follow that dog: serum run echoes

In 1925, Diptheria broke out in Nome AK.

There was a serum available, far away. How to get it there…

The seas were frozen. Airplanes were primitive, open cockpit affairs, if the plane’s engine didn’t freeze, the pilot would. Trains, impossible.

It came down to the doughty sled dog.

While Balto got the glory (and the cartoon) for being the leader of the team who came into Nome, there was a relay system of hardy mushers and dogs who braved terrible weather and epic trail conditions to pass the serum from hand to hand and deliver it to Nome.

The slightly less sung hero is Leonhard Seppala and his little grey lead dog Togo. They accomplished the longest, hardest, and most difficult part of that journey.

And later, Seppala’s “Siberian rats” (because they were small and wiry, not big and stout like most sled dogs of the era) proved themselves racing, and established an entire breed on the North American Continent.

If you look into the eyes of a Siberian husky today, you are looking down the ages to Seppala’s serum run team.

Friend Willow, Leggy, and Denali in wheel.


The Iditarod Trail runs through Kaltag. The blurb on the Iditarod GPS tracker map mentions that it is the home of Virginia Kalland, widow of Edgar Kalland, who was one of the mushers on the original serum run in 1925.

She died in 2010, but her obituary gives some neat insights into life in the wilds of Alaska.


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