Viper, the precocious leader and voracious eater

a man and a sled dog
Mike Williams Jr. and Viper in Nikolai during the 2023 Iditarod. (Lex Treinen/Alaska Public Media)

In February at Bethel’s Bogus Creek 150 race, Akiak musher Mike Williams Jr. decided to test out a young 2-year-old named Viper in lead. 

“He’s been running in lead pretty much ever since,” said Williams.

Viper was quick to learn commands — gee for right, haw for left — and is unafraid of obstacles like open water. 

“One of the bridges in the [Dalzell] Gorge was broken and he just jumped right over the creek,” said Williams. “He didn’t stop and freak out like some young dogs do.”

The roughly 50-pound male is named after his grandfather, also named Viper, who Williams’s father ran. Williams Jr. said besides Viper’s command of lead, he’s also a voracious eater, a highly-esteemed quality in long-distance dog racing where a low appetite can mean big problems later on in the race. Another good quality of Viper: his energy, said Williams.

“He’s a hyper, high-energy dog,” he said. “After training runs he constantly runs around his pole.”

Viper 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 DustyMooseBoomerJoAnnaMach 10SeniorCovid, Blunt and Elway.

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

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