Running for lost friends

The dogs that have died running the Yukon Quest trail continue to haunt their mushers. Brent Sass lost a dog several years ago after it ate some webbing and later died of complications. The then-rookie musher returned to Slaven's dog drop between Eagle...

The dogs that have died running the Yukon Quest trail continue to haunt their mushers.

Brent Sass lost a dog several years ago after it ate some webbing and later died of complications.

The then-rookie musher returned to Slaven’s dog drop between Eagle and Circle, Alaska, to recover from the shock.

This year, running in fifth place, Sass was planning to skip Slaven’s.

His run-rest schedule had him camping on either side of the dog drop.

But when Sass got there, he couldn’t run past it.

“I wanted to stop and talk to the people there,” said Sass.

“It’s where my dog died, and it’s close to my heart,” he said.

“The people were really good to me, so I made a point of stopping.”

Yuka Honda lost her team in the 2007, and when she found them again one of the dogs had died after breathing in its own vomit. The dog’s name was Jewel.

Honda also holds onto that dog’s memory, and is carrying Jewel’s collar with her in this year’s race.

Jon Little has four ghosts following him down the trail too.

The Alaskan musher lost four dogs after one of his teams was hit by a car in October, during training.

Those four dogs were young leaders, and it’s hard not to think about what they might have become, he said.

“I’ve been thinking about it ever since,” said Little. “I try not to dwell on it.”

But in a 1,600-kilometre race, Little has a lot of time for reflection.

“Someone one said, ‘You never know when you might fall off a bar stool,’” he said.

“So you might as well enjoy it.”

Little’s race is inexplicably tied to the accident.

“I can’t explain it,” he said.

“It’s just like a little thing pushing me forward if I ever think about relaxing.

“Those dogs are part of my motivation to do well.

“I think about them all the time.” (Genesee Keevil)