Meet 12 Iditarod dogs from Steve, who’s kind of a jerk, to Nala, the peppy cheerleader

six photos of six dogs
Six of the hundreds of 2022 Iditarod dogs.

Hundreds of sled dogs dashed across 1,000-miles of remote Alaska for this year’s Iditarod.

They faced fierce wind, bone-rattling moguls and snowless ground.

Meet 12 of the Iditarod dogs who made the trek happen. 

Viva, the sled dog queen

A close up of a black and brown dog
Iditarod rookie Gerhardt Thiart started calling his leader “Queen Viva” after she helped guide his team out of a difficult situation during an Iditarod qualifier last year. (Gerhard Thiart)

Rookie Gerhardt Thiart has a very specific story for choosing Viva for his Iditarod team. He said the team got lost on lake ice. He remembers the look she gave him before she found their way out. 

“She got that 1,000-mile look and, in her eyes, I could see she was telling me, ‘Shut up. I got this,’” he said.

Read more about Viva.

Stealie, the unexpected leader who never looked back

A white man with glasses and a beard holds a black and orangish dog
Iditarod Rookie Eric Kelly of Knik holds his dog Stealie, named after a Grateful Dead album. (Lex Treinen/Alaska Public Media)

Stealie is 4 years old and rookie musher Eric Kelly’s main leader. She’s named after the 

Grateful Dead album art, he said. 

He described her as an affectionate dog when not in harness. She loves hugs and cuddling. 

But when she’s in harness, he said, she’s straight business and “there’s no playing around.”

Read more about Stealie.

Tempest, who barks at the sparkles in the snow

A dog licks the face of a man in a jacket
Jessie Holmes gets some affection from his lead dog Tempest at the checkpoint in Nikolai on Tuesday, March 8, 2022. (Jeff Chen/Alaska Public Media)

Tempest is a little more chatty than most dogs. She’s Jessie Holmes’s lead dog, and she barks at just about anything, he said, “sparkles in the snow, pretty trees, little bit of wind.”

Holmes said if teams are in front of him, they can’t stand it. And once his dog team hits the coast at Unalakleet, Holmes said, Tempest will not shut up.

He said she’s his best friend. And while he tries to rotate leaders as a good practice, Tempest can’t stand it.

“It just breaks her heart,” he said. “She loves being up here so much.”

Read more about Tempest.

Zeke, the rescue dog

A side by side image of a scabby hairless dog lying on a couch next to a harnessed sled dog leaping in the air on a snowy trail
Zeke the sled dog was hairless and scabby from a stress reaction when musher Kailyn Davis encountered him at a Fairbanks pet shop. (Kailyn Davis)

Zeke is one of two dogs in rookie musher Kailyn Davis’s team that she adopted from the Fairbanks animal shelter. Davis first spotted Zeke six years ago. Then, he had just tufts of fur and scabs. Davis said running with a dog team helped save him. 

“ So we just kept that up and kept going on more, and more and more runs. And he started growing more hair back,” she said.

It made him less anxious. He seemed less itchy. Now, at age 7, he’s on his second race to Nome.

Read more about Zeke.

Nala, the peppy cheerleader who’s a little afraid of bubble gum

A man cradling a full-sized sled dog in his arms like a baby
Nala at Paveglio’s kennel near Caswell before the 2022 Iditarod start. (Lex Treinen/Alaska Public Media)

What Nala lacks in leadership, she more than makes up for in personality, said Matt Paveglio. 

“She’s a peppy, cheerleader, sorority girl type of girl,” he said. “She’s not always the most heady, but she just drives.” 

And if you have gum? Please do not blow any bubbles near her. That’s scary.

Read more about Nala.

Chevelle, who loves to race

A dog looks at a connect four set
Chevelle plays Connect Four four with friends the night before the 2022 Iditarod. (Squid Acres Kennel)

Chevelle is eight years old and she loves to bark, said musher Paige Drobny.

“If the team slows down too much, then she starts barking to get them to go faster,” she said. “If we’re going too slow on a hill or if she sees a team ahead, she loves to race, and she’s like, ‘Hey, I see you!’ and she starts barking like, ‘Hey, let’s catch them! Let’s catch them! Let’s catch them!’ And so she adds a lot of energy to the team.”

Read more about Chevelle.

Butcher, who needs her space

a dog in a snowy dog yard
Butcher at Anja Radano’s kennel in Talkeetna. (Jeff Chen/Alaska Public Media)

Anja Radano said she feels like she has a lot in common with six-year-old Butcher, one of her lead dogs. 

“A lot of dogs here, they love to be hugged and cuddled and snuggled. And she likes it to some extent, but then she wants her space,” said Radano. “And I’m the same way.”

But it’s more than that.

Radano said she feels a really strong connection with Butcher.

“There’s a lot of times where it’s just weird, like, I look at her and I know she knows exactly what I’m thinking,” said Radano.

Read more about Butcher.

Sherlock, just a big doofus

A black and white dog
Sherlock is the largest dog veteran Ryne Olson has run. (Ryne Olson)

Sherlock, at 76 pounds, is the largest dog that musher Ryne Olson has ever run. He’s also one of her favorites. But he doesn’t live up to his name. 

“He would not be a very good detective,” she said. “He’s not the sharpest tool in the shed.”

But he makes her laugh every day.

Read more about Sherlock.

Steve, who’s kind of a jerk

A closeup of a black-and-white husky with blue eyes and a pronounced mask
Steve in his kennel at the ceremonial start of the 2022 Iditarod. (Lex Treinen/Alaska Public Media)

Lisbet Norris doesn’t hesitate to say she has a favorite dog on her team of fluffy Siberian huskies. It’s Steve. Even though, she said, “he’s kind of a jerk.”

“A lot of my runs are spent going, ‘Steve! Steve!’ because he wants to pick on his neighbor,” she said. 

For that reason, she often runs him as a wheel dog — closest to her sled — alone. 

But, she said, he’s also really loving to her, and he has her wrapped around his paws. 

Read more about Steve.

Franklin, ‘the Michael Jordan of sled dogs’

a dog on top of a dog house
Franklin after a training run. (Eddie Burke Jr.)

Aaron Burmeister says Franklin has got it all.

He’s a cheerleader for the rest of his team. He’s a happy-go-lucky dog. He also has an effortless gait and athleticism, earning him the nickname, “The Michael Jordan of Sled Dogs,” said Burmeister.

“He wants to see everybody at their highest potential,” said Burmeister. “If somebody is backing off, he’ll start talking to him on the trail.”

Read more about Franklin.

Slater and Morello, who led Brent Sass to victory

A man in an orange parka holds his dogs on either arm and poses for a photo
Slater (left) and Morello with musher Brent Sass after racing into Nome in first. (Lex Treinen/Alaska Public Media)

Slater is loving and a good listener. While Morello is “a force to be reckoned with.”

Brent Sass summed up the two dogs in one word: “amazing.”

He’s raised the two dogs — and his entire winning team — since they were puppies.

“We’ve been working toward this goal the whole time,” he said. “And we’re here. It’s crazy.”

Read more about Slater and Morello.

For more Iditarod coverage visit alaskapublic.org/Iditarod.

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Lex Treinen covers culture, homelessness, politics and corrections for Alaska Public Media. Reach him at ltreinen@alaskapublic.org.
Tegan Hanlon is the deputy digital editor at Alaska Public Media. Reach her at thanlon@alaskapublic.org.

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