FOR THE LOVE OF DOGS

300 MILES. 450 DOGS. AND A RARE BREED OF HU­MANS: 400 VOL­UN­TEERS BRAVE ICE, SNOW AND SLEEP­LESS NIGHTS TO HOST THE LONG­EST MUSH­ING EVENT IN THE LOWER 48.

Midwest Living - - For The Love of Dogs - WRITER Ti­mothy Meinch / PHO­TOG­RA­PHER Aaron Peter­son

By 1:05 a.m. Mon­day, the temp hits 14 be­low zero. Gregg Phillips slips off a mit­ten, clicks on his head­lamp and slides a la­tex-clad fin­ger in a dog’s mouth. “He’s de­hy­drated,” Gregg tells the musher at a road cross­ing in north­ern Min­nesota. She’ll have to make the last dash to the fin­ish without Ke­nai, a rookie Alaskan husky on the team. Gregg swipes Ke­nai’s snout with the or­ange dis­qual­i­fy­ing mark (“a badge of honor” he calls it), then moves down the line. His crew has hun­dreds of pulses to check, gums to swab and vet di­aries to up­date (one per musher) be­fore rush­ing to the next check­point by sunup. De­hy­drated, hun­gry and sleep-de­prived them­selves, the vets will get their break in two days, af­ter the snow set­tles on the fin­ish line. Gregg’s team of 20 rounds out 400-some vol­un­teers who host the John Bear­grease Sled Dog Marathon each year along Lake Su­pe­rior’s frigid North Shore. Their pay for four days of around-the-clock work? The sat­is­fac­tion of sus­tain­ing the long­est mush­ing race in the con­ti­nen­tal U.S. And qual­ity time with 450 dogs. For 34 years, the Bear­grease has cov­ered hun­dreds of miles of frozen Min­nesota ter­rain. Mer­ci­less hills wind through wolf and moose coun­try in the Saw­tooth Moun­tains butted against the Canada bor­der. Fulld­is­tance rac­ers climb 30,000 feet of

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