Sled dogs are known for having great hearts. In my kennel Bass set the standard. He was a Susan Butcher bred dog out of her Granite lines. Jeff King bought a whole dog team in Nome just to get Bass and his brother Alto for to add to his bloodline. Jeff sold me Bass in Dec 2001 when I called looking for a leader to run my qualifying races. I’ve never made a better purchase. Bass was never a fast dog and like a kid he would test you to see what he could get away with. With a new musher he would go left when you called gee, stop on the hills to pee, and come back to flirt with all the girls in the team every time you stopped. But there was no quit anywhere in him, and if you explained that you knew what a good lead dog should do, and that you knew that he knew, he was great. If I had to take a rescue team into hell, Bass was the dog I’d chose to lead. The only question he would ask is what trail I wanted to take.
My rookie Iditarod Bass and Lycos lead me over Rainy Pass in the blizzard. When we got to Rohn that night they closed the trail behind us, holding the remaining mushers at Rainy until morning. On the Yukon River the other rookie teams I was traveling near said their teams stopped on the river and they were not sure they would get to the next checkpoint, let alone Nome. Bass just kept plugging away. When we left Unalakleet in strong cross winds and nobody would lead with him, Bass ran single lead the rest of the way to Nome. When the storm over Topkot was so bad I had to stop every 20 minutes and clear the snow and ice from his eyes so he could see, Bass kept going. When we stopped on top of a knoll and the wind blew the sled off the trail, Bass lead us around and back onto the trail. When a lesser dog would have just quit, Bass lowered his head and put one foot in front of the other. We might be slow, but by golly we were going to get there.
Bass died in my arms this afternoon. He had been in gradually failing health for over a week. He was my friend, my companion, my lead dog. RIP big guy.
Keep 'em Northbound