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Monday, December 20, 2010

Montana Sept. 2009 Part 6

We put the dogs away and got ready to go to the airport. On our way into Missoula Doug talked about what we would be doing when I returned. I would be teaching the dogs to sit, stay and come. I would be calling them by their names. We would be watching to see who the smarter dogs were and deciding which ones he would keep; and we would continue cart training with the dogs pulling the ATV.

He then turned his attention to my training. He noted that I was now handicapped by my shoulder injury, but I was not unique. Mark Johnson was a sprint musher with one arm; and William Kleedehn raced in the Yukon Quest with one leg. Doug told me that about 20 percent of the active dogsled drivers were my age or older. In fact, Joe Reddington Sr. ran his last Iditarod when he was 73 and, the polar explorer, Norman Vaughn, who has a mountain in Antarctica named for him, ran his last Iditarod when he was 87. I was not unique. In fact, at the rate I was going in my fitness program I might be running my first Iditarod at the same age Norman was when He ran his last race. Doug was concerned about my fitness and my handicap, but at some point the would become more concerned about his dogs than about my well being. That was understandable. If I was unique, it was because I had no experience with working animals and no athleticism. All other dogsled drivers had grown up around animals, been involved in sports or activities that required physical fitness or both. I was banged up enough and, although I admired both men for their grit, I did not want to emulate Mark Johnson or William Kleedehn or become more handicapped. Norman Vaughn and Joe Reddington Sr., well that was another matter. Two old men following their dreams and succeeding, that was something I could sink my teeth into.

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