Cindy Abbott and Cain Carter Cindy Abbott is an Iditarod rookie, however she is no rookie when it comes to adventure and risk taking. She successfully climbed Mount Everest on May 23, 2010, after being diagnosed with Wegner’s Granulomatosis in 2007.

Cindy races, using her disease as a platform, to raise rare disease awareness. According to the Mayo Clinic, Wegener’s granulomatosis is an uncommon disorder that causes inflammation of your blood vessels, which in turn restricts blood flow to various organs. Most commonly Wegener’s granulomatosis affects your kidneys, lungs and upper respiratory tract. The restricted blood flow to these organs can damage them.

Abbotts dogsBesides inflamed blood vessels, Wegener’s granulomatosis produces a type of inflammatory tissue known as granuloma, found around the blood vessels. Granulomas can destroy normal tissue. What causes Wegener’s granulomatosis is uncertain, but it’s not an infection nor is it a type of cancer.

Early diagnosis and treatment of Wegener’s granulomatosis may lead to a full recovery.

In an effort to improve the understanding of Wegener’s granulomatosis, the name is being changed to Granulomatosis with Polyangitis (GPA). For additional information visit the Mayo Clinic at

Cindy Abbott 1Cindy is racing with a team from Lance Mackey’s Comeback Kennel. She has the full support of her family and her employer, California State University-Fullerton. She also enjoys scuba diving, ballroom dance, underwater videography, and San Diego Chargers football. Cindy volunteers her time as an Advocate for the National Organization of Rare Disorders and the Vasculitis Foundation. For more information about Cindy Abbott visit her website


As you know, I am always drawn to the stories behind the mushers and their dogs.  Mikhail Telpin has a great story and he’s working to share it with students around the world.  Mikhail is from Chukotka, Russia.  He is spending his second winter in Willow where he is sharing kennel space with Joar Ulsom from Norway who is also racing in the Iditarod this year.  The two are a part of Team Racing Beringia, which is a group of two mushers, their dogs, and an educator who are traveling via dogsled for two years over 3,500 miles across Beringia, the oldest inhabited Arctic region.

Mikhail made a stir at the vet checks on the Wednesday before the race when he dropped his Chukchi dogs from their dog boxes for the vets to examine.  These are not your typical Alaskan Huskies we are used to seeing travel the Iditarod Trail!  Mikhail is a subsistence hunter and these dogs are his life line partners in hunting and providing for his family.  He hunts marine mammals and the dogs help him haul loads back to his family.  The dogs are working dogs that have been bred and used by his people for thousands of years.  The vets were very impressed with the dogs and commented how healthy they appeared.  The dogs were so calm at vet checks.  Mikhail doesn’t speak any English, so the vets have printed up cards with the phrases they think they will have to ask Mikhail in the checkpoints along the trail.

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Mikhail is a renowned musher in Russia.  In running the Yukon Quest last year, he had concerns about running his team in the dark because of the trees. He and his team don’t have trees in the coastal area where they live!  He was afraid they would get lost among the trees and not be able to follow the trail. In that race he won the Red Lantern award and a special award for demonstrating the “spirit of the Yukon Quest.”

There is quite an international pool in the mushers this year:  USA, Canada, Jamaica, Brazil, Norway, and New Zealand.  There are wonderful opportunities to put a global spin on the race.  I was intrigued by the idea that the oldest remains of sled dogs (over 8,000 years old) have been found in Beringia – which Chukotka and Alaska are a part of! There is also evidence that Togo – the lead dog for part of the Serum Run of 1925 was a Chukchi dog! This social studies lesson has students using online sources to compare the Chukchi dogs to the Alaskan Huskies.  There are several options for additional writing assignments as well.  From Russia With Dogs

Dog Bootie Math is one of our favorite activities during the year.  My students love to grab a dog bootie full of math problems and get to work.  Over the years I have found that dog booties can hold a variety of activities.  Students love trying to figure out what is in their dog bootie.  I think it is the mystery of the unknown that keeps my students intrigued during our Dog Bootie Math.

This is a very easy lesson that is adaptable for any grade and any level of math.  I have used Dog Bootie Math for elementary students and high school students.  The secret is to mix up which students get which colors each day.  One day I may have students working in neon pink booties while the next day they have neon green.  So, if you need a quick idea to liven up your classroom….bring in some dog booties!

Dog Bootie Lesson Plan

After spending about 10 days in Alaska, it was time for me to head back to Ohio.  However, Winter Storm Saturn decided  to hit the lower 48 and cancel all my flights.  The “Alberta Clipper” moved quickly across the Midwest, blanketing it in snow.  Parts of the Midwest accumulated nearly 15 inches of snow.  More than 1,000 flights were cancelled on the first day.  Winter Storm Saturn dumped over 20 inches of snow on Virginia.  As the storm continued to progress, newscasters began discussing the effect of the snow load on buildings in the lower 48.  On March 6th, the roof of the Baby Ballroom at Café La Cave in Des Plaines, Illinois collapsed due to the weight of the snow.

This made me think of my Dome in Nome Lesson Plan that I use in my classroom.   In this lesson students are given the task of calculating snow loads, evaluating architectural designs and planning a new building that can withstand a higher amount of snow load.   Students will compose a research paper, participate in a structure-building competition, present and display their geo domes and complete the activity by creating a class geo dome.  This lessons incorporates applied geometry, physical science, algebra and technology.  Each student begins by researching geo domes and snow loads.  Geo Domes FactsResources for Snow Load and Snow Load Information are provided as resources for students.

The students in my classroom love to participate in the structure-building competition. This year my students used marshmallows, toothpicks and straws for the competition.  However, there are alternative materials that can be used for the structure-building competition.  Geo Domes Alternative Ideas

The class geo dome is created out of bamboo and duct tape.  Each group is given one roll of duct tape and enough bamboo to make 10 triangles.  The geo dome on the right was created using the smallest bamboo and was able to hold over 140 pounds!  After creating the geo dome, students use weights to see how much weight the geo dome can withstand.  Our goal for the large geo domes is to be able to hold the entire groups weight!  The students are amazed at the strength of the geo dome and the amount of weight it can withstand.  Students discuss how roof design and the architectural design of the building determines the amount of snow load a building can withstand.  Try this hands-on lesson that is fun and incorporates Math, Science and Technology!

Many people think Fourth Street always has snow on it for the Iditarod ceremonial start the first Saturday in March, however that is not always the case. I ventured down to the street at 10:00 pm on Friday night to see just how all that snow suddenly appears for the race. This video clip explains a little of the process used to cover the middle of the road.

This video continues the dumping of snow on Fourth Street in Anchorage, Alaska.

During preparations for the 2013 Iditarod re-start I came across Scott Janssen, the “Mushing Mortician”, being interviewed by the press.  He discussed what he likes to take on the trail to eat and how he warms up his food.

If you were on the Iditarod trail, what would you take to eat?  Would you eat it cold or stop and warm it up?  How do you eat your pizza and macaroni & cheese?

This lesson plan has been used to teach teachers in my state how to incorporate Common Core standards into any lesson. This lesson uses the Iditarod Trail Notes, the Iditarod trail maps, and the website to journey across Alaska. Writing is a large part of this lesson, as students put themselves on the sled as a musher currently competing in the race. 

Smith Iditarod Lesson Plan

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Who doesn’t like a good Sunday drive? Usually people take this drive for relaxation, to view new scenery, to enjoy companionship with friends, and to enjoy being outdoors. Recently 66 people took such a Sunday drive on dog sleds with sixteen of their closest friends to do just that. Laniers 1 Many have been quoted as saying “I enjoy being one with nature. Riding the back of the sled is very relaxing for me”.

There is certainly new scenery for the rookies of the forty-first running of the Iditarod Sled Dog Race, especially for those who live in parts of Alaska not remotely close to Willow or near other race venues they have attended.Jumping dog

Their sixteen close friends? Hard-charging huskies must be trustworthy, energetic, and cooperative in order for this Sunday drive to be successful. Mushers and their teams, working as a well oiled machine, can cover many miles on the first day. Chute off the lakeThat first day just happens to begin on a frozen lake, ride up a hill, and carry on down a road poetically called Sunday Drive.

Sunday Drive sign at Willow

Since Martin Buser is making headlines, I thought you’d enjoy this up close video of his Iditarod Race Team as they headed out on their last training run prior to starting this race.

Check out the comfy seat he has included on his sled! Sitting down and ducking behind the handle bars may help with wind resistance and therefore make things easier on the dogs in certain parts of the trail.

We will all just have to wait and see if his strategy pays off this year!  It’s making for an interesting race so far!





Martin Buser’s Happy Trails Kennel

Favorite Place to be Scratched


Start with the ears and move to the belly when he rolls on his back!