Jessica Klejka grew up training dogs in Bethel and now works as a veterinarian in Big Lake. Her dog care skills shone as she took home fourth place and the Humanitarian Award in the Kobuk 440 Sled Dog Race this weekend in Northwest Alaska.
Klejka finished the race at 11:59 a.m. on Sunday, about 12 hours behind first place winner Nicholas Petit.
In a Facebook Live video, skijor racer Kale Casey shows Klejka crossing the finish in Kotzebue under the bright sun to a small cheering crowd. Third place winner Ellen King was there to greet her and told Kale Casey that Klejka’s dogs “look fantastic.” King’s father Jeff King, a mushing legend and longtime friend of Klejka, was also at the finish.
After snacking her dogs, Klejka began rubbing their heads, congratulating them, and pulling off their booties. She then handed a few of the worn shoes to the kids of Kotzebue as souvenirs.
Klejka grew up competing in races sponsored by the Kuskokwim 300, and for the last two years, she’s volunteered as a race veterinarian for the Kusko 300 itself.
Klejka competed in the Kobuk 440 to qualify for next year's Iditarod.