Monday, March 31, 2008

Balto, an animal posting

Sleepless when jet-lagged on business travel, I frequently find myself in the middle of the night desperate to find something other than an infomercial on the TV and reluctant to spend my own good money on a movie I can see a year later at no marginal cost.

So this morning I wound up hearing Peter Coyote's voice (one of the best for making a documentary sound important) on History, talking about Alaska.

This was very informative. In Canada we used to have a lot of coverage of the Iditarod sled dog race, largely because a woman, Susan Butcher, had sled dog teams that regularly did well in the competition. But I did not realize the amazing story of the role that trail played in Alaskan history. Relay sled dog teams delivered serum to Nome, Alaska, during a diphtheria epidemic in 1925, and what a relay it was!

While numerous sled dogs played a key role in this amazing effort, one dog, Balto, was featured in this documentary, largely because he was made lead dog despite his musher's uncertainty about his skills, and then prevailed magnificently through extremely arduous conditions, including staying on the trail through long whiteout conditions, and refusing to run the sled into a river.

It is a great story, told in more detail here, and featuring all the teams involved in the relay.

I found the story very moving, as I always do seeing the devotion of dogs to their human pack leaders. That devotion is why I never chose myself to keep a dog, though my choice in cats produced one who ultimately wound up as committed. Life has its ironies.



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