Restart was a disaster
I hope you'll have a reporter do a story on the absolute disaster of an Iditarod restart in Wasilla. Possible contacts for the story are any of the bus drivers for Laidlaw or any one of thousands of people who sat on buses in the parking lot of the starting area, sometimes up to an hour without being allowed to get off.
You see, they had this absolutely stupid idea to run buses in and out of the ONLY road to Bumpus ball fields, and at any one time there were 15 to 20 buses lined up to unload people. There were a number of logistical problems with this idea, but the worst was this: Each bus would pull up and unload and then sit there until it had riders ready to go back to their parked cars. Meanwhile, buses piled up behind.
Then, through an act of moving mushers' vehicles and miscellaneous other cars and trucks, they would allow that bus to move cautiously through a 9- to 10-foot wide path to get out. Most buses couldn't make the turns without jockeying back and forth, forcing the oncoming traffic to stop to allow their turn.
Of all the years we've gone to the restart and enjoyed this Alaska tradition, this one was by far the biggest mess I've ever seen. Even the restart in Willow, where we had to park on the highway and walk in, was a breeze compared with this. The Iditarod committee should get cases of paper towels to wipe the egg off their faces over this year's planning!
-- Barry Schimmack
Save the vegetables!
Lew Freedman's article on "Leave those dogs alone" is right on target. The only thing he didn't point out is that you cannot have a battle of wits with an unarmed opponent.
Having owned coon hounds, bird dogs and rabbit dogs, I think these people need to understand that not all dogs are bred to be lap dogs. My dogs were much happier in the woods hunting game. I've had rabbit dogs that would look at me, thoroughly disgusted, when I missed a shot. They wanted to chomp on the critter, especially if it wasn't dead.
Oh, Lord, now I've crossed over into another grove of nuts, the PETA people. Get real, get a life and stop harassing the people who enjoy doing something you disagree with.
Incidentally, I am starting an organization for people who feel as strongly as I do about eating vegetables - PETV, People for the Ethical Treatment of Vegetables. I am accepting $10,000 donations for lifetime membership. Your donation is not tax exempt, and I don't have any way to account for your money. It would be helpful if you would pay the taxes on your donation. That way I will have more for vacations.
-- Charles L. Simmons
Is tradition worth cost?
I feel I must respond to Lew Freedman's editorial regarding all animal rights activists being the enemy of Alaskans. I do not agree with any of the protests staged against the Iditarod or its mushers. However, I consider myself an animal rights supporter.
I know how well the dogs are treated, how diligently they are cared for and how well loved by their owners they are. But adopting a holier-than-thou attitude about dog mushing and Alaska in general is dangerous.
There are mushers who are less than responsible - a recent video of a musher kicking his dog illustrates that - but we cannot condemn the whole sport over the actions of the lunatic fringe. Along the same lines, saying all dog owners in the Lower 48 are apartment-dwelling dog abusers is absurd. That kind of thinking is the same kind of extremism Alaskans so abhor in animal rights folks.
Dog racing is changing as the stakes get higher and the technology more advanced. Dogs, however, remain flesh and blood. They may love to run, but running over 1,000 miles is dangerous and it's impossible to plan for every possible contingency. Dogs die during these races.
That is the price we pay for tradition. The question must always remain: Is the tradition worthy of the cost? The answer to that cannot be swayed by misguided animal rights activists or by classicists who are unwilling to question the so-called common good.
-- Kathryn Harris
Go back to Boston, Lew
I guess I'm one of those Alaskans who Lew Freedman suggests doesn't really belong here.
I tend to think that the Iditarod is hyperbolic and at least somewhat unreasonable. Mainly, I really would like to know, why is the Iditarod considered so stereotypically Alaskan when the mushers and their athletes, the dogs, travel over 100 miles a day for 10 days straight or longer? The original Iditarod serum run to Nome was done by more than a dozen men, over the course of at least two weeks. That means that no single team of dogs raced farther than 50 or so miles and only once, not 10 or 12 days in a row.
Besides, the goal then was to save hundreds of lives. What's the goal now? Money and media glory. There is no traditional basis for the present-day Iditarod, except the tradition of bourgeois capitalism. The Fur Rondy-type races seem much more reasonable. How many dogs die during those races per day compared with the Iditarod and Quest? I don't know, I'll admit, but I'll bet you anything it's significantly fewer.
Tell you what, Lew. Why don't you go back to Boston, and I'll stay right where I was born: Alaska.
-- Jim Starr
Freedman way off base
Lew Freedman ("Leave those dogs alone," March 4) doesn't know what he's talking about. He writes that "all animal rights organizations are the enemies of all Alaskans." As a responsible paper, your willingness to publish such idiotic, uneducated and bigoted points of view is irresponsible.
As a skier, I object to dog races using trails normally used by the public. If you've been out on parts of the Westchester Trail the day after the Fur Rondy dog race, the snow is brown. To have to ski through dog feces is not only offensive but unhygienic. These mushers and their supporting organizations don't clean up this mess, and they certainly don't clean my skis. How many skiers feel the same as I do?
As a pet owner, I am greatly concerned when I see large blood stains all along the trail that have obviously come from sled dogs. The cause I cannot and do not want to guess at, but I certainly don't wish it forced upon me or any other regular or irregular users of this trail.
These animals are forced to run, bleed and defecate at speeds and for periods that are not natural. It is called a "sport." To say that "any Alaskan who sides with the animal rights activists is not a real Alaskan at all but a traitor to the common good and should move somewhere else" shows a redneck mentality with an incredible lack of understanding of any of the concerns of animal owners and animal rights organizations. I object to your paper's printing such narrow-minded viewpoints. It should be your editorial responsibility to print unbiased and informed articles by intelligent writers and not by journalism's missing links.
-- Graham Dane
Proud to be Alaskans
My wife and I (in our David Green fur parkas) went down to Fourth Avenue for the Iditarod to watch things from the starting line. What a privilege to watch.
After reading Lew Freedman's column that day ("Leave those dogs alone"), I was just waiting for someone to try to make an anti-Iditarod or anti-fur comment!
Thanks for helping make us proud to be Alaskans!
-- Tom Eisenmayer
Three cheers for Freedman
Lew Freedman's "Leave those dogs alone" column gets three big cheers for a job well done:
* He is an Alaskan who stands up for this state, its culture and its lifestyle.
* He knows the Iditarod. He understands what it is by researching its history, by interviews, observation and involvement.
* He articulates very well what 99 percent of real Alaskans think and feel about the Outside "interest" and "anti" groups regarding what they have to say about this great race.
Thanks for putting into fine wording what I have felt for so many years.
-- Judy See
Fed up with activists
As someone from Outside who is fed up with all of the animal rights activists, I had to write and commend Lew Freedman for his wonderful column. These activists have obviously never attended a race or visited a kennel, or they would realize that the dogs were born to run and an abused dog certainly will not take commands.
Instead of attacking the Iditarod, of which they know nothing, perhaps the activists should attempt to do some good in their own back yard. What about the homeless animals who are injured or killed by vehicles? What about the countless unwanted puppies and kittens that must be put to death each year because there are not enough people to adopt them? Or the shelters that are in need of support? How about organizing a spay and neuter program in their own communities?
Somehow I doubt very much that the activists have time to get involved with these worthwhile causes in which they could truly be of benefit because they are too busy Iditarod-bashing.
I am proud to be an animal lover, member of the ITC, Mush With PRIDE, and musher sponsor. I am also pleased the Daily News has responsible reporters like Lew Freedman, who has researched the facts and reports the truth. He is an incredible spokesman and a credit to those of us who support the Iditarod and sled dogs in general.
-- Gisele N. Warner
Thanks, Iditarod sponsors
Thank you to Lew Freedman for writing the most intelligent article I have read regarding animal rights activists and the Iditarod.
The fact that large corporations pull their sponsorships because of an influx of vicious and untruthful e-mails is of grave concern. I would sincerely like to know how long the barrage of e-mails lasted before the animal rights activists moved on to their next target. A couple of days? Hours? It couldn't be as long as it takes for the Iditarod or a musher to replace the lost sponsorship.
As an avid fan of the Iditarod, I am going to write and thank as many of the Iditarod and musher sponsors as I can. They need to know the truth, and they need to know I appreciate their sponsorship.
-- Alice Uehling
Albany, New York
Teachers program works
Those of you in the heart of dog mushing country have the wonderful advantage of an embrace of support for the Iditarod. The criticism from extreme animal rights groups can roll off your backs. An example is how Alaskans closed ranks around Ramy Brooks to help him keep his sponsorship.
Unfortunately, the animal rights extremists are more effective in other parts of the country, and the Lower 48 is more at risk of being influenced. The negative Iditarod article in USA Today misinforms people, and there's no adroit columnist like Lew Freeman to provide the balance he did in his column "Leave Those Dogs Alone." Sponsors withdraw, and the middle-of-the-pack musher is left scrambling.
The Iditarod Trail Committee is reaching out with its education program and the new Teacher on the Trail venture. The Iditarod, from its tiny office, is working hard to develop this program because children's views will help determine the future sponsorship and support of mushing and the Iditarod nationwide.
Something Native Alaskans and residents may take for granted captures the interest of children worldwide. It excites their lessons when worked into the curriculum.
Alaskans who support the Iditarod can welcome the Teacher on the Trail program because it helps educate the rest of the country to appreciate and support an event that many people in Alaska may take for granted. Thank you, Lew, for expressing that support so nicely.
-- Jeanne Hicks, third-grade teacher
Thanks for race coverage
I want to thank you for your terrific coverage of the Iditarod. I am a first-grade teacher in Connecticut, and the Iditarod is our biggest event of the year. The fact that you have such good articles and fabulous pictures makes the race come alive for all students. None of these students, probably, will get a chance to see the race in person, but going to your web site is the next-best thing to being there.
I will retire in June and intend to be an Iditarider in 2001. My husband was one two years ago. He says there is nothing like that experience.
Again, thank you for you efforts. We appreciate it.
-- Sandy Willoughby and her class
Aces reach into community
On Feb. 24th, a group of players from the Anchorage Aces visited Creekside Park Elementary. We invited the players to read to our students. However, this incredible group of hockey players did way more than just read. Their visit is one that none of us will soon forget. They spent the afternoon reading to our students, playing hockey with our teachers and entertaining each and every one of us. The simple fact that they visited our school isn't what impressed me so much. The fact that they did this on their only day off in over a week was part of it. But it was their generosity, spirit and enthusiasm that impressed me the most.
A sincere thank-you to Dean Larson, George Wilcox, Dallas Ferguson, Paul Williams, Marc Delorme, Rob Douglas and Clayton Read. You guys are way more than just hockey players. You are outstanding members of our community. No matter the outcome of the rest of your season, you are already winners.
-- Diane Johnson