For the second year in a row, Mitch Seavey has sent his lead dog Pilot home from #iditarod early. Mitch left Pilot with the vets on day 2, only slightly further than last year’s day 1 separation. Both times it’s been a minor inflammation in his tendon, which has been bothering him since the 2018 pre-season. Both times he’s been fine within a few hours. Both times we knew it was going to happen. Yet Mitch takes him anyway.
Both times I’ve tried to talk Mitch out of it. Especially this year, he had several perfectly competent replacements, and with only 14 dogs to start, sending a dog home is a bigger blow. Mitch took him anyway.
Mitch has become much more open, candid, over the years. He’s always been a passionate guy, but he’s let us into his thought process a bit more this year, and we’ve realized how much emotion and psychology is involved with this race.
There are the base level concerns; he has to physically cover 1000 miles of unforgiving terrain and ever changing weather. Then there’s the competition aspect. any great athlete has to believe he can win, even if it’s perhaps not a logic mindset. He has to put himself on the line, risking failure, looking foolish or worse on a public stage. Whatever they may say to the cameras, every Iditarod musher’s self esteem is directly connected to their Iditarod performance. Not necessarily finish position, but how they handled themselves, the dogs, and the elements.
Pilot is a freak of nature. He’s the lead dog born with more physical talent than any we’ve ever seen. For him, running to Nome is freedom. He loves it. It’s easy for him. He holds the Iditarod record for fastest trip ever by 2 1/2 hours. He wasn’t even winded at the end.
Pilot doesn’t recognize his own strength. Despite being the biggest, strongest, and fastest dog on the team, he’s very submissive, unsure, even timid. He’ll go like mad, but he needs Mitch to tell him it’s ok. To protect him from the big scary world.
The mutualism between the two is undeniable. Mitch needs Pilot. Not as a lead dog, he has others. Pilot is the dog that makes Mitch great. Not just on paper, but in his own assessment. And Mitch is the musher that makes Pilot safe, confident, and and lets him do his thing, which is run like no other.
I’m sure there are others, but Brady/Belichick would be a sports comparison, but this has the added layer of being a man and his best friend. Anyone who has a dog knows what I mean.
So Mitch will probably start Pilot until he is too old to run to the first checkpoint. You can chose who ‘he’ refers to in the sentence above.
P.S. Mitch will deny all of this. He makes rational decisions based on the best information available, and doesn’t let emotions get in the way. But I’m entitled to my opinion. I may delete this before he gets to internet.
Pilot is powered by Dr. Tim’s Pet Food Company, LLC
Photo by Jeff Schultz