Mar 8, 2010, 10:45 AM EDT
If you’re following the Iditarod, and I’m sure you are, then you know that Newton Marshall is currently in 23rd place as the event enters its third day. That’s significant because Marshall is the musher for the Jamaican dogsled team, which sounds totally made up by I assure you it’s real. Inspired by the Jamaican bobsled team and, it’s my guess, lots and lots of ganja, Mr. Marshall gathered up several mutts from dog shelters on his native island and formed them into a crack dogsled team. He and the pooches have now not only inspired their tiny island, but also singer Jimmy Buffet, who is helping to fund the effort. But as always, the ever-fussy specter of PETA looms.
Video following the jump.
Marshall, 27, was a tour guide in Jamaica when one of his clients saw a dog sled on wheels during a trip to Canada in 2005, and got the idea to train some dogs to pull it with Marshall as the musher. Marshall initially trained with mutts from the Jamaica Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, but now runs with leased sled dogs from three-time Iditarod champion Lance Mackey’s kennel (due to local laws, dogs that leave Jamaica cannot come back into the country).
Last winter, Marshall became the first Jamaican to finish the 1,000-mile Yukon Quest, coming in 13th out of a field of 29. This has made him somewhat of a hero in Jamaica.
“I thought from the beginning it was just very cool what he was doing,” Buffett said. “I thought it was so far out there, but it made people smile when they heard about it.”
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is not impressed, however; noting that six dogs died during last year’s Iditarod. From the PETA Files:
The Iditarod is a grueling 1,150 miles. That’s roughly the same as the distance between New York City and St. Petersburg, Florida — and the fastest teams are forced to cover all that ground in less than two weeks. Dogs often run more than 100 miles a day — the equivalent of four marathons back to back — with little rest. (The official race rules require that dogs only be given a total of 40 hours’ rest during the entire race, which can add up to less than 3 or 4 hours a day.)
We’re not talking about a jog through Central Park, here. Dogs in the Iditarod have to battle blizzards, sub-zero temperatures, and falls through treacherous ice into frigid water. Their feet become bruised, bloodied, cut by ice and rocks, and just plain worn out because of the vast distances they cover. Many dogs pull muscles, tendons, and ligaments, rupture discs, incur stress fractures, and become sick with bloody diarrhea, dehydration, intestinal viruses, or the aforementioned bleeding stomach ulcers. Dogs have been strangled by tow lines, trampled by moose, and hit by snowmobiles and sleds. Two of the six dogs who died in last year’s race are believed to have frozen to death.
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