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Iditarod sled dog race can help wounded veterans

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Battle Dawgs Racing, Alaska’s Healing Hearts and the Iditarod benefit wounded veterans, says Paul Driessen during his interview with the Huntsville Examiner.

This nasty nation-wide weather is reminiscent of Iditarod racing and spirited sled dogs in Alaska.

Trekking 1,100 miles from Anchorage to Nome, across Sam McGee’s wilderness in the dead of winter for nine to twelve days, is not for faint-hearted humans or canines.

It’s equivalent to jogging from Chicago to Tampa or from Washington, DC to Kansas City with temperatures ranging from a balmy 10 or 20 degrees above to a bone rattling and deadly minus 50 degrees or lower for the entire trip.

Rick Swenson and his wife Jennifer operate Battle Dawgs Racing, Aurora Heli-Expeditions and the Knik River Lodge west of Palmer, Alaska.

Battle Dawgs is not just their dog kennel. By partnering with Alaska’s Healing Hearts, they’ve made it a wounded veteran’s rehabilitation program that enables military personnel, with their families and loved ones, to experience wild Alaska and meet kindred spirits through hunting, fishing, flying, hiking and snowmobiling.

James Hastings, director of operations for AHH and a retired U.S. Army veteran, says their goal with Battle Dawgs is to have a year-round camp with cabins and facilities that can accommodate warriors in wheel chairs.

Adds Jennifer, an Air Force veteran and reservist, aircraft mechanic and chopper pilot:

“For a wounded veteran, the true battle often begins when they get home. That’s why the dogs are important. The healing capabilities of canines are legendary.”

Rick says, “You can’t spend time with these men and women, and not want to help out by offering them some life changing experiences.”

Follow Rick Casillo on and all the mushers, preparations, history and thrills of this amazing race at While you're at it, buy some gear and DVDs to help a great cause.

Support your favorite team and dogs with donations or by volunteering and watch the race on television starting on March 1st.


To report a breaking story or a news topic, call (256) 738-2200 or drop an email to



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