Craig Medred

The only given in life is that we will die.

There is no way around it, though the tragic death of actress Natasha Richardson seems to have fueled the do-gooder passions of those who somehow believe otherwise.

Richardson fell on a ski slope in Canada last week. The fall caused a blood vessel to burst in her brain. She did not know it. Her life might have been saved by speedy medical intervention when she later complained of a headache, but that didn't happen and she died.

Now, those who think we live forever are engaged in what some newspapers headline as a "debate over ski helmets." And the Canadians are talking about making helmets mandatory on slopes in some or all provinces...

Craig Medred

An 8-year-old dog in the team of Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race musher Rick Larson died on Friday, bringing to five the number of dogs dead so far in this year's race.

Not since 1997 has the Iditarod witnessed so many deaths. All along the trail, veterinarians who worked checkpoints and examined the dogs on a regular basis are scratching their heads trying to figure out what they might have done to prevent it...

Craig Medred

His face scarred from frostbite, Skagway's Hugh Neff on Thursday crossed the Nome finish line of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Thursday to claim the 15th position.

A one-time front runner whose cheeks were seared by wind and cold along the Bering Sea coast, Neff declared the 2009 Iditarod "definitely the most brutal'' sled dog race in which he'd ever been involved. It was a telling statement from the veteran of the 1,000-mile Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race from Whitehorse, Yukon, Canada, to Fairbanks.

Temperatures along the Quest course regularly drop to 50- or 60-degrees-below, but Neff said the windchill caused by 30 to 40 mph winds and 30- to 40-below temperatures during this year's Iditarod was far worse...

Craig Medred

NOME -- At the end, the storms that had raked the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race for days finally died and the sun shone brightly on Lance Mackey as 15 dogs pulled him down Front Street on Wednesday to a historic victory.

Only twice before have mushers put together three wins in a row in the 1,000-mile race from Anchorage to Nome, and those mushers -- the late Susan Butcher from Fairbanks and Doug Swingley from Lincoln, Mont. -- are now legends in the sport.

Never before has the Iditarod known a three-time winner who also has four victories in the 1,000-mile Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race...

Craig Medred,Kevin Klott,Mike Campbell

UNALAKLEET -- With the temperature near 45 degrees below and two dogs already dead from the cold, 55-year-old Lou Packer huddled all alone beside a meager fire in one of the most remote areas left in North America and wondered if he would be next.

Already he had spent one night zipped in the bag on his dog sled wrapped in a sleeping bag listening to the winds howl across an exposed ridge on one of the rolling hills in the Innoko River country. On waking that morning, he knew he had to find better shelter for himself and his dogs or all would perish.

So Packer went to the front of his team to try to lead them through the storm to safety. It was a staggeringly difficult task...

Kevin Klott,Craig Medred

Update: Lance Mackey left Koyuk just before 9 p.m. Monday on his way to Nome. Sebastian Schnuelle arrived just before 6 p.m. and stayed in the village, as did John Baker who made it in at about 9:30 p.m. Behind them five mushers remained on the wind-blown trail across Norton Bay from Shaktoolik.

High winds and bitter cold were brutalizing the leaders of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Monday night as Lance Mackey continued an assault on his third straight victory.

Though Mackey and his team were in control of the 1,000-mile race from Anchorage to Nome, the driver didn't appear to be having much fun...

Craig Medred

The dogs of Iraq are dying.

As the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race moves toward its end in Nome with a well-meaning few fretting, as they always do, over whether dogs born to run really want to run 1,000 miles, the dogs of Iraq are dying by the thousands.

We are not talking here about the occasional death that happens to canine athletes in the Iditarod.

We are talking about something closer to canine genocide.

"Municipal workers are hunting them down, slaughtering some 10,000 in Baghdad just since December," the New York Times reported Sunday. "Most of the dogs are killed with rotten raw meat laced with strychnine, a poison used in pesticides and against rodents...

Craig Medred

Two dogs were reported dead Monday evening after a musher in the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race was rescued with the rest of his team along a desolate stretch of trail through the Innoko River country in the Alaska Interior.

Meanwhile, a rescue was under way to help two other teams caught between the checkpoints of Iditarod, a ghost town, and the tiny village of Shageluk. Shageluk resident Arnold Hamilton, a race trail breaker, said snowmachines had been sent out from the village and had located rookie mushers Kim Darst from New Jersey and Blake Matray from Two Rivers.

"They're going to spend the night and come over in the morning," he said. "We're glad the mushers are OK."...

Craig Medred,Mike Campbell

Never faltering, never wavering, the powerhouse dog team of Lance Mackey today continued its assault on a third straight victory in the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.

Noon found Mackey's dogs resting in the quiet Bering Sea village of Koyuk, partaking of the magic formula for success on the way to the finish line in Nome:

Stay one checkpoint ahead of the competition all along the coast and the race is yours.

Mackey is now so far ahead of the competition that he can -- if he chooses -- wait for the arrival of a chase team in every checkpoint along the way to a mandatory, 8-hour stop at White Mountain. If he does that, leaving only when other teams arrive, he can maximize the rest his dogs get, though there isn't even a hint they need it...

Craig Medred

UNALAKLEET -- With his pursuers still back in the subzero cold brutalizing the Yukon River basin, Lance Mackey and his 15 dogs came over the Kaltag Portage Sunday to be greeted by the zero-degree warmth of the midafternoon sun and the always welcoming residents of the village where the Iditarod Trail meets the Bering Sea coast.

Though Mackey has won the last two runnings of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, he observed that "I've never been here first. I've always been coming in here 45 minutes behind Jeff (King).''...

Kevin Klott,Craig Medred