Alaska News

Iditablog: Oops, where's my dog Singer?

Gerry Sousa's dog Singer is named for his ability to make plenty of noise along the trail. He can even howl on command.

But when it came to prepping for the 2015 restart in Fairbanks, Singer was silent. So silent that the veteran musher's handler forgot to load him in the dog truck when he left his Talkeetna home for the Fairbanks restart.

Sousa, racing in his 13th Iditarod, had an extra dog with him, but didn't want to race without the 3-year-old that is a core member of his racing team. So what did Sousa do?

"We were able to rally," he said in Manley Tuesday.

Sousa was able to coordinate a flight from Anchorage Monday morning. Friends drove Singer from Talkeetna to a 4:20 a.m. Ravn Air flight, while other friends were able to pick up the dog in Fairbanks at 7:20 a.m. and bring him to the nearby start line where mushers started leaving at 10 a.m.

Sousa said Singer was doing great Tuesday, though he couldn't get him to sing on command.

Sousa blamed myself for forgetting the dog and admitted the whole situation was embarrassing.

"But it's all in the recovery, right?"

Burmeister recovering from nasty knee injuries

Nome musher Aaron Burmeister appears to have no problem moving around and caring for his dogs during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. That shouldn't come as a surprise to many who have followed the 15-time race finisher, though what may surprise fans is that under Burmeister's gear is a brace on his right leg that goes from thigh to calf.

This summer Burmeister, 39, had surgery to repair his knee following a nasty accident during the rough-and-tumble 2014 Iditarod. Both his ACL and MCL were torn, as was part of his meniscus, in the accident. It's still healing and sore, he said at the ceremonial start Saturday in Anchorage, but he plans to be competitive this year.

The accident happened when he caught a stump just outside the Rohn checkpoint heading into the area known as the Farewell Burn. It broke the drag on his sled and in the process "my shoulder got slapped by my boot," he said.

But he persevered through the 2014 race, literally limping to 10th place. He admitted he probably should not have continued along the trail with makeshift splints of duct tape and trail stakes. Burmeister said he felt compelled to finish given his strong dog team.

"It was probably a foolish thing to do in the long run," he said Saturday. "But it's one behind us. It's mind over matter; we're here to win Iditarod."

Burmeister's biggest limitation is he can't run alongside his team this year, but "he sure can pump."

"With a good dog team, hopefully you don't have to do much running," he said.

Suzanna Caldwell

Suzanna Caldwell is a former reporter for Alaska Dispatch News and Alaska Dispatch. She left the ADN in 2017.