Second dog dies in Yukon Quest

Lesh takes lead as top mushers leave Circle City checkpoint

Posted: Wednesday, February 21, 2001

ANCHORAGE -- A second dog in the 1,000-mile Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race collapsed and died along the same stretch of trail where hours earlier another dog died, a race official confirmed Tuesday.

Carrie Farr of Nenana arrived Monday at the Eagle checkpoint carrying the Alaskan husky in her sled. She arrived at the checkpoint just a few hours after musher Dave Sawatzky of Healy arrived with a dead dog in his sled bag. Both dogs died on the stretch of trail between Dawson and Eagle.

"None of us are ever happy about it, including the mushers that are usually crushed by it," said Layne St. John, executive director for Yukon Quest International Ltd., representing the Alaska side of the race.

The annual race started Feb. 11 in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory. One dog died during last year's race.

With the race more than half over, there is a new leader in the race. Andrew Lesh of Fairbanks, who was the fifth musher into the checkpoint, left Circle City at 8:10 p.m. Tuesday night with nine dogs in harness.

Tim Osmar of Ninilchik, who was the first musher to arrive at Circle City, left next at 8:48 p.m. Sawatzky left Circle at 9:10 p.m. and William Kleedehn of Carcross, Yukon Territory, left five minutes later. Osmar, Sawatzky and Kleedehn arrived within 22 minutes of each other between 5:08 and 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, more than two hours ahead of Joran Freeman and Lesh. Freeman was the next musher to leave Circle City, but he didn't hit the trail until 2:35 a.m. this morning, more than two hours ahead of two-time champion John Schandelmeier of Paxson.

St. John said the race relies on the judgment of 11 veterinarians at 10 checkpoints along the trail to assess dogs. Each dog is checked over before being allowed to continue.

"They obviously felt this dog was capable of going on," St. John said.

Veterinarians in Eagle disqualified Hugh Neff of Fairbanks on Monday after deciding his team was not fit to continue. Neff was the race's first disqualification.

Quest head veterinarian Margy Terhar told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner that there was no indication that the death of Farr's dog could have been anticipated.

The dog had been treated for what appeared to be mild case of trachio bronchitis during the 36-hour layover in Dawson City.

Several veterinarians were on hand at the checkpoint, St. John said.

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