Alaska: A tale of love and courage

Published 2:47 pm Friday, July 6, 2012

Statue of Granite, an Iditanod legend. (photo submitted)

I have always been a huge fan of Susan Butcher, the amazing lady who won the grueling and difficult Iditarod four times.  Susan had been told that it was not a race for women and that she coddles her dogs too much.  I know a lot about Susan but on my trip, I learned about Granite.
One day in early spring, the young Susan witnessed five new pups being born.  All were shiny, fat and healthy except for one.  His fur was dull, he had knock-knees and he was being pushed around by his siblings.  Susan was told that he could never be a real sled dog and should be given away as a pet, but she believed in him and gave him a strong name, GRANITE!
Granite became the most intelligent of her team and would lead the group home from wherever she took them.  Granite grew to be a 58 pound, deep-chested, fast dog. After some early failures due to accidents such as a moose attack, Susan was once again told she could never win the Iditarod because she babies her dogs.
Susan and Granite have visited the White House, for you see that Granite has the distinction of being the only dog ever to lead a team to victory from start to finish for three consecutive years.
Between her third victory and her final victory, Granite began to falter and could not get to his feet.  Susan stopped the sled and saw that his temperature was soaring.  He needed help but it was far away, so she bundled him up and flew him to a veterinary hospital.  The doctor held little hope for his recovery and said he had a damaged heart and would never race again.  Susan brought him home and kept him in her cabin to care for him, but Granite cried and howled each time the team left him behind, he was determined to get better.  Granite slept in her bed and then she allowed him to go on shorter runs with the younger dogs in training as his strength gradually was returning.

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