The 2004 Iditarod race begins at 10:30 a.m. Alaska time on March 6.
Unlike last year when warm weather forced the trail committee to change the race course, this winter has been pretty typical for the north country with plenty of snow and cold until the last few weeks. According to race officials, the temperature got into the 40s in the southern part of the state in February but dropped back down below freezing within a few days.
The ceremonial start of the race is in Anchorage; mushers and teams travel to Wasilla or Willow the first day and hit the trail in earnest on March 7. Eighty seven mushers and teams will pit themselves and their dogs against whatever the Alaska winter has to offer. This year's competitors include veteran Ramy Brooks, four-time champion Martin Buser, perennial favorite DeeDee Jonrowe, three-time champion Jeff King, and five-time champion Rick Swenson. Ted English is the oldest musher in the race at 65; Cali King and Tyrel Seavey, both offspring of veteran mushers, are the youngest at age 18.
What draws these mushers to the race? Jonrowe put it in a nutshell: "The Iditarod has become to me more than a sporting competition. It is an annual celebration of Alaskan's bond with our dogs and our land. Each year I am blessed with the chance to compete with my dogs in God's most beautiful arena, sharing the experience with my extended family of Iditarod volunteers, fans, and fellow competitors. I thank God for this opportunity." (http://www.iditarod.com/03mushbios.html)
For information about race history and past races, see our Iditarod story (http://www.canismajor.com/dog/iditarod.html) and Ann Morgan's article "My View: Dogs in Iditarod are treated well." (http://www.naiaonline.org/body/articles/archives/Idit_view1.htm)
For information on mushers, dogs, the race committee, and race progress, check out "Cabela's Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race Coverage" at http://www.cabelasiditarod.com/index.html and www.dogsled.com.
When people think 'dog show,' they think 'Westminster Kennel Club.' This annual February event is the nation's most well-known and most prestigious dog show. Only champions are eligible to enter and entries are limited to 2500 dogs.
The show draws entries in most of AKCs 160 breeds and varieties. The breeds are divided into seven groups (sporting, hound, working, terrier, non-sporting, toy, and herding); the dogs judged the best of each breed compete in their groups, and the seven group winners compete for Best in Show.
This year, Josh the Newfoundland beat all others to gain that coveted title.
Victory at Westminster can lead unscrupulous breeders to produce puppies for profit and can result in purchases that end in disaster. The Newfoundland is not a breed for everyone. The puppies grow to 80 or 90 pounds in a few short months, and the adult dogs shed profusely and leave slobber on clothes, furniture, and walls. Prospective buyers should visit dog shows, check the Newfoundland Club of America (link to Newf club) for breed information and the names of responsible breeders, and should never, ever buy a puppy from a breeder who does not test both sire and dam for hip dysplasia and heart problems, allow puppy buyers to visit with adult dogs, and answer questions about the breed and his breeding program.
For more about the Newfoundland breed, see "The Newfoundland: An adaptable, gentle giant" at http://www.canismajor.com/dog/newf.html, "Spirit is a water rescue dog!", "Zealot designs a draft test"at http://www.canismajor.com/dog/drafting.html; and "Newfoundlands can go home: The great Newfoundland Dog Trek of 1997" at http://www.canismajor.com/dog/newftrek.html
For more about the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, visit http://www.westminsterkennelclub.org/
March brings signs of spring and turns a dog owner's thoughts to heartworm testing and prevention.
Heartworm is a deadly parasite that can kill a dog if not diagnosed and treated in the early stages. Fortunately, research veterinarians have developed diagnostic blood tests and preventive medicines that owners can use to protect their dogs. In some areas with mild winters, veterinarians recommend year-round prevention programs. Owners can skip preventive does in areas where temperatures dip below freezing and don't exceed the mid-50s for the winter months, but dogs should be tested for the presence of the parasite before doses are resumed in early spring.
For the scoop on heartworm disease, blood tests, and prevention, see "Heartworm disease: An ounce of prevention beats a pound of cure" at http://www.canismajor.com/dog/hartworm.html
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