Jonrowe struggles with sick dog, finishes 16th

Posted: Wednesday, March 13, 2002

WHITE MOUNTAIN (AP) -- While the crowds in Nome cheered Martin Buser's record victory in the 30th Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, another well-known and veteran musher was struggling with a sick dog and desperately trying to hang on to a top-20 finish.

DeeDee Jonrowe of Willow endured a trying 16-hour journey from Elim to the White Mountain checkpoint. Until Elim, Jonrowe had been maintaining a grip on fourth place. But after Jonrowe left the coastal village and started heading up the ice along the frozen Bering Sea, a 3-year-old male in her team, a dog named Mark, faltered.

Jonrowe put the blue-eyed dog in her sled bag and kept going toward Golovin, a small village on a spit about 30 miles from Elim on the way to White Mountain. The team slowed to a crawl.

''I walked 10 miles into Golovin,'' an exhausted Jonrowe said Tuesday.

When she finally got to White Mountain around 11 a.m. after a night on the trail, her sick dog was able to walk under his own power with the guidance of veterinarian Lannie Hamilton of Wasilla. But the dog was in bad shape. He was dehydrated and hypothermic. His gums were white, indicating anemia and possible shock, Hamilton said.

Hamilton and race vet Melanie Hull lifted Mark onto a table and began pumping intravenous fluids into him. The dog's body temperature dropped to 95.1 before climbing back up a couple of degrees.

A few minutes after the vets administered the IV, Mark vomited three liters of blood. Hamilton said that was an indication the dog likely had a bleeding stomach ulcer. A myriad of factors can cause the potentially life-threatening condition, including stress, bacteria and diet, Hamilton said.

After vets stabilized Mark, he was taken by stretcher to a plane and flown to Nome where Jonrowe's personal veterinarian was to take charge.

Jonrowe said she saw no indications of vomiting or diarrhea on the trail. Mark simply slowed down while running up a steep hill called Little McKinley where the trail climbs from the coastal ice to about 1,500 feet to cross the Kwiktalik Mountain.

''It developed very quickly,'' Jonrowe said. ''I don't feel like I misread him.''

Many villagers along the trail said they had been hoping Jonrowe would finally win the Iditarod this year. The 2002 race marked her 20th. She has twice come close to victory, taking second in 1993 and 1998, and she has had nine other top-10 finishes.

She crossed the finish line Wednesday in 16th place.

Standing by her sleeping team in the sunshine in White Mountain on Tuesday, Jonrowe said that while she wasn't where she wanted to be in the race, she was still proud of herself and her dogs.

''I'm not a natural athlete,'' she said. ''Everything I've done I've had to work at really hard. This race is another example of working toward a goal.

''Like I told my mom, I'm the poster girl for perseverance.''

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