Yukon News

Dog dies on Yukon Quest trail

Tom Patrick Friday February 10, 2017

Whitney McLaren/Yukon Quest


Musher Yuka Honda tends to her dogs at the Braeburn checkstop Feb. 4. One of Honda’s dogs died just before reaching Dawson City on Feb. 9.

The Yukon Quest has experienced the death of a dog for its second year in a row, race organizers announced in a news release early Feb. 9.

Firefly, a six-year-old male belonging to Yukon’s Yuka Honda, expired shortly before the team arrived in Dawson City on Feb. 9, just before 4 a.m.

A subsequent release stated that race veterinarian Cristina Hansen reports a preliminary necropsy showed the canine had an enlarged heart and had ingested multiple “booties” — the footwear worn by the dogs.

Honda’s was the 17th out of 18 remaining teams to reach Dawson City, the race’s halfway point. Twenty-one teams started the 1,600-kilometre race from Whitehorse to Fairbanks on Feb. 4 with three scratching in Pelly Crossing.

At press time Honda was still serving her 36-hour mandatory layover (required for all teams) in Dawson. Honda had already received a two-hour penalty, to be added to her time in Dawson, for requiring outside help to repair her sled, race officials announced on Feb. 6.

Honda, 44, who resides near Carcross, placed ninth last year in her second Quest.

A dog named Polar, on the team of France’s Sebastien Dos Santos Borges, died during last year’s Quest. A preliminary necropsy indicated Polar died from an “acute gastric hemorrhage.” The previous canine death took place in 2014 with a dog belonging to veteran Dave Dalton of Healy, Alaska. A gastrointestinal hemorrhage (bleeding in the intestines) was determined to be the cause of death. The Quest also experienced a canine death in 2013 and two in 2011.

The worst Quest for dog deaths in recent history was in 2007 when three perished.

Brent Sass holds lead to Eagle

A four-hour lead out of Dawson has helped keep Eureka, Alaska’s Brent Sass ahead of the pack.

Sass, 37, who won the race in 2015, was the first to reach the Eagle checkpoint in Alaska at 6 a.m. on Feb. 10, just over a day after leaving Dawson.

At press time, Sass was the only one to reach Eagle. Defending champ Hugh Neff of Tok, Alaska, was closing fast on Sass, who appears to have stopped for rest for a couple hours.

“We always leave a loose schedule for the second half,” Sass told the News after reaching Dawson. “We’ll make some adjustments, probably give the dogs more rest along the way and hopefully have as smooth a second half as I did in the first half.”

Matt Hall and Allen Moore, both of Two Rivers, Alaska, left Dawson minutes apart on Feb. 9 and remain that way at press time, with Hall a few miles ahead. Moore — a two-time champ — and Hall should reach Eagle early this afternoon.

Ed Hopkins of 10 Mile, Yukon, remains the top Canadian in the field in fifth. Hopkins, who was fifth out of Dawson and snuck into fourth briefly after Clinton Creek, placed fifth last year behind the same four mushers he’s chasing this year.

By press time, 10 teams had set off from Dawson City including Dawson’s Brian Wilmshurst, who left his hometown at 5 a.m. this morning in the 10th place spot.

Contact Tom Patrick at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)


Dave wrote:
4:41pm Thursday February 16, 2017

Mr. Putnam, you’re coming across as a slightly disturbed control freak. Are you the self imposed moral authority and judge of everyone else, the opinions they share and what identifier they use?  I would like to believe that current serving members of the RCMP aren’t so judgmental and don’t have the my way or the highway attitude you display in your repeated postings to news. I used to enjoy your Corporal Cop Talk column, I think that was you wasn’t it? But after reading a few of your comments posted over the last few months its kind of shaking my faith in the mindset of someone who used to be in a position of authority in the RCMP. If you aren’t the same Ken Putnam who was an RCMP officer I apologize but I imagine there is only one.

Mike Grieco wrote:
12:18am Thursday February 16, 2017

The mushing industry is built on the exploitation of dogs….

JimmyBorisenko wrote:
11:56pm Wednesday February 15, 2017

BMelansen: “Dog mushing is part of the heritage of the north.” Well slavery was part of the heritage of the South. The use of animals in the Barnum & Bailey circus, including intelligent, self aware elephants, reduced to ridiculous costumes and demeaning acts, was part of their (our) heritage, but is coming to an end because of the growing and expressed awareness by so many, that to inflict such disrespect and suffering on animals for our entertainment should come to an end. Our societal ethic is not stagnant, but evolves. The positive comments expressed here, from within a culture immersed in a long “heritage” of dog mushing, is an encouraging testament to that. SUMA, if you are referring to the lives of the animals of our factory farms, then yes, you are right (if you doubt, then please research any of the clandestinely videoed workings of our factory farms produced by Mercy for Animals, as long as you can bear them). But I fail to see how that justifies subjecting canines to a race so grueling that they suffer and even die, if that is what you are saying. Ken, I know you are a good man. Please, try and imagine the life of a dog, spent on the end of a short chain, its world reduced to the radius of that chain, with an inherent need of social interaction and in full view of its kin and compatriots but never able to fulfill that need of socialization, rarely, if ever, receiving the love and attention of its “master”, getting only the barest necessity of food and water, and then, because it cannot run as fast or drops sooner from exhaustion than the other pitiful creatures of its kennel, is taken out and killed, euphemistically referred to as culling. That happens. I have witnessed it all, and it is time we called it for what it is, “heritage” or not. I have dogs, and I could not dream of ever subjecting them to any of the above, They are my family, and I love them. With the exception of a leash when i come to town, never will they be chained.

Ken Putnam wrote:
5:56pm Monday February 13, 2017

The only comment here worth reading is that of Brian Melanson.  Agree or disagree with him he at least has the courage to use his own name.  The rest of you, well, pathetic babble.  I see Brent Sass scratched from the race because he had a few dogs not doing well.  He likely could have won the race but opted to scratch.  Kind of blow up the theory that these mushers do it only for the money.

ps…I fully agree with Melanson.

wow wrote:
3:23pm Monday February 13, 2017

This race is crazy for sure, and yes dog mushing is part of our history.  I find it funny that some people value the life of a DOG more than they do a human life. 

The day this dog died there was WAY more important things going on in the world.  Wars and people starving and your gonna focus on one dog a year…..

How about put some of that caring towards more important battles that are being fought at this time. 
How about we just race from one side of the Yukon to the other.  At least shorten the race.  All in all it is cruel to the dogs for sure but there is also a lot more going on in the free world.

Brian Melanson wrote:
6:43am Monday February 13, 2017

Dog mushing is part of the heritage of the north. We also have a sled dog on our territory flag. You people who falsely accuse mushers of staving animals of food and water are out to lunch. You are not even close to telling the truth. 
  Ms.Honda lost a member of her family, not just some dog.
  you anti-folks have no heart or self respect. You falsely accuse people you dont know about actions you have never witnessed. You embarrass yourself with your stupidity and false accusations.
  It is true, ignorance is bliss eh, Dogmother? Cam? Life-long Yukon er and Glossing over? You are the rudest most ignorant bags I have had the unfortunate pain of reading first thing in the morning. And your gutless
Brian Melanson

speakforthedogs wrote:
3:26pm Sunday February 12, 2017

Okay people, get up with the times. This race is for humans only and not enjoyment for the dogs who live by the dozens in back yards. They may look happy at the start with all the human cheering and hoopla, but look at them several hours later cold, tired and looking miserable. They did not ask for this. Mushing may be a Yukon experience, and tourism may rely on it, but stick to a cap on the amount of dogs allowed per home and stick to much shorter trails opposed to 1000 miles and only the human benefits financially. End the pain for dogs who cannot speak for themselves!!

Observer wrote:
1:59pm Sunday February 12, 2017

It is a shame that those who participate in these races (which involve the using, or exploitation, of other animals,) are not able to see that it isn’t about any love for the animal.  I keep seeing rationalizations and justifications used to protect what are really their own selfish wants.

If you can sees thing beyond your own ego involvement,  you would know that making your dogs happy does not involve using them, to the dogs’ detriment, and your own perceived enrichment.

Life-long Yukoner wrote:
11:41am Sunday February 12, 2017

And so the Yukon Quest long distance dog race is on and once again another dog has died. This is the second time for this musher who lost another dog in 2007 when a dog named Jewel choked to death on its traces. I was raised around sled dogs. I know the difference between good clean fun and abuse. Long distance dog racing is not sport and it is not humane.

I recently viewed a video on the Yukon Quest’s own official Facebook page that was posted on February 9th 2017 with the caption “YQ2017 - Torsten Kohnert leaves Dawson City at 9:03pm to make his way to Eagle.” showing a team about to take off from Dawson City check point after a mandatory layover rest stop. Tell me, do the dogs look rested, ready to go, enthusiastic? No. They look tired, dispirited and uninterested like they would much rather curl up and go to sleep - and they’re not even half way through the race. Some of the comments reflect the obvious. I can’t believe this race is still happening and that people are so blinded by all the Rah-rah-sis-boom-bah. Perhaps one day people will finally see the light and ban this insanity. In the meantime our descendants can only look back and see it as a stain on the history of the Yukon. https://www.facebook.com/YukonQuest/videos/10155045717969490/

SUMA wrote:
10:15am Sunday February 12, 2017

Hi everyones, All the comments above are good points and make sense but if we think outside of the box and start to think about animals rights.  Well we have to give some thoughts for the poor pigs or beef that are raise to be killed and serve in our plates at a high cost.  What about aquaculture that grows salmon or hoisters and they are sold at a high price. I would be interested to see the rate of kills for the joy of human.  I have to agree that 1600 km for a race is too much, we should rethink the race`s distance or the conduct of it in order to prioritize the dogs conditions.

Dave wrote:
10:05am Sunday February 12, 2017

Meanwhile in all likelihood on that same day many other dogs and animals of all types died throughout the Yukon. However since this death was associated with a dog race and gets media coverage everyone is quick to jump all over it and pass judgement.

Dogmother wrote:
8:00pm Saturday February 11, 2017

No dog should die!  What does it take to end this treacherous, unnecessary race?  It is exploitative and cruel to the dogs who do most of the work.  Many more dogs don’t make it to the finish line, due to injury, illness, exhaustion, or not wanting to go on.  Some mushers finish with about half the dogs from the 14 they started with.
Mushers have up to, and more than 100 dogs in their kennels, who are chained their entire lives, each to their own small enclosures, in their urine and feces, (unable to play or interact with their kennel mates) unless they are training. This is considered inhumane and illegal in some communities. They are treated as slaves at the ready to perform.  All this cruelty for a once-a-year race for 20-some mushers’ bragging rights and money.
If folks truly care about the dogs, they should boycott this race,—not support it, and try to end it, as well as the Iditarod.

plywood wrote:
7:41pm Saturday February 11, 2017

Math time!

There were 21 teams this year: 14 dogs each means 294 dogs ran across that starting line.

Losing 1 dog out of that 294 accounts to 0.34%

So the death rate for dogs this year——and a ten-year average, given 10 dogs have died in the last 10 years——-is…..drumroll please…. one third of one percent mortality rate.

Probably riskier letting your dog cross the street statistically speaking.

cam wrote:
7:01pm Saturday February 11, 2017

It is a cruel sport no matter how you look at it.  It is human vanity - conquering the wild (human ego) and having the poor animals pull the sleigh that wins them the kudos (humans not dogs)
And the hundreds of the dogs in the dog yards of mushers, on five feet chains on minimum food a barely any water who never get to run and race.  How cruel is that.  When they are costing too much and look as if they will never be real racers they are culled - do you know what that word means?  They are killed!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Life-long Yukoner wrote:
1:37pm Saturday February 11, 2017

I agree 100% with the above comment by ‘Glossing over’. Inhumane and needs to be banned. Even one death is one too many! Every year I cringe with all the hoopla over this race. The dogs are not athletes but unwilling participants.  They can drop in their traces from heat stroke and I’ve seen a dog come in with blood down its chest from sucking in sub-zero air for miles on end. It’s all about money and fame. The shorter races on the river used to be great fun. And nobody got hurt. When are people going to see it for what it really is!

Glossing over wrote:
4:45pm Friday February 10, 2017

10 deaths in 10 years…so on average one a year. “But the dogs LOVE to run” right?! How about we hook up 14 humans to a sled and have them run that far just to witness the outcome of victory. OUTRAGEOUS and juvenile suggestion, yes. But a point that we clearly value human life over those of animals at any expense (particularly when monetary gain and bragging rights are factored in), and no amount of glossing over this reality (the dogs ‘perished’, ‘expired’, ‘they love to run’, ‘accidents happen’, ‘dogs eat things’ trying to make the deaths appear common less than they actually DO occur, etc.) changes that. I have lived in the Yukon for over 30 years and try as I might I still cannot accept that this is a reasonable race.

Add a comment

Commenting is no longer available for this story. Commenting expires 21 days after publishing.