A Special Alaskan Dog

By Dan Wiesel

This week I had an incredible experience on my trip to Alaska. On our way back from Denali National Park we stopped in Wasilla, just outside of Anchorage, at the headquarters of the Iditarod. After scouring the gift shop for the usual trinkets we went to see the Iditarod huskies.  I had the joy of holding and playing with 3 huskie puppies. We also met Earl the full grown husky. What a treat.

Most of us know about the Iditarod dog race, held each year, but not all of us know what this great race commemorates. The race commemorates one of the most incredible feats by teams of dogs to save an entire village. The village of Nome, Alaska.

In 1925, the deadly disease of Diphtheria was spreading through the town. It was winter and no aircraft could fly in any serum to inoculate the population. People were coming down with the disease daily, and a full-fledged epidemic was about to wipe out the entire community. The only hope was to bring in the serum by dog sled. Multiple teams of mushers, with their dogs, pulled together through the harshest weather to save the town.

One team led by the famous musher, Leonhard Seppala and his lead dog Togo, braved a treacherous route, ran more miles in more severe weather and conditions than any of the other teams, and as a result, saved the lives of the people on Nome.

And there, at the Iditarod Headquarters in Wasilla Anchorage, was Togo. Well at least his taxidermied remains. This great dog, that did so much in the face of the harshest conditions, stood proud in his glass enclosure. Although one may say that it is a gruesome thing to stuff this proud dog, I think that in this case, as a teaching tool, it is OK. I can say that for me, to stare face to face with such a wonderful heroic creature, moved me to consider just how wonderful our pets are and how they can affect our human lives.

Togo will always be famous in Alaskan lore, but if you scour the web, one will find many cases where dogs have done incredible deeds for us mortals.

Alaska is an incredible place and I believe that everyone should visit this beautiful state at least once in their lives. And don't forget to stop by and see the huskies and of course visit with Togo, the great Alaskan hero.