DeeDee Jonrowe

Most common asked questions:

  • QUESTION: What is your favorite part about racing in the Iditarod sled dog race?
    I love being with my dogs & meeting old friends along the trail.

  • QUESTION: What does the term "mushing" mean?
    Mushing is a general term for a sport or transport method powered by dogs, and includes carting, pulka, scootering, sled dog racing, skijoring, freighting, and weight pulling. More specifically, it implies the use of one or more dogs to pull a sled on snow. The term is thought to come from the French word marche, or go, run, the command to the team to commence pulling. "Mush!" is rarely used in modern parlance, however; "Hike!" is more common in English. Mushing can be utilitarian, recreational, or competitive.

    Mushing as a sport is practiced worldwide, but primarily in North America and northern Europe. Racing associations such as the International Federation of Sleddog Sports (IFSS) and the International Sled Dog Racing Association (ISDRA) are working toward organizing the sport and in gaining Olympic recognition for mushing. It is the state sport of Alaska.

    Although dogsled racing gets more publicity and is seen now as the primary form of mushing, recreational mushing thrives as an unorganized sport providing healthy outdoor form of winter exercise for families.

    Mushing for utilitarian purposes includes anything from hauling wood or delivering milk or the mail to rural travel and equipment hauling. Dogs have been replaced by snowmobiles in many places, but some trappers and other isolated users have gone back to sled dogs, finding them safer and more dependable in extreme weather conditions.

  • QUESTION: What type of dog do you use for mushing?
    ANSWER: Dogs used for mushing depend on the particular application: freighting dogs tend to be large and sturdy, racing dogs light and speedy, with long legs. Breeds used for mushing include Alaskan Malamutes, Siberian Huskies, Alaskan huskies, Eurohounds, German Shorthaired Pointers, Greenland Dogs, Canadian Eskimo Dogs, Samoyeds, Chinooks, Seppala Siberian Sleddogs, Japanese Akitas and miscellaneous crossbreeds. I use Alaskan huskies for my team.
  • QUESTION: Sleddogs have different positions in the team, what are their titles and what is their job?
    ANSWER: Dog team members are given titles according to their position in the team relative to the sled. These include leaders or lead dogs, swing dogs, team dogs, and wheelers or wheel dogs.

    Lead dogs steer the rest of the team and set the pace. Leaders may be single or double; the latter is more common now, though single leaders used to be more common during the mid-twentieth century. Exceptionally a leader may be unhitched (a loose or free leader) to find the trail for the rest of the team, but the practice is uncommon and is not allowed at races. Qualities for a good lead dog are intelligence, initiative, common sense, and the ability to find a trail in bad conditions.

    Swing dogs or point dogs are directly behind the leader (one dog if the team is in single hitch). They swing the rest of the team behind them in turns or curves on the trail. (Some mushers use the term swing dog to denote a team dog.)

    Team dogs are those between the wheelers and the swing dogs, and add power to the team. A small team may not have dogs in this position. Alternately, the term may be used to describe any dog in a dog team.

    Wheel dogs are those nearest the sled, and a good wheeler must have a relatively calm temperament so as not to be startled by the sled moving just behind it. Strength, steadiness, and ability to help guide the sled around tight curves are qualities valued in "wheelers."

  • QUESTION: How many calories does a working sled dog need on a daily basis?
    ANSWER:The daily caloric intake of a sleddog is roughly 4,500 calories per dog. But by the time the dogs are racing in the Iditarod, each dog will take in close to 10,000 calories per day!

  • QUESTION: What do you feed your sled dogs?
    ANSWER: I use Ultra Power by Eagle Pack dog food in the winter and Power in the summer. Ultra Power is not a food that most pet owners would want to feed their dog, as it is very high in energy. Eagle Pack makes 14 different foods most for the average pet. I feed a very high energy food specifically designed for the demands of a performance athlete. Eagle Pack also has a variety of pet foods for every pet. For any specific questions about what to feed you can e-mail Eagle Pack at
    Check out their web site for your pet food needs.

  • QUESTION: How many dogs do you have in your kennel?
    ANSWER: I currently have 72 dogs

    QUESTION: What are your lead dogs names?
    ANSWER: Ivan, Shakespere, Brady, Mulan, Python, Birdie,
    Janet, & Snap (a complete list of dogs on my team are listed on this link)

  • QUESTION: Do you have other pets?
    Yes, let's see, there is "Ragdoll" my kitty, "Barthlomew", my pekingnese, "Mr.Migayi",
    labradors "Parker", "Mallard", & "Bernellie".

  • QUESTION: Have you ever had hallucinations while mushing?
    ANSWER: Yes, the most common hallucination is seeing sticks and branches and dodging/ducking from them when I am out in the open on rivers and there are no sticks or branches to be seen. I remember seeing a grain storage silo on the Yukon River one year, it was such a strange thing to see. Years ago the Arctic Health Institute did do some studies and were able to show that hallucinations are more a function of dehydration than sleep deprivation. Since then I have paid close attention to that and have less problems with hallucinations.

  • QUESTION: Does it get cold in Alaska?
  • ANSWER: Yes, it can get very cold. The average winter temperature where I train (Willow, Alaska) is 15°ƒ to zero during the day light hours and can drop to -25° in the evening. On the Iditarod trail the temperatures can get as low as -65°.

  • QUESTION: Why do dogs wear coats? Who makes your dog coats?
    ANSWER: Alaska's extreme weather can make some days on the trail very cold. The insulated dog coats are designed to help hold in warmth on very cold & windy days so the dogs burn less calories to keep warm. On warm sunny days we use a light weight, white reflective coat to cool down the dogs especially the darker colored dogs so they don't overheat. My dog coats were made by a wonderful lady by the name of Silvia Willis (907-357-4220). They are great coats.

  • QUESTION: What are booties and why do dogs wear have to wear them?
    ANSWER: Booties, small sock-like coverings for the dog's feet, usually made of polar fleece or cordura material and are used where snow & ice are sharp and granular or when the team is traveling a long distance, to protect the pads of the foot.

  • QUESTION: Do you offer Kennel Tours?
    Unfortunately, no. I am out of state a good portion of the summer with speaking engagements and when fall hits I am training. Martin Buser & Vern Halter have wonderful kennel tours.

  • QUESTION: Have you ever won the Iditarod?
    No, I have never won the Iditarod, but someday I hope to. You can see my complete race history by clicking here.

  • QUESTION: What awards have you received?
    ANSWER: I have received numerous awards for the care of my dogs, including the best-cared for team, the best dog care award (given by race veterinarians), and the dog's best friend award. My dogs are my top priority, I became a founding member of Mush with PRIDE, which provides responsible information of a dog's environment, it is my commitment to set the standards for all aspects of sled dog care.

  • QUESTION: You were diagnosed with breast cancer and had to have a double mastectomy. How are you today and how do you cope with this?
    ANSWER: I am 4 1/2 year cancer survivor and doing well. It was quite a struggle. I have just entered my 25th Iditarod. I still enjoy it as much as the very first day. My strength is in my faith. I do not understand why things happen like this but I believe it is an imperfect world not the one God intended for us. The really good thing in this all is there are a lot of really tough and deep patients that have done this and we are all here to help each other because we need to do that. Whatever God gave you as a passion (the thing you would do if you won the lottery) try to allow yourself as much time in that area. Mine is my dogs and being outside. I sometimes felt like a burden to my family and friends but my dogs did not care, they love me however I look or feel. God used them to comfort me and keep me company when everyone else was busy. There are no easy roads in this journey. The one thing I remember is that the storm always clears up. It is still life-threating all the same.

  • QUESTION: Where can I send Fan Mail?
    ANSWER: We love getting fan mail and try to answer all of them. To help us, please include a self addressed stamped return envelope in your letter if you would like a reply. All fan mail can be sent to:

    P.0. Box 272
    Willow, Alaska 99688


DeeDee Jonrowe via e-mail


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