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Dog Musher Gets Athletic Award

June 6, 1989

NEW YORK (AP) _ Susan Butcher got a silver platter Tuesday in honor of her athletic achievements. But her teammates won’t hound her about stealing the spotlight.

Ms. Butcher said love and praise will be ample awards for the dogs who helped her win the Iditarod Trail race three times in a row.

″I love my dogs. I love living in the wilderness. I’m a lucky person to have something I enjoy doing,″ said Ms. Butcher, who came from rural Alaska to claim the 22nd annual Tanqueray Amateur Athlete Achievement Award at a Manhattan luncheon.

″I’d never want to live here, but it’s interesting and usually fun,″ said Ms. Butcher, who visits the city several times a year.

Her 1987 record of 11 days, 2 hours, 5 minutes and 13 seconds still stands for the 1,200 mile dogsled race from Anchorage to Nome, Alaska. She also won in 1986 and 1988, but came in second this year when several dogs became ill.

″These are athletes, like any other athletes,″ Butcher said. The 150 sled dogs she and her husband own have speed, endurance ″and the same thing I happen to have: drive and the competitive spirit.″

But she added that it’s ″really a toss-up to say who’s more important″ - the dogs or the trainer. ″Another person could take my team and come in last.″

Ms. Butcher, 33, a veterinary technician, began mushing dogs at age 16 in her native Cambridge, Mass. She and her husband, fellow musher Dave Monson, now live 70 miles from Manley Hot Springs, Alaska, the nearest town.

Besides giving Butcher the platter, the sponsor contributed $5,000 in Butcher’s name to the Delta Society, which trains people and pets to visit nursing homes and hospitals.

Fortuna, an 8-year-old Alaskan husky who once was one of Butcher’s dogs but retired after the 1987 Iditarod, was at the ceremony. The 42-pound dog was adopted in October 1987 by Tom and Ellen Measday of Livingston, N.J.

″For two weeks, she was silent. I think she was in mourning,″ said Mrs. Measday. But later, ″she seemed real happy to get all the attention. She’s not one of 150 dogs any more.″

Fortuna now runs with the New Jersey Sled Dog Club.