A chorus of yelps and howls rose from Lander’s Main Street on Wednesday as sled dog teams posted up in the middle of town for a community meet-and-greet. The dogs, including a team led by Bondurant musher Alix Crittenden, have been racing across the state this week as part of the annual Pedigree Stage Stop Race.
“These dogs ran like 35 miles up hills for three days in a row and they have plenty of energy,” handler Jess Moore said over the din of Crittenden’s Jackson Hole Iditarod Sled Dog Tours team. “That’s what we are looking for.”
Further proof of the JHI team’s exuberance can be found in their results. The team has consistently finished near the front of the pack, including third-place finishes in two legs.
Crittenden’s pack is among 18 teams from around the world that have run stages near Jackson, Alpine, Pinedale and Kemmerer this week, through at least one snowstorm and in temperatures that have dipped into the frigid zone.
But just as the cold didn’t prevent scores of kids from venturing out to meet the dogs in Lander, it hasn’t kept the sled dog teams from racing their guts out in an attempt to nab some of the $165,000 purse.
“They are getting better and better throughout the race, which is what we want to see,” Moore said, “not burn them out on the first few days and go downhill.”
As handler, Moore helps train the dogs, feed and walk them and tend to ailments like sore paws and muscles. Dogs make good teammates, she said.
“They teach me to be really dedicated and also put me in a light mood. It’s rewarding.”