Thursday, December 31, 2009
A Dog Named Balto
But the main way Balto got to be famous was that in 1925, the children in Nome, Alaska, were about to get sick because of a disease called diptheria. Nome is way up in the really, really north part of Alaska, and it was hard to get there in the winter, which is when this happened. There was some medicine called antitoxin that could save people from dying of diptheria, but this medicine was located in Anchorage, which was a long way from Nome.
At first, people thought they could fly a plane to Nome with the medicine, but there was only one plane that they could use, and it was all frozen up, so they couldn't get its engine to run. That's why they decided to send the medicine by dog sled. So first the medicine went to a town called Nenana in a train, and after that, a bunch of dog sleds took it in a relay to Nome.
Balto wasn't usually a lead dog in a sled team, but he got to be the lead dog this time, and he turned out to be very smart when it came to keeping his team on the trail, even though it was nighttime and there was a blizzard going on. So when the medicine arrived in Nome, everyone said that Balto was a hero.
But there was another hero during this event, and that was a sled dog named Togo, who was the leader of the team that handed the medicine off to Balto's team. Togo's team also had a very hard time because of the weather and all the bad stuff going on, but Togo led them bravely through it all. The musher of that team was named Leonhard Seppala, and he was actually the owner of Balto, too. He thought Togo should get as much fame as Balto, but it didn't work out that way.
So that's the story of how Balto led the sled dog team to Nome and saved all the children there from dying of diptheria. Nowadays, dog sleds aren't used so much for freight hauling and stuff like they used to be. But every year there is a big race called the Iditarod, and a bunch of mushers and their teams compete to see who can run the trail the fastest. It is a very hard race that lasts for several days, and it's dangerous because of the weather and also because there are polar bears lurking around, and they like to eat dogs. Here's a map that shows where the Iditarod Trail goes.
But just in case you think that only huskies and Malamutes can pull dog sleds, here's a picture of a basenji sled dog team. We don't know who took this photo or even if it's for real, but someone posted it on a basenji internet list one time, and Mom saved the photo because she thinks it's funny. I don't think the photo is funny at all. I think what it shows is that basenjis can be noble and brave, just like Balto and Togo.