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

By Lee Morgan


Publication Date: February 27, 2024

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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.

About the Author

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.

Format: Hardcover

Length: 304 pages

Publisher: Liveright

Publication Date: February 27, 2024

ISBN: 9781324091394

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