You hear dog mushers frequently say, “It’s all about the dogs,” or maybe you say it yourself. But Martin Buser has lived that motto during a storied career that spans more than 20 Iditarods.And that’s why the title of a new hour-long DVD, “Martin Buser: For the Love of Dogs,” is right on target.Just after the introduction showing video from Buser’s four Iditarod victories that started in 1992, the film cuts immediately to the grand champion walking through his dog yard, with a five-gallon bucket of dog food in hand. Next, he’s sitting in a wide whelping pen next to a mother dog and her two-day-old pups, reading the newspaper. Sure, it looks cute on video, but this is just the kind of thing Buser does – even when cameramen aren’t around – to build a relationship with his dogs. He wants to raise friendly, happy dogs and that effort begins before they’re born. In the video, Buser points out that he’s careful about choosing who gets to breed. By the time the pups are breathing, he’s playing with their feet, and tucking them in his shirt to get used to him.This DVD is a great introduction to those who love dogs but may be new to the sport, and, for mushers, it’s a good excuse to watch beautiful dogs in action and get fired up to run their own team. While this video is obviously not intended as a detailed, instructional how-to for veteran mushers, even a grizzled sourdough can glean valuable information, even if it is a refresher. (As a shallow example, I’ve already copied Buser’s bucket-and-rake version of a poop-scooper after watching his in operation on the DVD.) Whenever a four-time champion speaks, it’s a pretty good idea to listen.Some of the chapters talk in general terms about feeding, what to look for in a sled dog, and what attributes to encourage in them. It features Dee Dee Jonrowe and Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin talking about Buser, a look at how and why he free-runs his dogs, and a look back at his naturalization as a U.S. citizen under the Iditarod finish line in 2002, among other chapters.Buser is perhaps the best-known figure in long distance sled dog racing. Born in Switzerland in 1958, he migrated to the United States in 1979 and ran his first Iditarod in 1980 with a team of Siberian huskies from the Earl and Natalie Norris kennel. He then took a few years to develop his own distinctive dogs, leaning heavily on champion sprint lines at a time when most distance teams used hard-headed, thick-furred trotters. To this day, Buser fields arguably the naturally fastest dog team to run 1,000-mile races. He holds claim to the fastest-ever Iditarod finish. In 2002, he won the race with a time of 8 days, 22 hours, 46 minutes (and 2 seconds, but who’s counting). Meticulous, but not to a fault – he’s a master of efficiency, not a slave to pointless routine – Buser is one of a handful of mushers who have broken new ground, developing ideas that once seemed novel but these days are viewed as common sense. Speedy dogs descended from sprint lines are now the norm, for example.Not all his ideas have been allowed to flower, however. Take a look at one of the DVD’s bonus features, a news story from KTUU Channel 2 in Anchorage that delves into Busers famous “sail,” which wound up being banned from the Iditarod. But perhaps the best so-called bonus feature is titled “Table saw massacre,” and delves into the mishap that mangled two of Buser’s fingers four days before the start of the 2005 Iditarod. He raced in a great deal of pain that year. (The DVD does show some ugly photos of the wounds, so avoid watching it right before a meal, especially lasagna.) The feature wasn’t included in the main piece, so unless you are squeamish be sure to hunt it down along with several other bonus features, which are worth viewing.It was a lot of fun to sit back and take in the film, and you can’t help learning a little more about Buser. For instance, the musher known for crooning to his dogs, whistling pop tunes or giving them nursery rhymes, apparently is a far superior musher than singer. According to one account in the film, Buser could be heard belting out Paul Simon tunes one year as headed for Iditarod victory out of White Mountain. I guess we should all be glad there’s no bonus track on the DVD of him singing, “Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard.”Jon Little is a five-time Iditarod finisher and ran the Yukon Quest in 2005. He maintains a small kennel in Kasilof, Alaska, and enjoys every race he enters. He also reports for and the websites each year during Iditarod.


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