A Sled Dog Flunks Racing School but Aces the Happy Ending

A dog sled running on a barren winter landscape. By Tyler Olson/Shutterstock

As a sled dog, Maggie probably wouldn't have amounted to much. She was a little on the small side. Certainly skinny. And she had lost her voice.

But then again, who knows what this little dog would have amounted to had she been born somewhere else, far from the sled dog training school in Alaska where she ended up.

Maggie, according to the organization that would eventually rescue her, spent every day of the last year at a training camp for the Iditarod, an annual race that sees dogs haul sleds from Anchorage to Nome.

The race, spanning more than 900 miles and taking anywhere from eight to 15 days to complete, calls for strong, virtually weather-proof dogs.

But Maggie could only prove that she didn't belong there. The skin under her paws and around her neck was badly chafed. She had spent so much time lunging at her tether, her voice was little more than a hoarse squawk among a chorus of howls from the dozen or so dogs at the site.

For a dog being groomed to run hundreds of icy miles in the freezing cold, her worldview was pretty limited. Like the rest of those trainees, she spent most of her time chained to the uninsulated, partly submerged box she used as a shelter.

Maggie wasn't getting tougher — only weaker and more hopeless by the day.

Someone who worked at the sled dog school mercifully agreed. Earlier this month, PETA released a damning report on the sled dog industry, with that same eyewitness recounting the harsh conditions many of these dogs live under.

Maggie would not be one of those dogs. The unidentified worker persuaded the camp owner to part with the little dog without a voice. A video posted to YouTube this week, shows the worker arriving at the dog-mushing operation to free Maggie.

In the video, chained dogs bark and howl, making shrieking pirouettes in the frozen earth. They stretch and strain, running as wide a circle as their chains allow. And one little dog steps out of an uninsulated bunker to lick the visitor's hand.

That's when Maggie's real journey began — one would take her out of the cold — into the warmth of a real home.

From Alaska, she embarked on a cross-country journey that took her all the way to Virginia. And for this trek, Maggie got to take her sweet time and reclaim her lost puppyhood.There were treats, baths, brushings, toys, and, of course, necessary medical attention.

"What we would like for her to look forward to — and I think she probably is — is a long, long life of love and happiness and somebody to care for her and look after her," her companion noted in the release. "Somebody who is always going to be there, no matter what."

And at the end of it all was a home with a plush bed. That's where she met the family who would take care of her for the rest of her life.

That's also where she found her voice again. The damage to her vocals turned out to be temporary. Just in time for a dog who now has so much to sing about.