The Riveting Story Behind the Lost Iditarod Dog

 |  Mar 16th 2010  |   8 Contributions


Whitey-Lance was not the first sled dog to sit on Justin Savidis's lap -- and probably won't be the last. Here's Justin with a dog named Luna. (Photo from Snowhook Kennel website)

Some people say Iditarod dogs have it rough. But rookie musher Justin Savidis was so overjoyed to get his dog Whitey-Lance back after the dog was lost for four days in subzero temperatures that he held him on his lap and wouldn't let go, according to various news reports.

Savidis truly loves his dogs. It's clear by looking at the website for his dogs, and at the mushing blog he and his wife, Rebecca -- also a musher -- put together. The two are an amazing story. And their despondency and perseverance when Whitey-Lance wriggled out of his harness and into the wilderness shows the love they -- and many others -- have for their sled dogs.

Savidis had to throw in the reins a couple of days after Whitey-Lance went missing. With assistance from local residents, Alaska State Troopers, and the "Iditarod Air Force," Savidis searched for his dog by plane, snowmachine and foot. False trails proved heartbreaking.

Rebecca Savidis blogged about their search and their hopes and worries during the four days Whitey-Lance was lost. It's a fascinating inside look at the difficult days before a skittish and skinny Whitey-Lance was found and lured to someone's side by a salmon carcass. Here is part of a post she wrote on the second day of Whitey-Lance's disappearance:

Many friends and family have prayed and tried to offer comforting words as we wait for Whitey, but a dear friend said out loud something that huddled in the back of my mind and I've done my best to ignore; perhaps Whitey taking off is protecting AJ from something. It may seem trite to some, but this, I have to believe. Those of you who know us well, understand it was more than just a matter of time on the runners and resources to get to the starting line.

This is Whitey-Lance. Great face!


The next day she wrote:

My only motivation to get out of bed each day is caring for the dogs in the kennel. Once I get out to the kennel, I want to remain. The dogs have been my comfort. Some wrap their arms around my waist and refuse to let me go, some snuggle against my legs, others rest their head on my shoulder. They let me hurt this hurt that I can't describe. They let me worry concern that seems neverending. They quash the hollow ache in my heart that refuses to subside.
I've said the only bad characteristic of a dog is that they can break your heart. Whitey-Lance will return---he must. It feels as if my heart has been forced to bend into a new, unrecognizable, and uncomfortable shape.
Please let today be the day Whitey is found.

And then exciting news the following day:

Just a quick note, I will write more later, but I just received a call from AJ that Whitey was sitting on his lap. They are on the next flight in---I need to hit the road to pick up AJ and his fury carry-on.

Her blog the day they were reunited is also required reading.

On another page, we learn a little about Whitey-Lance:

Already named Whitey, by his original musher, Rebecca added the hyphen and Lance to his name in honor of her mushing mentor who also has a dog named Whitey. Gentle and kind, he is a great dog to have on the line, and enjoys running next to Orion. No one gives hugs like Whitey-Lance. (He ran in the lead once. Not pretty.)

Aww, I'm sure he got plenty of hugs, and probably gave them, too, after his rescue.

It's pretty amusing that on the website's dogteam page, there's someone missing from one group of photos. Can you guess who? Check it out:

whitey-lance-not-here

Gee, I wonder where he was? Off sniffing the Alaska wilds on his own? Whitey-Lance sounds like a real character.

Someone should write a children's book about him. It would have all the requisite ingredients, including the most important one: a happy ending.

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