Mackey’s Zorro injured after snowmachine plows into team

For original article please follow this link: unidentified man driving a snowmachine early Saturday morning crashed into the back of the dog sled driven by two-time Iditarod champion Lance Mackey during the All-Alaska Sweepstakes and seriously injured a key animal in his Comeback Kennel.Mackey broke down in tears Saturday, telling how his most-prized dog, Zorro, was critically injured as the canine was riding in the sled’s basket from Safety to Nome — less than 22 miles left in the 408-mile race.”I was flashing them like mad with my headlamp,” Mackey said. “I was shining my headlamp right in his face, but they kept on coming at me. I jumped aside, and by 30 feet farther up the trail, there was a snowmachine sitting on the middle of my sled.”The machine impaled the sled bag with its runners.”Three or four dogs were sucked underneath, and Zorro was trapped in the sled bag,” Mackey said. “We had to physically remove (the snowmachine) from the sled.”The accident happened several miles west of Safety, the third-to-last checkpoint. The driver who hit Mackey and his partner on another machine helped Mackey right the mess, then left as Mackey continued on.”It was like a truck hitting a Pinto,” Mackey said.Mackey’s $3,000 sled, made by Canadian Hans Gatt, made it to Nome but was ruined. It was of no consequence compared with his dogs, he said.”That’s only material,” he said. “I would give my life for my dogs. I can’t make anyone know how important animals are to me.”When Mackey crossed the finish line at 1:59 a.m., there was no indication anything had gone wrong on the trail. Despite finishing third behind Denali Park’s Jeff King and Sterling’s Mitch Seavey, who captured the $100,000 winner-take-all jackpot, Mackey hammed it up for the crowd. He signed autographs and posed for pictures for a good hour after his finish.”That was a front,” Mackey said. “I had a fan club there. Why ruin it for them? I do things in different ways. But now, people know the other story.”Zorro, meanwhile, was taken to the dog lot. Mackey said the 9-year-old male had showed no signs of injuries. But by midday Saturday, Zorro was on a commercial flight to Pet Emergency, a veterinary facility in Anchorage, for medical treatment. Zorro had broken ribs and perhaps internal injuries.Other dogs had injuries, but they were not life-threatening, Mackey said.The historic All-Alaska Sweepstakes was supposed to be the final race of Zorro’s storied career.”He was pretty lifeless,” Mackey said. “If he lives, I don’t think he is going to want to race to Nome again.”Zorro has been the top stud in Mackey’s Comeback Kennel, helping the cancer survivor in 2007 become the first musher to win the 1,100-mile Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race and the 1,000-mile Yukon Quest in the same year. But that year Zorro became ill at White Mountain, the Iditarod’s second-to-last checkpoint, and did not get to finish.Like his owner, Zorro made a comeback last month in the Quest, helping Mackey capture his record fourth straight title. Zorro was not part of Mackey’s 2008 champion Iditarod team because he had saved Zorro for the Sweepstakes.”He’s priceless,” said Mackey. “Nine of my Sweepstakes dogs were descendents of Zorro.” And 40 of his 80 dogs at home are related to Zorro.A team handler accompanied Zorro to Anchorage. Mackey, meanwhile, remained in Nome with his team and talked to KNOM, a Nome radio station.Mackey wanted to give the snowmachine driver a chance to come forward “like a man and make it right.””Just make it right. That’s all I want,” he said. “I don’t bear him any ill will, but I want him to make it right.”Mackey said he yelled at the snowmachine driver after the collision.”I didn’t give him a chance to say anything. I was saying things I wish now I hadn’t said.”Mackey made a plea for race officials to keep snowmachines away from the trail at the end of the race because it has become a growing safety issue.About two weeks ago on the Iditarod Trail, a snowmachine killed a dog running in Jennifer Freking’s team. The Minnesota musher was parked on the Yukon River when a snowmachine took the life of Lorne, a 3-year-old female Siberian Husky.”The public needs to be aware of this issue,” Mackey said. “Running from Safety to Front Street is almost suicidal. I almost got hit on the way into Nome during Iditarod and then was almost hit half an hour later.”Zorro is the kennel’s main stud. If he dies, Mackey said, his future in sled dog racing is uncertain.”My team’s future, my personal future, my career, my whole life is in question,” he told Nome Police Department officer Byron Redburn, who took a report in cooperation with Alaska State Troopers, who have jurisdiction.Gregory Saclamana, a volunteer running the information line at All Alaska Sweepstakes headquarters in Nome, said race officials would not comment.”This is not how I pictured to finish my racing season,” Mackey said.


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