Four Thousand Paws: Caring for the Dogs of the Iditarod: A Veterinarian's Story (Hardcover)

Four Thousand Paws: Caring for the Dogs of the Iditarod: A Veterinarian's Story By Lee Morgan Cover Image

Four Thousand Paws: Caring for the Dogs of the Iditarod: A Veterinarian's Story (Hardcover)


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An intimate account—the first from a trail veterinarian—of the canines who brave the challenges of the Iditarod.

Few sporting events attract as much attention, or create as much spectacle, as the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. Each March, despite subzero temperatures and white-out winds, hundreds of dogs and dozens of mushers journey to Anchorage, Alaska, to participate in “The Last Great Race on Earth,” a grueling, thousand-mile race across the Alaskan wilderness.

While many veterinarians apply, only a small number are approved to examine the elite canine athletes who, using solely their muscle and an innate drive to race, carry handlers between frozen outposts each year, risking injury, illness, and fatigue along the way. In Four Thousand Paws, award-winning veterinarian Lee Morgan—a member of the Iditarod’s expert veterinary corps—tells the story of these heroic dogs, following the teams as they traverse deep spruce forests, climb steep mountain slopes, and navigate over ice-bound rivers toward Nome, on the coast of the Bering Sea, where the famed Burled Arch awaits.

From the huskies of Iditarods past to the intrepid dogs of today, Morgan shows how these fierce competitors surmount the dangers of the Arctic, aided, along the way, by attentive mushers and volunteer veterinarians. A world away from his Georgetown veterinary clinic, Morgan examines dogs at each checkpoint, and sees how their body language reflects the thrill of the race—and how, when pulled from it, they often refuse to eat. As in any team sport, distinct personalities among the sled dogs create complex group dynamics, and Morgan captures moments of intense rivalry, defeat, camaraderie, and, ultimately, triumph.

In the tradition of Why Elephants Weep, Four Thousand Paws is an intimate look inside the animal mind, and an exciting new account of a storied race.
A longtime veterinarian, Lee Morgan runs his own practice in Washington, D.C. For over a decade, Morgan has treated dogs on-site at the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. He lives in Gaithersburg, Maryland, with his wife and children.
Product Details ISBN: 9781324091394
ISBN-10: 1324091398
Publisher: Liveright
Publication Date: February 27th, 2024
Pages: 304
Language: English
[A] deeply researched, charmingly narrated, and intensely compassionate behind-the-scenes look at one of the most intense human-animal collaborations in modern history. Readers will leave with a huge appreciation for huskies, the landscape that bred them, and the humans who care for them . . . a captivating, fast-paced, eclectic memoir.
— Kirkus Reviews

[A] riveting and joyous account of [Morgan’s] work over the past decade caring for the elite canine athletes... The novelistic narrative captures the excitement of the race, and Morgan manages to be sensitive to the dogs’ interior lives without anthropomorphizing them. Even those with no prior interest in the Iditarod will be enthralled.
— Publishers Weekly

Veterinarians are the unseen heroes of the Iditarod—working around the clock in frigid temperatures, deep in the wilderness, giving their all to keep the dogs safe and healthy. At long last, Lee Morgan gives us a glimpse of the stories behind the scenes.
— Blair Braverman, author of Welcome to the Goddamn Ice Cube

In Four Thousand Paws, veterinarian Lee Morgan takes readers on an unflinching, funny, and riveting journey into the fascinating world of the Iditarod’s canine competitors. Skillfully told and with obvious compassion for the dogs themselves, Four Thousand Paws is a standout among the pack: I can’t remember the last time I was so enthralled with a book. This is easily my favorite read of the year.

— Terry Lynn Johnson, best-selling author of Ice Dogs and Dog Driven