Rob Cooke starts the Yukon Quest with handler James Wilde steering the Quest Guest sled at the Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitors Center in Fairbanks, Alaska, on Feb. 1. (John Hopkins-Hill/Yukon News) - Fairbanks, Alaska
What it takes to be a dog handler in the Yukon Quest
While the dogs and mushers of the Yukon Quest 1,000 Mile International Sled Dog Race are rightly the centre of attention during the 1,600-kilometre journey between Fairbanks, Alaska, and Whitehorse this year, there is another group of people who share a similar love for dogs and distaste for adequate sleep — dog handlers.
Each team in the race has one or more handler — someone responsible for helping with the preparations for the start; the layover in Dawson City; the 1,700-kilometre drive between Circle, Alaska, and Dawson; the work to be done at the finish and, most importantly, caring for dropped dogs while the race continues.
James Wilde is one such handler and has been handling for Mount Lorne’s Rob Cooke in the last four Yukon Quests. He first got wind of the Quest after adopting two Alaskan Malamutes — Nala and Storm — at home in the UK, where he serves in the British Army.
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