From Kyle Hopkins in Nome --
Musher: Colleen Robertia, Kasilof
It’s a children’s book waiting to happen. The Iditarod musher turns to the littlest sled dog to steer her through the tempest and arrive in Nome.
“As I was going through the challenges in this year’s race, like that big windstorm that people had heard about, that little female I have in lead did it,” Robertia, 35, said under the burled arch. “She went through that windstorm better than I could have. “
Here’s Robertia describing her mousy leader, Penny, in her own words:
What’s so impressive is that she’s so little and I don’t think most kennels would give her the chance to be on a dog team really, she’s tiny.
I’m sure today she only weighs about 25 pounds. It’s been a long, cold couple of days. She’ll probably be up to 30 by next weekend though.
I knew if she was going to run as a sled dog she would need to be a leader. Sometimes it’s nice to have really lightweight leaders. Sometimes you could see certain conditions where you’d want a big powerful leader. But a lot of times you just want someone light that doesn’t even break the surface of the snow and could find the trail.
I have to say, I think she held her weight pretty well, for what she just went through. Because it wasn’t just a 1,000 miles. Which in itself is significant and a significant calorie burn. We had some hellacious wind. Wind that could blow her over and then some extreme cold. And the cold is really tough on these little guys.
I told her she doesn’t ever have to do (an Iditarod) again, and she was fine with that, coming over this last run here.
When she comes in the house, she immediately just goes and sits on the couch. Sometimes she’ll go stalk the cat. But she knows she’s not allowed to mess with it. She’s just like, curious more. But she stays pretty quiet.
Once she gets hooked up in the team, I would even call her pretty tenacious. She really shows who’s boss out there. If she doesn’t like what’s going on with another dog, she kind of tells them to knock it off.
My Boston Terrier weighs almost as much as she does. … I really think she could pass for a Whippet or something if you took her to the Lower 48. Entered her in a greyhound race or something.
POSTSCRIPT: I just talked with Robertia again, and am eager to meet yet another of her leaders. Wolf, it seems, is a lead dog that was hit by a vehicle years ago and broke a hind leg. He wasn't supposed to be able to race again, Robertia said.
Instead, he led Robertia's 21st place team for about half of the Iditarod.