‘A strange thing’: Iditarod dog found 3 months after disappearing from race checkpoint – Reuters

He was spotted, but otherwise, Leon, an Iditarod sled dog that disappeared from an Alaska checkpoint three months ago and was found recently, was fine.

“I’m sure he was naked when, you know, when he was caught. But it looks great,” said Iditarod race director and race steward Mark Nordman.

“It’s an amazing thing. I mean, it just shows you what the Alaskan husky can do and survive. »

The nearly 1,000 -mile Iditarod race begins March 6 north of Anchorage. The route passed the mushers along Alaska’s unforgiving wilderness, including two mountains, the frozen Yukon River and the frozen Bering Sea along the state’s west coast. Brent Sass won the race on March 15 when he crossed below Nome’s famous arcuate finish line.

Such an epic race could be a big enough adventure for most unsettled dogs, but obviously not Leon. He was at a race checkpoint in Ruby, Alaska, just under 800 miles from the start of the race, when he was able to remove his collar and skedaddle.

Its owner, French musher Sébastien Dos Santos Borges, has already followed Iditarod’s path with the rest of his team. Individual dogs are usually left by managers at checkpoints for further rest or medical attention.

Nordman blamed Leon’s escape on “human error”.

“I don’t think the collar is enough,” Nordman said.

A musher descends the Yukon River between Ruby and Galena, Alaska during the 2020 Iditarod Trail sled dog race. (Loren Holmes/Anchorage Daily News/Associated Press)

Where Leon came from is a mystery. But Ruby’s people actually “went up,” Nordman said, and started looking for the dog when the news came out that he was missing. A helicopter intervened at one point.

“There were a lot of emotions to begin with. It was hard for people to understand how it could happen,” Nordman recalls.

“It goes on and on. And we’ve heard, you know, maybe it’s the dog, maybe it’s a wolf tracks-back and forth. »

Winter turned to spring, the snows melted and the rivers opened up – and Leon was still lost in the wilderness.

Nordman says, however, that he has not lost hope. He thought the dog was probably the first to walk the race track, picking up the dog’s leftover food on the way.

Then, in late May, Nordman learned that a farmer near McGrath, Alaska, about 120 miles south of Ruby, would often see a dog near his hut. News of Leon’s initial disappearance spread throughout the area and many people were watching him, including McGrath.

The farmer and another local musher left food for the dog – Leon – and were finally able to capture him.

Nordman was “delighted” to hear that Leon was safe.

“I don’t know if you’d call it a miracle or not, but it shows how people work together and how tough these sled dogs are,” Nordman said.

Leon meets Dos Santos Borges again in Willow, Alaska, and the two are about to return to France.

Nordman said it was a fantastic partnership. He described Léon as “repeatedly, very happy to be back with Sebastian”.

“Everyone says, if only Leon could speak because I’m sure he’s good at speaking!” »

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