Dog mushing has built some strong bonds among mushers and their families in Bethel. Parents of three local mushers talked on the radio Monday morning about what it was like raising a child who wanted to work with dogs.
Mort Wikstrand of Norway is the father of Niklas Wikstrand, who is mushing Pete Kaiser’s B-Team in the Iditarod as Bethel's top musher attempts to take his A-Team to a first place finish. Mort says that he appreciates the way the Kaiser family has brought his son into their own family. Mort says that his son’s love of mushing is not something he got at his Norwegian home because Mort did not have any dogs in the house.
“When he was a kid we didn’t allow to get a dog,” he says. “Because I have one when I was a kid and I didn’t take care of it. So I wouldn’t set him in the same situation. But when he get out of high school and took his own decision, starting doing something with dogs and dogsledding.”
For Jessica Klejka, who is making her rookie run in the Iditarod, it was a whole other story. Her mother, Jackie, remembers her 10-year-old daughter insisting on having her dogs checked inside their home, just because the local vet was visiting.
“She was dragging the dog up the stairs just because she knew Dr. Bob [Sept] was here,” Jackie recalls. “And she said that, 'he’s got to see all my dogs.' I remember us all laughing, saying, 'well, he can walk outside.' But she wanted the dogs to be checked in the house, so then we trekked them all up the stairs and bring them in.”
All three mushers' parents are headed to Nome today. Ron Kaiser says that the families are planning to be there to cheer his son Pete as he crosses the finish line, and they are keeping their fingers crossed that he comes in first. No matter when Pete Kaiser arrives in Nome, his dad will take over caring for the team as his son recovers from the race, a routine they have followed for a decade. Ron knows that his job is to take care of the dogs. He recalls seeing his son tells stories at Nome host Robert Madden’s home. He says that the routine is almost the same each year.
“He finds a warm place and goes into their house, tells a few stories and people talk, and then pretty soon he may be fading,” recalls Ron. “Sometime I miss that because there’s some vet checks going on and I’ll be in the dog yard with the team, but that’s my responsibility.”
While the three parents were on the "Coffee@KYUK" radio show talking on Monday, Pete Kaiser mushed into Koyuk at 8:54 a.m., where he settled his team for a rest before heading on to Nome.