Leasing a team is more worry than it’s worth

FAIRBANKS Bill Cotter leased out his dog team. And one of the dogs died on the Yukon Quest trail. On the second day of the race, Jewel died after…

FAIRBANKS

Bill Cotter leased out his dog team.

And one of the dogs died on the Yukon Quest trail.

On the second day of the race, Jewel died after Yuka Honda lost the team.

Visibly shaken, Honda was ready to scratch.

But Cotter convinced her to keep going.

“I wanted her to go on for her sake, and the dogs,” he said.

Honda, who’s been mushing for six years, started training at Cotter’s kennel three months ago.

The pair worked out a deal, and Honda leased 14 of Cotter’s dogs to run the Quest.

“It’s stressful,” said Cotter, waiting in Dawson for Honda to arrive.

“She’s overdue here and I’m worried about her and the dogs.

“That’s why I handled, to make sure I saw the team everywhere.”

The 61-year-old Quest champ and long-time Iditarod musher has only leased out teams twice in his racing career.

It has to be the right person and the right circumstances, he said.

When Cotter and Honda went for a run at the start of the season, he was impressed with her skills.

And Cotter didn’t have the money to race this year, which is one of the reasons he leased out the team.

“She’s running some of my best dogs,” he said.

In the early ‘70s, when he was teaching school in Palmer, Alaska, Cotter was invited to a sprint race.

He thought it was “pretty cool,” so he got a couple of dogs and started fooling around.

Three years later, he ran his first Iditarod.

“It went from a hobby to an avocation, to a vocation,” he said.

Now, people come from all over the world to train with Cotter.

“The secret is to breed your own dogs,” he said.

Applying college genetics to sled dogs, Cotter came up with his own unique pack of Alaskan huskies.

And the bloodline has fueled Cotter in 19 Iditarods and four Quests.

“Going out on long training runs, taking care of the dogs and racing keeps you pretty fit,” he said.

“I love the whole lifestyle. I wouldn’t trade it for anything else.”

When Cotter started out, the mushing world was very different.

High-end dog food didn’t exist, and dog care was minimal.

“People didn’t really keep their dog yards clean,” said Cotter.

“And if the dogs were wormed, it wasn’t very often.”

Today nutrition is light years from where it was, he said.

Dog food comes with vitamins and minerals that are designed to suit the needs of dogs from when they are in the womb through to old age.

Yards may be cleaner, and dog food better, but how dogs are treated still depends on the owner, said Cotter.

“Having dogs is like being a parent. There are some good parents and some bad ones.

“And the mushing community is aware of how people treat their dogs and behave, and they’re treated accordingly.”

Cotter has no tolerance for animal cruelty, nor does he have tolerance for those who think mushing is cruel.

“That’s what they’re born and bred for,” he said.

“It’s cruel to have them sitting on a couch getting fat.”

Honda ended up scratching in Dawson after arriving late with one off Cotter’s best leaders in the sled.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

From Whitehorse to the Whitecaps

Joe Hanson is starting his second season with the Vancouver Whitecaps academy

Mount Lorne Mis-Adventure Trail Race doesn’t miss a step

Blue skies and sunshine for a chilly fall race

Canada Summer Games postponed

Yukon Canada Summer Games athletes will now work on mastering skills in preperation for 2022

Site selection for battery project draws ire of nearby landowners

Yukon Energy is accepting public comments on three possible sites for the project

Taking a closer look at the cosmos

Star gazing party scheduled for Sept. 18

Yukon government releases new guidelines for COVID-19 symptoms and sending children to school

The advice sorts symptoms into three categories: red, yellow and green

Nominations closed in Watson Lake byelection

Four candidates are running for mayor

Baggage screening changes begin

Passengers are asked to arrive earlier than normal in order to accommodate the new temporary system

Yukon Government extends education review

The final report is scheduled for release in March 2021

City hall, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council this week

Lawsuit against Freedom Trails settled

The suit was dismissed with consent of all parties

Tank farm takes another step towards development

OCP designation passes second reading

Climate change strategy targets 30 per cent reduction in territory greenhouse gases by 2030

The strategy includes rebates for electric vehicles but puts off mining targets for two years

Most Read