ANCHORAGE — Alaska State Troopers searched Monday for a 34-year-old Iditarod musher missing for nearly a week, a disappearance that alarmed friends who say she wouldn’t have left without her favorite dog or finding a caretaker for the rest of the pack.
Melanie Gould was last seen May 31, when she was spotted buying gas in Talkeetna, troopers said.
Trisha Costello, owner of the Talkeetna Roadhouse where Gould was a part-time housekeeper, said she didn’t show up to work that day or the next at her full-time job at a bakery. Later Tuesday, a friend went to her cabin overlooking the mountains, where she had no running water or electricity, and found her dozen dogs there, including her favorite, Jane. Her truck was gone.
“For Jane not to have gone with her seems like a huge alarm for most people,” said Costello, who alerted authorities on Wednesday.
“I understand that she has taken some time-outs before but nothing like this,” she added.
Gould’s truck was found Saturday a quarter-mile off the Denali Highway about 18 miles from Cantwell, just south of Denali National Park and Preserve. Former boyfriend Jerome Longo said the truck was found about 100 miles from Gould’s home in Talkeetna.
Trooper spokeswoman Megan Peters declined to reveal the truck’s exact location, citing Gould’s privacy rights.
“She is an adult,” Peters said. “You have that right to just get up and leave.”
Costello said Gould was a reliable employee.
“It just seems out of the ordinary that she would leave without really making sure her dogs were taken care of and also leaving two jobs for folks that were counting on her to be there,” Costello said.
Gould’s friends have organized into search teams, Longo said, and local pilots were using their own planes and helicopters to try and find her. Costello also used her large database of roadhouse contacts to send out alerts across the country.
Two friends have set up a Facebook page, “Have you seen Melanie Gould?” The page shows a photo of the blond-haired woman smiling.
Several people who responded said that it takes a tough person with a lot of outdoors savvy to finish the Iditarod. Gould ran the Iditarod from 2000-2007; her best finish was in 2006 when she finished 18th.
Longo, who was with Gould for nine years, said there was “no way” she would go on a camping trip to be alone and leave her dogs unattended.
“I know Mel more than any other person on the planet,” Longo said. “This is not a good sign.”