Iditarod Dog Retires Champ
SECAUCUS, N.J. – The dog that led his human companion to a second Iditarod championship is home following what could have been a life ending accident during his last race.
Having won the Iditarod, Lance Mackey and his team were on the brink of completing yet another long distance race – the All Alaska Sweepstakes.
As the tem neared the finish, in the wee hours of the morning, a snowmobile appeared seemingly out of nowhere and crashed into Mackey’s sled.
Mackey said he had seen the machine approaching, and flashed a light up and down in its direction. But the snowmobiler mistook Mackey’s bobbing light -- a signal used among sled-dog racers to warn snow machines of their presence -- for another snowmobile.
Just before the recreation vehicle crashed into Mackey, he jumped from the dog sled. Unfortunately, his lead dog had suffered a shoulder injury a day before and was resting on the dog sled.
“Broke four ribs, and the bruising extends up to the spinal column and into the spinal cord,” said Dr. Kobi Johnson of The Animal Emergency Clinic in Tacoma, Wash.
The machine, which had been travelling at about 60 mph, nearly killed the mixed-breed in the collision. And although Mackey and the rest of his team were ok, Zorro couldn’t walk.
Doctors gave him a 50-50 chance of ever walking again.
The next day, Mackey said his dog appeared to have lost his will.
“He looked lifeless,” he said. “His head was out the kennel. His tongue was on the floor. He appeared lifeless.”
But less than a week after the accident, Zorro walked out of the kennel.
“You’re looking good,” Mackey said, astonished by his champion dog’s recovery. “You’re looking good. I told you I wasn’t going to leave you. I told you I wasn’t going to leave you.”
The dog’s tail has been wagging ever since – an indication that his spine was not damaged. However, he will never be able to pull a dog sled again.
“I don’t think he’s going to take it too hard,” said Mackey. “His job is basically going to be to father more dogs.”
According to Zorro’s doctors, he should be back to his old self in a few months. He and his owner headed to Nome, Alaska. last Friday, finally home for good.
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Matt Van Hoven, Pet Pulse, Bryan Johnson, KOMOTV, contributed to this story.
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