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FAIRBANKS - Despite the fact that training is going well and his dogs look good, top Yukon Quest musher Peter Butteri of Tok is putting his team up for sale.
Six weeks before the start of the race Butteri says he no longer has much enthusiasm for mushing.
"I'd prefer to be on a beach in Mexico," Butteri told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. Butteri has run the 1,000-mile race between Whitehorse and Fairbanks nine times, finishing second last year.
Butteri and his wife, Amy Wright, have placed an ad in the classified section of the News-Miner and on Sled Dog Central's Web site, putting a 20-dog Quest team with more than 1,000 miles of training up for sale. They will only consider offers from serious mushers with the $20,000 to spend to buy the team as a whole.
If they find a good buyer, it would mean the end of mushing for Butteri, who's been at it for the past 18 years, and Wright, who's been on the back of a sled since she was 8.
"It's a really nice team, but Amy and I are kind of having a hard time getting enthusiastic about the race," Butteri said. "I think it's a sign to maybe hang it up."
If they don't find a suitable buyer, Butteri will take a chance at the Quest with a team he thinks is better than last year's second-place team. Wright was packing booties last weekend for the food drops due in Fairbanks and Whitehorse on Jan. 21.
"I think the dogs are well worth it, but it's still a big chunk of money to throw into a dog team," Butteri said. They both said they've been thinking about getting out of running dogs for the last several years.
After starting out as a handler for a sprint musher in Tok, Butteri chose to do long-distance races and ran his first Quest in 1989. He took the Red Lantern his first year, went through a few years of disappointments and mishaps, including burning his face and falling through the ice, before breaking the top five in 1994.
Wright comes from a family of dominating sprint racers. She also ran the Quest in 1998. Wright said it's the perfect time to sell the team because the dogs are in good condition with plenty of miles on them because Tok has some of the best weather conditions in the state for training dogs.
It hasn't been an easy decision for them.
"This is pretty much the biggest thing we've done since we got married, I guess," Butteri said. "Everybody we've talked to that has done this doesn't regret it. There's a few people we know that can't escape it and can't get out. They get a few more dogs every year. That's not going to be us."
They've raised most of the dogs in the team. Selling them as a team will make it easier emotionally, they said.
"It's hard to saying goodbye to them all, it would be easier getting it all done at once," Butteri said. Wright said they've received a few calls, but they've mostly been from people who are interested in buying only a few dogs, not the entire team.
Many of the dogs are veterans of the Quest, but six dogs haven't been on long-distance races before, Butteri said.
Once their dog lot is empty, Butteri and Wright intend to concentrate on school. Butteri will travel to Seattle to take a fire management course in January to supplement his seasonal job as a wildland firefighter. He said he's been having a hard time focusing on both training for the Quest and going school.
"I'm not doing a good job at both of them."
Wright hopes to get her teaching certificate and someday be an elementary teacher.
"I tried to go back to school two years ago," she said. "The Quest, it's an all-consuming thing."
They also hope to do a little bit of traveling to warmer places.
"We might not agree on which beach, but we both agree on a beach," Butteri said.