Dog handlers and borders don’t mix

FAIRBANKS  Myla Turner doesn’t know it yet, but she was born with mushing blood. Only four weeks old, she flew to Fairbanks, Alaska,…

FAIRBANKS 

Myla Turner doesn’t know it yet, but she was born with mushing blood.

Only four weeks old, she flew to Fairbanks, Alaska, yesterday to watch her father Saul Turner start his first Yukon Quest, Saturday.

Wearing a tiny, yellow-knit cap with musher flaps over her ears, Myla was ready for the weather and sleeping peacefully.

But her mother Fabienne Brulhart was not at ease.

Saul’s handler Thomas Arnold was turned back at the Alaska border Wednesday.

A Swiss citizen, he had forgotten a necessary green customs’ form.

“Usually the guys at the border are pretty relaxed,” said Brulhart. “But there is a new woman there who is a problem.”

The same woman stopped Brulhart when she and Saul went to a sled dog symposium in Fairbanks in the fall.

“She almost didn’t let me across because I was pregnant,” she said shaking her head.

Arnold is still waiting in Beaver Creek, where a driver is meeting him with the form.

“I always threw my green forms out,” Brulhart said laughing.

“Thomas gave his to a friend, and it is lucky his friend still had it.”

But even with the form, Arnold may not get into Alaska.

“Once he was turned away from the border the first time, they might look at that and not let him in at all,” said Brulhart.

Arnold heard about Frank Turner’s kennel through a friend and flew from Switzerland to volunteer for a few months starting in September.

He was supposed to leave in December.

“He was a natural with the dogs and on the sled,” said Brulhart.

“The first time he was on the sled, Saul gave him 12 dogs.”

Saul asked Arnold to handle for him; however, Arnold has a girlfriend in Switzerland and wanted to get home.

But when Saul had trouble finding a good handler, Arnold changed his flight and agreed to stay.

“That is why it is so bad he is just stuck there (in Beaver Creek),” said Brulhart.

“If he can’t make it to Fairbanks that would be the worst.”

Saul and Arnold spent some time training in Dawson on plowed roads, where it is hard to stop big teams, she said.

“Arnold is a big guy and it is easier for him to slow down the teams, compared with Saul who is so light.

“So, Saul was joking he was going to send Thomas to the start line — Thomas was great for Saul.”

“The border woman was extremely rude and even insulting to Thomas,” said UK travel writer Polly Evans, who is traveling with Turner’s dog truck crew.

But if he provided the necessary papers, they assured us he would be allowed entry, she said.

“He’ll be here tomorrow morning,” added Saul.

“But it is disappointing for him and me, we’ve been working together the whole way through and it is weird not to have him here.

“He deserves to be here.”

Saul has sled work that needs to be done, and Arnold, who is a carpenter, was going to help with that.

It’ll still get done, said Saul.

“But it’s disappointing.”

The Quest is a handler-oriented event, said Canada’s Quest manager Stephen Reynolds.

And this year a number of mushers dropped out of the race after losing their handlers.

Rookie musher Alberta Karen Ramstead’s handler crushed his leg, forcing Ramstead to withdraw from the Quest.

 Yukoner Catherine Pinard’s handler quit just a few weeks ago. Pinard also decided not to run this year’s race.