Dog Troubles Hold Diehl In Unalakleet

Mar 16, 2020

Richie Diehl feeding his team at Old Woman Cabin on the Iditarod trail.
Credit Zachariah Hughes

Something is wrong with Richie Diehl’s sled dogs. He checked into Unalakleet at 1:30 a.m. on March 16, a half hour after Bethel’s Pete Kaiser. Kaiser took a five-and-a-half-hour rest, and left the checkpoint at 7 a.m. to head around Norton Sound and across the ice to Koyuk. By noon, he was close to Shaktoolik. Diehl stayed put. His team appears hesitant to get back on the trail. 

This is the second time that this has happened during the race. The first time Diehl’s team balked was after completing the mandatory eight-hour rest at the Nulato checkpoint on the Yukon River. Diehl’s dogs acted like the race was over and refused to run. He allegedly considered scratching, but got the team to move on down the trail after four more hours of rest, spending almost 12 hours in that checkpoint. Since then he has been taking it much slower, but it appears that the same thing is happening in Unalakleet. 

“We’re just slowly giving them a little more rest here and there. Keep chipping away at it. At the end of the day, I can’t do what they don’t want to do,” said Diehl.

Unless Diehl gets his dogs to move on down the trail, Bethel’s Jessica Klejka may catch up to him. Klejka’s team is making the overland run to Unalakleet today. She left Kaltag on the Yukon River this morning.

Norwegian Thomas Waerner is in the lead of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. He got across the Norton Sound ice to Koyuk at 9:30 a.m. with 12 dogs in his team. Jessie Royer and Aaron Burmeister, the two mushers behind him, are still making their way across the ice. There are a half-dozen other teams behind them, and more on the way.