Behind the scenes at Iditarod 2011
Angie Taggart participated in her first Iditarod race in 2011.
March 2nd, 2012
12:05 PM ET

Behind the scenes at Iditarod 2011

In 2011, CNN.com went on a never-before-seen journey through Alaska during the Iditarod.  A rookie Iditarod racer, 36-year-old teacher Angie Taggart, agreed to strap Go-Pro cameras to her sled and forehead and record her two weeks on the trail.

Rookie cries at Iditarod start

After training herself and her dogs for years, Angie had a jittery start, filled with anxiety and tears for the 1,150 miles that lay ahead of her.

Rookie crashes on Iditarod trail

Angie had to quickly get get her bearings, because she soon faced the biggest challenge of the race, the infamous Dalzell Gorge, where the trail drops hundreds of feet in only two miles.

Dogs slip on icy Iditarod trail

The weather was always a concern for Angie, so when she and her dogs faced thick sheets of ice from one side of the trail to the other, she was unsure if she could get them across.

Iditarod rookie takes wrong turn

Nearing the finish, Angie and her dogs got bad directions and ended up going the wrong way.

Taggart is not racing in this year’s Iditarod, but she’s spent the past year raising and training her dogs to race on Jan Steve’s team.  Taggart will be helping out on the trail, at checkpoints Nikolai and Nome. She said that nine of her 12 dogs will be in the race this year. And next year? "Who knows," she told CNN. "Maybe next year I will mush under that arch once again." You can see more videos from the 2012 race on CNN.com/Video

 


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Filed under: Alaska • Dogs • Sports
soundoff (45 Responses)
  1. Greek American

    Zzzzzzzzzzzzzz

    March 2, 2012 at 1:33 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Portland tony

    The Iditarod race is a participation event, not so much of a spectator sport.

    March 2, 2012 at 2:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Anchorage, Ak

      Very true, spectators at beginning and end for the most part, everything inbetween a whole lot of nothing.

      March 4, 2012 at 1:19 am | Report abuse |
  3. BOMBO ©

    This is an elitist, huskocentric event. They should be fair and open it to other dogs, like the pikachus, or whatever those little things are called.

    March 2, 2012 at 2:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • banasy©

      Charmanders.

      March 2, 2012 at 2:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mary

      My Son was soooo into Pokémon
      Miss you hon. 🙁

      March 2, 2012 at 11:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • MP ΘY

      Mary, did you lose your don? I know some who did. Sorry for you loss. Mine lovesd Pokemon too. He's 10.

      March 3, 2012 at 3:03 am | Report abuse |
    • EM

      I'd like to see a Chihuahua race.

      March 4, 2012 at 10:18 am | Report abuse |
  4. banasy©

    Now *this* is the thread to post on the treatment of animals, but it will probably end up on the D. Suess thread.

    March 2, 2012 at 2:17 pm | Report abuse |
  5. banasy©

    "Huskocentric"
    I love how your mind works.

    March 2, 2012 at 3:22 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Claire Vinet

    Beyond the obvious cruelty and exploitation of animals, what I really hate about the Iditarod is the insidiousness of it – the way it has worked so hard to get it tentacles into every facet of society. It courts media attention and sponsors, and it also works with schools and grants monetary rewards to pro Iditarod teachers, so that children are indoctrinated with the supposed virtues of this supposed sport.There is nothing incidental or coincidental about it. It is a very concerted effort on the part of the Iditarod.

    Don't get me wrong, I don't like the Westminster Dog Show either as they encourage the breeding and sale of dogs and discourage adopting homeless dogs who will otherwise perish in shelters, but they, at least, aren't so devious as to work their way into the schools of our nation and brainwash our children into believing in its importance and righteousness.

    The Iditarod is sick on so many levels.

    March 2, 2012 at 8:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • clearfog

      What'd you have for dinner? Wearin' leather shoes?

      March 3, 2012 at 11:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Eli

      You have no idea what you're talking about. Not a tiny clue. Have you ever lived with sled dogs? Ever even spent ten minutes with one? Well, I have. I also used to be Jeff King's next door neighbor and I worked at the Denali National Park kennel.

      It's literally impossible to stop these dogs from running. If they aren't taken on long runs frequently, they'll chew through a wall to get outside and run. I know of three dogs that did just that - one was found because he ran so fast, he caught up with another dog team and was running alongside them. He did not want to be left out, apparently.

      If you're not their owner (or handler) and you try to stop them, they'll keep pulling and pulling.

      It's no more abusive to mush sled dogs than it is to allow a beaver to build a dam, or bees to build hives. It's what they do; they are hard working dogs and wow - so happy! Sweet, loving, funny, playful and very much loved by their owners and handlers.

      Oh, and FWIW, I'm a vegan and an active member of PETA for over ten years. I don't eat, wear or buy any animal products.

      March 4, 2012 at 1:01 am | Report abuse |
    • MashaSobaka

      I am not at all an advocate for the exploitation of animals, but I do not believe that sled dogs are exploited. These animals love to run. They have to be restrained, actually...they'll run themselves to death otherwise. The fact that dogs die is indeed morally indefensible but that does not mean that there is something inherent to this sport that makes it cruel. It's a dangerous way of life for both the dogs and the people. I wish that more efforts were taken to protect the animals, and THAT is what I advocate for.

      March 4, 2012 at 1:47 am | Report abuse |
    • Trail dog

      You probably support the Human Society of the United States too, right. Well the Human Society put to death over
      80% of the animals they take in a year. That is over 50,000 animals, and you fuss about the Iditarod.
      have you seen the pre race vet checks each dog gets? Have you seen the vet checks during the race each dog gets. Did you know that for this year race that the total dog food and care products the mushers had sent out to various checkpoints was over 113,400 lbs? This weighs more than a excavator with tracks. This out weighs the Space Shuttle external fuel tank when empty.
      I have been raised from an early age of 5 to care, raise and train sled dogs to be the best, and healthiest athlete they can be. These dogs can outperform what you and I think they can do.
      Before you try to ban the race, you need to be in Alaska and see the race firsthand.

      March 4, 2012 at 4:19 am | Report abuse |
    • EM

      Poor you.

      March 4, 2012 at 10:19 am | Report abuse |
  7. Lucy Shelton

    This race is clearly exploitation of the sled dogs, and should have ended long ago. As I, and many individuals and organizations see it, the Iditarod is a once-a-year race for a group of egoist mushers to win money and bragging rights. The whole scheme of year-round training of the dogs and tethering each dog to his/her own small enclosure is no way to treat loyal companions. Instead, these magnificent dogs are treated like objects,–little machines that are only used for the sole purpose of mushers winning a brutal race.

    I know the dogs love to run, most likely anxious to get off their confining chains, but the fact is that they’re pushed beyond their limits which is cruel and serves no responsible purpose. Six dogs died in 2009, bringing the total known to 142. The dog deaths averaged nearly 4 a year. Although no dogs died in last year’s Iditarod, more than half did not finish (usually the case each year). They are among the best-conditioned dogs in the world due to their training year-round, yet they are dropped due to injury, illness, exhaustion, or just not wanting to continue. One musher scratched after one of her dogs collapsed while running.

    The distance is too long, and the conditions and rough terrain too grueling for the dogs. There are laws in at least 38 states against over-driving and over-working animals, which is exactly what the Iditarod does. The Alaska cruelty statue that would apply to the sled dogs was changed in 2008 to exempt them.

    When the dogs are not racing or training they are each kept on a short chain, attached to their small enclosure. This is considered inhumane and illegal in many communities, and I find it disgusting.

    Animal welfare organizations including The Animal Legal Defense Fund, Friends of Animals, In Defense of Animals, Sled Dog Action Coalition, and Sled Dog Watchdog want this race to end.

    March 3, 2012 at 2:54 am | Report abuse |
  8. Margery

    Iditarod dogs are beaten into submission. Jane Stevens, a former Iditarod dog handler, describes a dog beating in her letter published by the Whitehorse Star (Feb. 23, 2011). She wrote: "I witnessed the extremely violent beating of an Iditarod racing dog by one of the racing industry's most high-profile top 10 mushers. Be assured the beating was clearly not within an 'acceptable range' of 'discipline'. Indeed, the scene left me appalled, sick and shocked. After viewing an individual sled dog repeatedly booted with full force, the male person doing the beating jumping back and forth like a pendulum with his full body weight to gain full momentum and impact. He then alternated his beating technique with full-ranging, hard and fast, closed-fist punches like a piston to the dog as it was held by its harness splayed onto the ground. He then staggeringly lifted the dog by the harness with two arms above waist height, then slammed the dog into the ground with full force, again repeatedly, all of this repeatedly."

    During the 2007 race, eyewitnesses reported that musher Ramy Brooks kicked, punched and beat his dogs with a ski pole and a chain. Jon Saraceno wrote in his column in USA Today, "He [Colonel Tom Classen] confirmed dog beatings and far worse. Like starving dogs to maintain their most advantageous racing weight. Skinning them to make mittens. Or dragging them to their death."

    Jim Welch says in his book Speed Mushing Manual, "Nagging a dog team is cruel and ineffective...A training device such as a whip is not cruel at all but is effective." He also said, "It is a common training device in use among dog mushers..." Former Iditarod dog handler Mike Cranford wrote in Alaska's Bush Blade Newspaper: "Dogs are clubbed with baseball bats and if they don't pull are dragged to death in harnesses....."

    FOR MORE INFORMATION: Sled Dog Action Coalition

    March 3, 2012 at 9:06 am | Report abuse |
    • Trail dog

      Margery doesn't have a leg to stand on. Let's hear exactly how your dog died inside of your Miami home. ALSO you have never been to Alaska yourself to see the Iditarod in person, so what makes you an expert. You need to be here in person and see what all is involved before you spout lies to all of your cult followers.
      Folks don't listen to this Margery person. Make up your own mind by coming to Alaska and see first hand everything that goes on before and during the race.

      March 4, 2012 at 3:53 am | Report abuse |
  9. Sue Marston

    I guess if those first eight comments are representative of the general public (and they probably are), this is why some of the rest of us have to work harder to fight for justice and compassion. "Thank you!" to Claire, Lucy, and Margery. They all expressed very eloquently my view on this atrocity that is being hyped as a 'sport.'

    March 3, 2012 at 10:06 am | Report abuse |
    • Anchorage, Ak

      These dogs are extremely well trained just like any human sport. People have a right to race but dogs don't ?

      March 4, 2012 at 1:40 am | Report abuse |
    • Trail dog

      Sue, are you just another blind sheep following these haters and sending carbon copy emails to everyone? Have you ever been to Alaska to see what goes on before and during the race? I have and i'm a lifelong Alaskan/ I know first hand all of the care that goes into caring for these dogs.
      Come to Alaska for yourself and stop following these cult members.

      March 4, 2012 at 3:56 am | Report abuse |
  10. Superman

    @lucyshelton, its nice seeing you expose yourself to the public, and ripping others for yheir passions it goes to show that you dont have much in life to keep you busy , a what you can call a passion! These dogs have it in there breed to do this its based on tradition, not animal abuse so hey dear, snap the hell out of it!

    March 3, 2012 at 6:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Olaf Big

      Whose tradition? The dogs surely don't care about your tradition. You want to push yourself to the limit and beyond, go do Iron Man. You won't be torturing anybody but yourself. Why make animals suffer?

      March 4, 2012 at 1:05 am | Report abuse |
    • Anchorage, Ak

      Olaf Big:
      The dogs love their owners, they don't have the right to race like people do, OMG no clue.

      March 4, 2012 at 2:03 am | Report abuse |
  11. jim

    'Superman'

    I can understand how you derived your username.

    No animal is bred for the 'tradition' of being beaten into submission.

    Get a grip, let alone some compassion!!

    I hope you don't have any 'pets'.

    March 3, 2012 at 11:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • Anchorage, Ak

      A couple of isolated instances in the Iditarod over all the years, the owners paid the price. I'ts still a great sport to watch. You get a grip.

      March 4, 2012 at 2:20 am | Report abuse |
    • Trail dog

      Tell me how many healthy animals are put to death by the hands of the Human Society of the United States every year. I'll tell you, over 80% of the animals they take in. Now tell me who is being cruel to animals.
      Come to Alaska and see how many pre race vet checks each dog gets, see how many vet checks each dog gets at every checkpoint, and yes they do get seen by at least two vets per checkpoint. How many times a year does your animals get a vet check, and heart check?

      March 4, 2012 at 4:02 am | Report abuse |
  12. fearlessdude

    Teamsters used to beat horses pulling carts loaded with coal or other goods, but that was over 100 years ago. All animal "acts" should be banned, be it the Iditarod or the San Diego Killer whale show or any and all Zoo exhibit of Polar Bears, Mountain Lions and the like. Hunting should be banished. Who wants to see Dick Cheney shoot at clipped winged birds?

    March 3, 2012 at 11:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • cxavierc21

      I do!

      March 4, 2012 at 10:35 am | Report abuse |
  13. newt

    Idiotarod

    March 4, 2012 at 2:16 am | Report abuse |
  14. Anchorage, Ak

    Go Iditarod ! Can't wait to see the winner.

    March 4, 2012 at 2:26 am | Report abuse |
  15. Bonita Geary

    These dogs are bred to run, just like sheep dogs are bred to herd sheep. There is absolutely no possible reason for the mushers to beat their dogs, and if they do, they are thrown out of the race and banned forever. The tradition that the Iditarod is following is the serum run in the early 20th century, to get much-needed medicine to Nome. BTW, in Alaska, sled dogs are a means of transportation, just like horses are on ranches in the west. Go to Alaska, spend a few years (winters, too), and then give your opinion of anything Alaskan. It is a very unique place, and requires unique solutions to unique problems. How do you get to a village or town that has no road or trail to it? How do you get electricity to a remote village? How do you get clean water and sewer service to a remote village? I'd love to hear your opinions of those kinds of problems, or you can spend a week in a village (brought in by small plane and stuck there until the plane returns) where you have to haul your water by hand, and pee and poop in a bucket and haul that to a lagoon to dispose of when it is full. Trust me, you won't be complaining about dog handling in the Iditarod!

    March 4, 2012 at 7:28 am | Report abuse |
    • Lucy Shelton

      In the historic serum run the dogs ran in relays and no dog ran over 100 miles in only one day. The dogs in the Iditarod run over 100 miles for 9 to 14 days. The serum run was necessary, while there is absolutely no justification for such a long, grueling race as the Iditarod. There's a distinct difference.

      March 4, 2012 at 1:51 pm | Report abuse |
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