Dedicated mushers not only know their dog’s personalities, but they know, and remember, most every dog’s lineage. It’s hard for me, a non-dog person, to fathom how a musher can rattle off a particular dog’s sire and dam, as well as its grand and greatgrandparents—along with the names of the owners of those dogs. Many mushers will also know the lineage of good dogs from other mushers’ kennels. It’s impressive, especially when you’re talking to long-time mushers who have raised, trained, and raced with hundreds, perhaps thousands, of dogs over the course of their careers. Recalling that information, they piece together or hypothesize why some dogs have better dispositions than others.
Kristy Berington’s dogs Bozo, Nicholas, and Little-Bit pay attention to Kristy as they rest in the evening at the Galena checkpoint during
Iditarod 2015. While all three dogs are now retired, they have a great story. Little-Bit was born deaf, so she led by feeling, or depended on her
co-leader. When the team got to a fork in the trail, she’d just guess as to which trail to take. If she felt resistance from Kristy’s brake, she would
head the other way. Meanwhile, Kristy says Nicholas was the worst sled dog she ever had. He never pulled and was just out sight-seeing when
running. She only kept him because Nicholas was named after a sponsor’s son. But once he was tried as a leader, he shined. He loved running
in lead and became one of Kristy’s best leaders. Bozo was aptly named, as he turned out to be the cheerleader of the team. He was always
ridiculously happy and would run well in any position. He was also as intelligent as he was silly; he knew when to take things seriously
WHEN A LITTER OF PUPS IS BORN, most mushers will name the progeny after a particular theme—wildflowers, for example, christening them as Fireweed, Iris, or maybe Rose. Or perhaps after band members: Ringo, George, Paul, John. Or candy bars. Just about any theme you can imagine is on the table. Why? This is typically because a musher has so many dogs, it’s easier to name them if there’s a premise from the start.