A rookie Iditarod musher's lead dog is missing in Anchorage after escaping from a dog truck on Thursday, friends say.
Silvia Furtwangler, a German musher who lives in Norway, arrived in Anchorage after two grueling days of international travel with her dog team.
After arriving at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport, she and her 16 dogs headed to Willow, where Furtwangler planned to spend the weeks before the race practicing.
By the time the group stopped to buy groceries in Wasilla, only 15 dogs were in the truck: Whistler, a spotted black, gray and white lead dog with piercing blue eyes, was nowhere to be found.
It appeared that "the dog had pushed out one of the screens," on the truck, said Tracey Mendenhall, a friend of the musher who has been organizing a search effort.
Since then, a dog matching Whistler's description has been spotted near the Anchorage Senior Center in Fairview and along the Chester Creek Trail by at least three people.
"Everyone who saw this dog is convinced that it is the dog," Mendenhall said. "And he's acting like a mushing dog -- lying in the snow, running around very fast."
Mendenhall organized a Facebook group and has asked cross-country skiers and walkers on the trails to watch out for the dog, who is skittish but seems to be in good shape overall, she said.
"Everyone who has seen him says he looks healthy and not injured," she said.
Furtwangler finished the Yukon Quest in 2003 and has competed in races throughout Europe.
According to Iditarod rules, she could begin the race without Whistler.
But Furtwangler is very attached to the dog, and as a leader, he's an integral part of her team, Mendenhall said.
If you've seen a dog matching Whistler's description, call Mendenhall at 907-895-1961.
Reach Michelle Theriault Boots at firstname.lastname@example.org or 257-4344.
By MICHELLE THERIAULT BOOTS
Anchorage Daily News