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Fire and ice in Alaska

CHANGING CAREER from a police officer to a full-time trainer, breeder and manager of a racing sledging team of Greenland dogs may seem a little off-beat to some, but it’s a dream come true for 34-year-old Nick Akers from Finmere in Buckinghamshire.
Having grown up with his parents’ Alaskan dogs, Nick’s interest started early and he was only 14 when he established and raced his first sledging team of Siberian Huskies in the UK.

However, racing became increasingly difficult as the dogs got older and races abroad made travelling a complicated necessity. Nick put his dreams on hold and pursued a career in the police force for three years.

It was in June 2003 that he decided to take a chance, give up his career and concentrate on breeding Greenland dogs to create a world class sledging team, Ice Fire Dogs, fit to race the famous Iditarod in Alaska. Taking place every year in March, the Iditarod is a gruelling 1,100 mile race from Anchorage to Nome, to mark a diphtheria outbreak back in 1925. With children dying from the disease, the only way to bring vaccines into the town was via dog sleigh, since no other mode of transport could overcome the severe weather conditions. A relay of dog teams from Nennana to Nome saved many children’s lives by dispatching the required vaccines and the Iditarod was set up in 1972 to commemorate this.

‘The Iditarod race is now a huge international media spectacle and it’s been my ambition since childhood to compete.’, says Nick. ‘The only way to achieve this was by concentrating solely on breeding and training dogs suitable to form a team, which amongst other things, requires many hours of training in racing conditions in Norway – at 35 degrees below zero! I’m aiming to enter in 2007, which just goes to show the preparation time involved.

‘Travelling has been made easier with the Pet Passport Scheme, a no quarantine is required for Norway, and I’ve got Intervet UK to thank for supporting me so that I can comply with the necessary vaccination requirements – with 28 dogs, it would have otherwise been a significant cost to me! Health issues are extremely important when travelling with one dog, never mind 28, and I’m a big believer in meeting my dogs’ health needs through appropriate vaccination and keeping rabies out.’

Nick and Ice Fire Dogs set off to Norway this September to stay near Oslo, at a location that is only accessible by sledge, and which replicates the checkpoint conditions he will experience during the Iditarod. He will also enter some 300 km races in Norway during this period as part of the dogs’ training. Nick hopes to complete the race in 12 days, which he feels is a realistic goal based on previous winners’ times of nine days.

We wish him every success and look forward to hearing how he got on!

For further information on Intervet’s Nobivac Rabies, contact your local vet, call the Intervet Veterinary Support Group on 01908 685685 or visit www.intervet.co.uk For further information on the Pet Passport Scheme visit www.petplan.co.uk