Palin, perfume and the domesticity of dog racing

This fall, Martin Buser took a break from dog mushing to hit the campaign trail with Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin. "We've been friends for a long time," said Buser's wife Kathy...


This fall, Martin Buser took a break from dog mushing to hit the campaign trail with Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin.

“We’ve been friends for a long time,” said Buser’s wife Kathy Chapoton, hanging out at the Braeburn checkpoint on Saturday night.

The four-time Iditarod champion toured Virginia, Pennsylvania, Maine, Massachusetts and New Hampshire with the Alaskan governor.

“And you know, so much of what was in the media about her was lies,” said Chapoton.

“Maybe Martin will be a politician next,” said a handler at Chapoton’s table.

“No, no, no,” she said. “He loves what he’s doing.”

It’s the first year Chapoton’s been able to join her husband on the trail.

“I’ve always missed the trips,” she said.

For 23 years, Chapoton taught Kindergarten, Grade 1 and Grade 2 in Big Lake, Alaska.

“I just retired,” she said.

“And now, with our kids in college, I can travel.”

When people think of winter vacation, they think of travelling somewhere warm, like Hawaii, said Chapoton.

“But instead I go to the Far North – it’s even colder here than at home.”

Sitting around a table at the Carmacks checkpoint on Sunday afternoon, with Buser and his handlers, Chapoton was making herself at home.

Pulling Buser’s big hunting knife from a sheath on his belt, she started spreading peanut butter and homemade blueberry jam on bread.

“You can have some in Fairbanks,” she said to her husband with a grin.

Buser was looking for dental floss, to stitch up the Velcro on his hat.

It reminded him of the face warmer he’d pulled out of his bag earlier that day.

“I got one with your perfume on it,” said Buser to his wife.

When he vacuum-packs his facemasks, he always runs up to their bathroom and dabs a bit of his wife’s cologne on them.

“I only wear them when it’s terrible out, and then, it’s just so nice to have a little bit of home,” said Buser.

“Have you been listening to your music?” said Chapoton.

Before his last Iditarod, Buser gave an iPod to the local radio station and had them fill it with music.

“People were phoning in requests to put on there,” she said.

This race, Buser has yet to pull out the iPod.

“It’s a thermal parasite,” he said.

“It’s a pain getting it through all those layers.”

Pulling on his foam snow pants with the rainbow suspenders, Buser was checking his gear.

“I better get that knife back from you before I forget it,” he said to his wife.

Chapoton wanted to wash it first. “It’s all sticky,” she said.

It felt more like a scene from Buser’s kitchen than a dog race.

Chapoton started singing, Somewhere Over the Rainbow, after commenting on Buser’s colourful suspenders.

“Do you know that song?” she said.

Buser shook his head and Chapoton laughed.

“It’s a culture gap,” she said.

“It’s so great to be born in a different country,” said the Swiss musher with a wink.

“It’s all culture gaps.”

It’s weird seeing Buser everyday in a race, said Chapoton with a grin.

“It’s like he’s going off to work – have a good day at the office, honey.”

Buser left the McCabe Creek dog drop just before five this morning one minute behind three-time Quest champ Hans Gatt.

Sebastian Schnuelle was four minutes ahead of them.

Contact Genesee Keevil at