Mushers Mitch Seavey and his son Dallas wrote the book—two books actually—on beating, depriving, and neglecting dogs all the way to an Iditarod championship.
The Seavey clan is infamous for treating dogs like garbage. Just recently, four-time Iditarod champion Dallas was implicated in a dog-doping scandal, and a subsequent whistleblower report apparently revealed dying puppies and injured, sick dogs at his kennel in Willow, Alaska.
So it’s no surprise that Mitch’s Lead, Follow or Get Out of the Way! and Dallas’s Born to Mush are full of anecdotes and tips that discuss the abuse of animals in the sledding industry as though it’s no big deal. Just some of the more revolting quotes are collected below.
Whacking, Kicking, and Hitting Dogs
1. “‘Hike-up’ is my ‘quit-your-screwing-around-you-miserable-excuse-of-a-fur-covered-garbage-disposal-before-I-whack-your-worthless-hiney-so-hard-you-will-need-two-stamps-to-send-back-a-postcard’ command. … [Y]ou will have a similar command if you are ever successful in racing.”
2. “When he doesn’t respond, stop, go up to the dog, pull back on his tug line, and with a pre-selected willow stick about ½ inch in diameter and three feet long, give him a good whack on the butt as you repeat the command. You have to whack him good, too. Don’t just hit the tug line or something. If you are going to bother with this, it’s got to sting.”
3. “Some race rules or guidelines attempt to address fighting, but it’s a joke! No kicking or hitting, no foul or impolite language, or something like that. Well, it is a joke as far as breaking up a serious fight, but it’s not a joke as far as rule enforcement goes! You will get ejected for kicking or hitting a dog in a race, even in a dogfight. So what to do? Get it over with long before the race starts.”
Inhumanely Treating Dogs Like Property
4. “These dogs are hardy survivors of the harshest elements and of necessity were culled by their ancient masters to only the individuals that would perform as needed.”
5. “Remember, you are not collecting pets here. You are assembling a team of top athletes.”
6. “Tie the pups up [at] around six months of age.”
7. Regarding veterinary care: “In fact, any expense that exceeds the dollar value of the dog is suspect in my book.”
8. “Somewhere along the way, people have blurred the lines between humans and our pets. Now it seems not only humans but also house cats and pet dogs are guaranteed long life no matter what.”
9. “[T]here are some animal care professionals and veterinarians that want you to think you are a ‘pet parent’ not an animal owner. Of course, if you are a pet parent, then the animal is your ‘child’, thus no expense must be spared for the medical care of your child. Here’s where we go to the lunatic fringe.”
10. “As for me, there is no confusion between who is a family member and who is an animal. My obligations and responsibilities to those two separate groups are very, very different.”
Withholding Food From Puppies
11. “Then, being the mean so-and-so that I am, I go to feeding only once a day for pups. Ignore the bag. Ignore the vet. … You are training piranhas here. This is very important so they always, always, eat what you give them right away. … Good eaters are made, mostly, in the puppy pen.”
12. On cutting off dewclaws without any painkillers: “I use a large toenail clipper and just cut ’em off. Then you will see a little soft bone in there. It’s really just a little nub. You have to get that out of there, or else it will grow back in one form or another.”
13. “I’ve heard vets say to dewclaw them at two or three days. I think they are convinced it would hurt less at an early age or something, but I tell you, they can bleed a lot and holler quite a bit at that age. It’s better to do them at six days.”
Expressing ‘Manliness’ by Abusing Animals
14. “To my dismay, there has been a ‘sissification’ of our sport over the last few years because of outside pressure and the general ‘pansifying’ of our culture. A lot of mushers spend way too much time justifying themselves and the sport, talking about how good they are to their dogs, how happy their dogs are, etc. I’m not going to do that here.”
Instances When Dallas Seavey Slept While the Dogs Pulled the Sled Through Agonizingly Frigid Temperatures
15. “I dozed off during those final miles to Unalakleet. I shivered and snoozed as the team sped down the Unalakleet River, and my sweaty feet began to freeze.”
16. “The dogs moved down the trail toward Rosebud like a smooth train while I dozed in and out of sleep.”
17. “After hours of pushing, I dozed off. When I jolted awake, I wasn’t sure how much time had passed. The dogs were flying. My brain started to wake up and assess the situation”
When a Dog Was in Danger of Drowning Under Dallas’s Watch
18. “Just as I freed my second leg from the snowpants, a sudden panic hit me. Guinness was still in the sled—trapped! In the midst of trying to get the team out of the river, I had forgotten Guinness in the sled.”
Anecdote in Which Mitch Jokes About a Dog Who Caught on Fire
19. “After you’ve trimmed the hair you need to ‘candle’ their feet, or singe the ends of the hair that you trimmed. This makes snow even less likely to collect in the foot hair. Notice the term is ‘candle’ the feet. My boys are always looking for faster ways to do their chores. I suppose that is why they started using a propane torch to ‘candle’ dogs’ feet. That in turn explains why, upon entering the shop one winter’s day, I observed the back half of my best leader apparently going up in flames. This gives a whole new meaning to the term, ‘Put the dog out, son!’”
Whether out on the trail or training behind the scenes, dogs deserve far better than a lifetime of cruelty, suffering, and death.
Call on corporate sponsors to drop the deadly Iditarod. Already, numerous companies—including Costco, Guggenheim Partners, Maxwell House, Nestlé, Pizza Hut, Rite Aid, Safeway, State Farm, and Wells Fargo—have severed ties with the abusive race.