Kickass and the Iditarod
Kickass, the doorstop dog, says the keeper recalls that it was about this time in December, 40 or so years ago—the year Madison got a 17-inch surprise snowfall, when he was offered the opportunity to fill in for a friend of Tim Andrews and Dave Tallard who had to cancel on a trip to Alaska to cavort with Iditarod sled dogs. It turned out to be a most memorable experience, and the keeper came away from it with profound respect for the single-minded objectives of sled dogs, and with the memory of a thawing stew of sled dog soup accidentally falling on him as he slept on the floor near the stove of a tiny cabin 25 miles back in the bush.
Impressed with Iditarod dog owner Ron’s emphatic warning to never let go of the sled or the dogs would run off with it, the keeper remembers being pulled head-first for a hundred yards or so through four feet of powder snow when his feet slipped off the runners during a fumbling start and the keeper managed a desperate one-handed grab for a piece of the sled.
Once finally righted when the dogs were slowed by an uphill climb, the keeper finally managed to get to his feet and reposition properly on the sled runners; and as the snow melted out of his eyes and ears, he found himself in the rare and exhilarating circumstance of speeding over wilderness muskeg behind a team of dogs that were obviously intending to pull him to the North Pole.
Some experiences stick with you, the keeper contends, and this was one of them. He remembers with great clarity the sensation of not really knowing where he was, except that he was alone on the sprawling Alaska tundra with dogs that seemed to know “what” they were doing, even if they had no idea “why.”
Under the heading of what-good-is-a-memorable-experience-if-you-can’t-make-something-of-it, the keeper suggests that he and his ilk often find themselves aware of a situation’s “what” but in a fog about its “why.” Kickass would observe that they obviously need to be pulled head-first through the snow until they can get back up on their feet, maybe starting around Jan. 20 when there will be a change in the team’s lead dog.