklin, ‘the Michael Jordan of sled dogs’
Aaron Burmeister says Franklin has got it all.
He’s a cheerleader for the rest of his team. He’s a happy-go-lucky dog. He also has an effortless gait and athleticism, earning him the nickname, “The Michael Jordan of Sled Dogs,” said Burmeister.
“He wants to see everybody at their highest potential,” said Burmeister. “If somebody is backing off, he’ll start talking to him on the trail.”
Slater and Morello, who led Brent Sass to victory
Slater is loving and a good listener. While Morello is “a force to be reckoned with.”
Brent Sass summed up the two dogs in one word: “amazing.”
He’s raised the two dogs — and his entire winning team — since they were puppies.
“We’ve been working toward this goal the whole time,” he said. “And we’re here. It’s crazy.”
Read more about Slater and Morello.