Photos by Marc Heft. Video by Theresa Rotunno
The Iditarod was inspired by the 1925 Race for Mercy or Serum Run, during which life-saving diphtheria serum was delivered to Nome via sled dog teams. All of the dogs were amazing, including the most famous, Balto. But it was Leonhard Seppala and a 12-year old, undersized husky, named Togo, who led a team five times further than any other sled dog team over treacherous, unchartered territory. Without Togo, the villagers of Nome would likely have perished. This blog post is part of TogoRun’s campaign to tell Togo’s untold story.
Leonhard Seppala, originally from a small fishing village in Norway, came to Alaska in the early in 1900s, and was immediately drawn to caring for, training and racing dogs; Siberian Huskies to be precise, a new breed brought over from Russia only years before. Seppala transformed his dogs into racing champions through the years, culminating in three consecutive dominating victories at the All Alaska Sweepstakes.
Seppala’s determination, spirit, courage and love for his dogs, which he displayed throughout his life, are the criteria used to award the Seppala Heritage grant, to help a new and upcoming musher leave his own mark at the Iditarod.
Being on assignment for TogoRun in Anchorage has given me the opportunity to speak to this year’s Seppala Heritage grant recipient, Mike Ellis. Continue reading