My morning routine includes drinking an adequate dosage of coffee while perusing my Emails, favorite message boards, and the on-line version of my local paper. I had additional interest in the paper this morning because today's issue includes an editorial piece I wrote regarding apparent problems within our local animal control agency, headlined "Animal control needs help; Chronic, systemic issues limit its effectiveness". No, I did not write the headline, merely the article.
Under the heading of "real news" is an article about "Top Mushers Leaving the Quest". Apparently two top-of-their-game mushers, Lance Mackey and Ken Anderson, are planning to withdraw from the Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race, known as the toughest sled dog race on earth.
The gist of the article is that Lance is obligated to fulfill a $50,000.00 obligation to equip and train Alaskan Native and National Guardsman Harry Alexi to run this year's Iditarod, and Ken doesn't have enough high performing dogs to run both races. Both had decided to focus on the bigger money paid to those who perform well in the I'rod. Their decisions are complicated by the fact that each has ties to the Quest's board of directors. Lance is a member of that board, as is Ken Anderson's wife.
I doubt it is a coincidence that the Yukom Quest e-mailed mushers Friday saying that it can only guarantee $125,000 of the planned $200,000 purse.
I think it a shame that both mushers have decided to withdraw. Lance is the races only 4-time champion and last year Ken tailed Lance into the finish line by only 15 minutes to claim the second place prize. The pair are well matched and quite capable of providing a close and exciting race.
Lance and Ken both have very good reputations in the mushing community for an exceptionally high level of dog care. Both maintain relatively small kennels compared to most high performing long distance mushers. Both are known as honest, straight-forward and reliable men.
I certainly can't fault either of them for their decisions. Mackey is making a personal sacrifice in order to fulfil an obligation - and as Robert Service wrote, "A promise made is a debt unpaid, and the trail has its own stern code." Anderson is looking after the welfare of his team, his kennel and his family.
I do think it unfortunate that the Quest can not keep their own promise of a $200,000.00 purse and apparently can't look after the welfare of its own organization by hiring competent, capable employees to spearhead their fund-raising and business management efforts.