From Kyle Hopkins in Ruby --
Sometimes, when a mommy sled dog and a daddy sled dog love each other very much ... they create a world of heartache for an Iditarod musher.
“Unfortunately, every time we stop, things go wrong very quickly,” Alberta musher Karen Ramstead said recently in Nikolai, where she reported seven of her Siberian huskies were in heat.
Ramstead separated the genders along the gangline. Females were moved to the front of the team, the males chasing behind. “We’re expecting puppies in 63 days or so,” she said.
It is springtime, after all. And as is often the case during the Iditarod, several mushers in this year’s race say they’re battling to keep the dogs focused – or at least separated – because one or more females on the team are in season.
Ramstead had to pause her race twice on Tuesday to sit out what she called "ties" along the trail. "I wouldn’t want to explain it too graphically," she said.
Other mushers have experienced similar problems. Rainy Pass got R-rated for top teams run by Hugh Neff and Lance Mackey, armchair musher Sebastian Schnuelle reported Monday morning.
“Iditarpuppies!” Schnuelle wrote. “Some good genetics there. Talk about born and raised on the trail."
A few days later, in Takotna, Colorado musher Lachlan Clarke said he had to move one of his all-star runners, General Thelma, out of the lead dog position because she’s in season.
For other teams, too many females in season can disrupt fragile race schedules as much as bumpy trails or bad weather. And not just for the person driving the dog team.
Parking next to a racer with dogs in heat can distract your own team, said Knik musher Ray Redington Jr., who was in 8th place Friday afternoon.
“If I were to have it, I would send (the dog) home," Redington said. “They have pills for that, for us to give them, that prevents them from coming into heat."
POSTCRIPT: Mackey, the first musher to win four straight Iditarods, says he's out of the running for this year's championship. His decision to keep a dog in heat on the roster may have cost him the race, he said.