PUBLISHED: 1:59 PM on Wednesday, March 29, 2006
'Iditarod Glory' tells mushers' tales

It's a fact: the price of gas is not going way down any time soon.

It's more-than-likely won't go anywhere but up, as a matter of fact, and you've probably already explored alternative ways of getting to work.

So instead of using gasoline to power your ride, how about using high-protein dog chow, mixed with a little canned meat?

You could, if your ride was powered by a dozen eager, excited Alaskan huskies. Read about them and their mushers in "Iditarod Glory," essay by Brian Patrick O'Donoghue, photography by Jeff Schultz.

Although Native Alaskans and early gold miners used dogsleds to travel during the worst of Alaska's winters and they were dependent on dogpower for supplies and mail, O'Donoghue says that the Iditarod race didn't start until the mid-1960s. At that time, snowmachines were becoming more prevalent but couldn't always go where dogsleds could go. Joe Redington, Sr. wanted to counter that snowmachine trend. He knew that dogsled races had been held in Alaska before, but he dreamed of a race bigger than any ever held. The first - named the Iditarod Trail Seppala Memorial Race - had a purse of just $25,000.

The sleek sleds of today's Iditarod have some decidedly un-sleek ancestors. In 1973, Nome musher Howard Farleystarted his race with a 13-foot freight sled. Today's sleds are shorter and made of light-weight plastic, color-coded for easy repairs.

A musher once opened a race with 36 dogs on his team. Teams now are made of no more than 16 dogs.

And oh, those dogs! You see it on their faces: they love to run. They have to run. Wearing protective booties Velcro-strapped to their paws and logo-laden dog coats, they look downright happy to be pulling the sled. O'Donoghue says that American huskies (some of the dogs have Siberian husky in their bloodlines) are bred to run and pull.

It's what they do best, and many of the pictures in this book clearly show the dogs' eagerness to get to work.

There's an old saying that, unless you're the lead dog, the scenery never changes. That's not true in this book. In addition to the explanations and captions provided by author Brian Patrick O'Donoghue, photographer Jeff Schultz offers dozens of incredibly beautiful photos of the Alaskan wilderness and the scenery in which the mushers and their teams pass by. While "Iditarod Glory" is a large-sized book, it's not very thick and it won't take you a long time to read it. The photography, however, is going to make you want to page through it again and again.

Dog lovers are going to treasure the pictures of the dogs and the love they have for their owners (and vice versa). There are even some photos of fans and the townspeople who volunteer their time year after year to make the Iditarod race run smoothly.

If you're addicted to the Iditarod or if you've ever looked at your canine buddy with an eye toward mushing, look for "Iditarod Glory." You'll find that it's a doggone fascinating book.