It was a day of presentations and learning not to be matched. The day started off with a presentation from Martha Dobson, Target’s Teacher on the Trail 2011. She recounted her journey before, during and after her experience on the Iditarod Trail. It was clear that this was a journey whose experience would affect a lifetime, not only for Martha, but everyone she touches. There were exquisite moments of revelation and pride, not only for the steadfastness of mushers, but the strength of all those with whom she came in contact including volunteers, residents of the villages, but also teachers in these remote schools.
Then we listened to Pam Flowers tell about her trip across the arctic and met Ellie of Ellie’s Long Walk. Some of the distances Pam covered in her trip across the arctic were almost 400 miles between communities. She also pointed out to us that the arctic is a desert and that hydration for her dogs was of extreme importance. Pam named all of her female dogs on that team after suffragettes, a very cool fact for me.
Pam was followed by Katie Mangelsdorf who is writing a book about the life of Joe Redington Sr. called Champion of Alaskan Huskies. It is written at about the 6th grade level so it is very accessible for our students with 145 pictures to keep those reluctant readers of ours engaged. Katie’s book is full of inspiring quotations for our students like – “Whether you think you can or you think you can’t – you are right.” by Henry Ford or the clear “You learn by your mistakes,” by Joe Redington. Katie’s book sets straight, for the record, some of the stories about the beginning of the Iditarod.
Our next presenter was Stu Nelson, head veterinarian for the Iditarod. Stu stressed the concern that all of us have for these amazing canine athletes. He pointed out that thousands of hours of study and thousands upon thousands of dollars are spent every year to ensure the health and well being of sled dogs. Roughly 50 veterinarians from around the globe travel to Alaska every year at their own expense to volunteer for the Iditarod because of the adoration they have for these dogs.
Then we were off to the Van Zyle’s studio where we ran into Dee Dee Jonrowe who is fostering a litter of puppies in their kennel. The respect for the tradition of the sled dog is apparent at every turn when you visit them and their artwork pays homage to the precious quality of life here in Alaska. I have to admit that I am in awe of their work and try at every turn to learn from the best example of creativity I have known.
Another amazing day here in Alaska and tomorrow the Musher’s Picnic!!! I can’t wait . . .