Rick of Arc

May 2, 2004
Outside Magazine
Outside magazine, June 1996

Rick of Arc

Though Alaskan Jeff King captured the 1996 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race last March with the second-fastest time ever recorded, the rowdiest cheer at the postrace banquet was reserved for disqualified five-time winner Rick Swenson, who was chosen by his fellow mushers as the "most inspiring" competitor. Swenson was a victim of the so-called Dead Dog and You're Out Rule, a new measure meant to address the concerns of animal-rights activists by discouraging mushers from overworking their teams. Swenson's three-year-old dog Ariel died on the first day of the race, after Swenson drove his team through an overflow on a tributary of the Yentna River. The cause of death was undetermined, though officials ruled out drowning or a broken neck. Ironically, enforcement of the rule may speed its demise: Swenson's martyrdom--he has said he won't compete in the race again--has led to a proposed resolution in the state legislature that calls for the rule to be abolished.

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