"Iditadogs" by Gina Ruttle  (Whalegeek)

A team of Iditarod sled dogs thunders into Finger Lake, the fourth checkpoint in Alaska’s great Iditarod Dog Sled Race held every March.
I knew the first teams were soon to arrive long before dawn when I heard local sled dogs begin to howl and yip. Throwing on warm gear and a headlamp, I tromped through deep snow down toward the lake to watch the first dog team led by Lance Mackey (three time Iditarod winner and four time Yukon Quest winner) come racing into the checkpoint before the sun’s weak winter rays even began to illuminate the sky. Mackey is a personal favorite of mine, having been honored for taking the best care of his dogs in both the Iditarod and Yukon Quest races. Mackey rightly considers his dogs “the true champions.”

The demanding dogsled race courses approximately 1049 miles (get it?—Alaska, the 49th state in the Union???) across the magnificent, challenging Alaska Range, through the Interior and Yukon River basin on toward the Bering Sea’s frozen Norton Sound to the finish beneath the burled arch in windswept Nome, Alaska. Attracting many mushers and dog teams, the Iditarod hosts teams from many countries.

I was fortunate to witness close to 89 teams of Iditarod participants as they came into the Finger Lake checkpoint. Some mushers bedded down their teams after a hearty meal of warmed, high caloric food…the dogs’s needs always come first in this race. The mushers spread hay for the dogs to bed down while veterinarians checked over the dogs for dehydration, sore feet, and other potential problems. Injured or exhausted dogs were placed into a makeshift dog hospital in order to be flown to Anchorage by the Iditarod “Air Force,” a volunteer private airplane armada that ferries dogs, equipment and just about everything else to and from remote points along the race route.

At the checkpoint, some mushers took a much needed rest from the demands of the trail while others continued along the trail past the checkpoint either to bed down their dogs at a more quiet spot or gain time while other teams rested.

Sled dogs are mutts. Often called Alaskan sled dogs, these dogs are comprised of all sorts of individual breeds and mixed breeds. Most of the sled dogs weigh in at 40 pounds and are slight in build. Yet they have strong hearts and big lungs and the will to run with the sled pack for extremely long distances. Sled dogs are among the most well-conditioned athletes I have ever encountered.

Surrounded by the 1600 dogs that participated in this particular Iditarod was a dream come true for me. Next to whales, dogs are pretty high in this whale geek’s book!

FInger Lake, Alaska, USA

Canon 10D, Tamron 28-75mm lens, shutter 1/200, f/16.0, ISO 200

March 6, 2006, 4:35 pm

Views: 349 (as of November 28, 2010)

Featured in:
Paws ’n Claws
Nuts About Mutts
Cats and Dogs
Dogs In Sports
Alaska~Beyond Your Dreams
In Dogs We Trust
Alaska~ Beyond Your Dreams (Second Feature—March, 2011)

It is my sincere wish that visitors to my portfolio experience the beauty and wonder of nature. Moreover my hope is that my photographs will inspire viewers to be proactive toward the protection of wildlife and its habitat, those efforts ultimately making a far better world for all beings.

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  • Scott  d'Almeida
    Scott d'Almeidaover 5 years ago

    super capture ,perfect,

  • Thank you, Scott.

    – Gina Ruttle (Whalegeek)

  • Barbara Burkhardt
    Barbara Burkhardtover 5 years ago

    I Just LOVE the sleigh dogs, what eagerness – Priceless shot Gina. Happy New Year to you both …. its 2010 HERE!!! Whistles,hooters(blowers) and Fireworks Wahoo.!!! ****

  • Hey, Miss B! Happy New Year to you, too. I can barely believe an entire week of the New Year has passed already. Good grief…it goes so quickly the more birthday candles one has on their birthday cake. You must be toasty right now. Snow, lots of it, fell today at home. Our “sled” dog loved romping in it.

    – Gina Ruttle (Whalegeek)

  • Debbie Roelle
    Debbie Roelleover 5 years ago

    What a wonderful capture!!

  • Thank you, Debbie. These dogs are all about heart, living to run.

    – Gina Ruttle (Whalegeek)

  • lorilee
    lorileeover 5 years ago

    How FUN!!!!! A fabulous capture!!!!!

  • Thank you, Lorilee. The funny part about this image is that I plunged into deep snow off the actual trail so since I was stuck in hip deep snow I just made lemonade with those lemons, photographing the dogs as they raced down the trail from their level!

    – Gina Ruttle (Whalegeek)

  • Cathy L. Gregg
    Cathy L. Greggover 5 years ago

    LOVE the dogs eyes! How happy they all are. Great capture!

  • Thank you, Cathy. Yes, these dogs just live to run and demonstrate how much they love it in the intensity of their expressions.

    – Gina Ruttle (Whalegeek)

  • AngieM
    AngieMover 5 years ago

    awesome!!!!! happy new year!!!

  • Happy New Year, Angie. Glad you enjoyed these working dogs.

    – Gina Ruttle (Whalegeek)

  • Martin Smart
    Martin Smartover 5 years ago

    Excellent action shot Whalegeek, fantastic!

  • Martin, thank you for stopping by to comment. Wish I could get up to AK for more sled dog imagery this year. Oh well, I’ll have to settle for watching it on the tube.

    – Gina Ruttle (Whalegeek)

  • Jan Szymczuk
    Jan Szymczukover 5 years ago

    My wee small team of three Siberians are definetly jealous now! Great shot

  • Jan, THREE gorgeous Siberians! You have a ready made team. Thanks for stopping by to comment.

    – Gina Ruttle (Whalegeek)

  • Lisawv
    Lisawvover 5 years ago

    Fantastic capture.

  • Thanks so much, Lisa!

    – Gina Ruttle (Whalegeek)

  • TomBaumker
    TomBaumkerover 5 years ago

    Great action shot. You must have had a ball up there. Thanks for sharing this great event……Tom

  • Tom, thank you. Attending the Iditarod race was indeed loads of fun. I loved every minute of it.

    – Gina Ruttle (Whalegeek)

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