Senior, who’s so good he got a new name

a dog on a leash looks to the side
Hunter Keefe’s dog Senior prepares for the Iditarod with prerace medical checks in Wasilla on Feb. 25, 2023. (Ben Matheson/Alaska Public Media)

Rookie musher Hunter Keefe’s lead dog Senior is named after Iditarod founder Joe Redington Sr. But the 7-year-old dog wasn’t born with the name, he had to earn it. 

Keefe recalls that Senior — then named Ruger — so impressed musher Michi Konno that he renamed him after the Iditarod founder. 

“He came back from a training run one day and said, ‘I changed his name. He’s too good. His name is Senior now, after Joe,’” said Keefe. 

For that kennel, it’s a big deal. Keefe is running dogs for Raymie Redington, the son of Joe Redington Sr. 

“So it’s really special to get to run a dog named after the founder of the race,” said Keefe. “And he lives up to his name. He’s my commander, he runs the team and gets everything out of everyone.”

Keefe has run with Senior in lead for every single race mile he’s run with the kennel. Senior’s leadership up front is a calming presence, something that may come with his years of Iditarod experience: Senior has made at least four trips to Nome.  

“He’s not like, really crazy out of the chute. He’s not the loudest dog at the start,” said Keefe. “But he’s always ready to go when I need him to go. He’s calm at the checkpoints, which is nice.”

Senior is part of our “Dog of the Day” series. Each day during the Iditarod, we’ll feature a new dog making the 1,000-mile dash to Nome. Earlier, we met DustyMooseBoomer, JoAnna and Mach 10.

Ben Matheson is covering the 2023 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race for Alaska Public Media. Reach him at

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