R.G. Elmore, D.V.M.
Copley News Service
Question: Are sled dogs still used in the United States? Several years ago, I read that sled dogs delivered groceries and mail in some remote areas of the northern states along the Canadian border. What kind of dogs are used for pulling sleds? Do the dogs enjoy this work?
Answer: Many dogs provide us not only with companionship but also do important work for us. The use of sled dogs is a great example. In some of the northernmost parts of the United States, sled dogs are still used to deliver mail, groceries and other vital supplies during the winter months. The most commonly used dogs to pull sleds are the spitz varieties. These include the Eskimo dog or husky, the Alaskan malamute and the Siberian husky. They have been used for generations to pull heavy loads across frozen lakes and deep snow. Without sled dogs, many remote settlements would probably not exist.
Sled dogs have virtually remained unchanged since the 14th century when they were first recorded for traveling in Mongolia. The best dogs for pulling are short and square with powerful chest muscles. Most people who work with sled dogs agree that these dogs enjoy running and working in front of sleds. Most of these dogs need little encouragement to run and pull in the snow on very cold days.
The most famous sled dog race is the annual Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in Alaska. The race commemorates dogs being used to carry life-saving diphtheria serum from Anchorage to Nome, Alaska, in 1925. The distance was about 658 miles and the weather was at its worst; however, the mushers and their dogs arrived in time with the serum to save many of the sick.
To commemorate the 1925 “race for life,” the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, which is now about 1,049 miles long between Anchorage and Nome, has taken place annually in March since 1973. This Iditarod has been billed as “The Last Great Race,” and has become an international event. All the dogs are examined by veterinarians at checkpoints throughout the race to ensure that none are injured or suffering.
Question: We are wondering where the idea that cats have nine lives originates. Several of our cats died young and did not seem to have this trait.
Answer: The idea that cats have nine lives probably stems from the many stories about cats narrowly escaping injury or death after falling from high places or being in other dangerous situations. Although no one knows for sure when this statement was first made, it might have started during ancient times. It was recorded that Muhammad possessed the habit of stroking each of his cats three times, which according to some legends gave his cats nine lives.
A 1546 collection by John Heywood states, “No wife, no woman hath nine lives like a cat.” Another old proverb says, “It has been the providence of nature to give this creature nine lives instead of one.” Shakespeare mentions the cat’s nine lives in Romeo and Juliet.
How this myth started is a mystery. But most cat lovers readily admit that they wish such luck for their four-footed companions.