Rick of Arc

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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