Scott Janssen: The Mushing Mortician

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by Jessica Gruenling

EUREKA SUMMIT, Ak--Like a lot of people who move to the last frontier Scott Janssen fell in love with one of our state's major sports. For seventeen years Janssen sponsored best friend Paul Gebhart in the Iditarod and after gaining inspiration and experience from Gebhart he decided to give it a shot himself.

 
"I've done pretty much everything and for me at about 45 years old i just thought this would be the ultimate test. I initially was gonna do it one time. You can't just do the iditarod once, just the experience of it. My biggest competitor is me. My first year i got 42nd place, my second year I got 38th. Last year i had to scratch in Rainey Pass, Janssen, Iditaord Musher."
 
Going in to his fourth race Janssen knows he'll see hardships.
 
"It was about 28 below and froze the tip of my nose and that sort of thing is tough, Janssen."
 
Lack of sleep is a natural part of the race. 
 
"In that 4 hour time I''m lucky to get 30 minutes, and that rest is just laying on the snow and stretching out your back or laying on top of your dog sled, Janssen." 
 
Cleaning up tangles, temperatues below  56 degrees, and anything else mother nature might have up her sleeve make this a sport only perfect for Alaska.
 
"I'll start dancing on the sled kind of boogying a little just to try and warm up, Janssen."
 
As most mushers will tell you no matter what you're going through the dogs come first.
 
"Our dogs eat every 2 and half hours on the trail, so we have sleeves of meat that we have cut up in thin slices about a half inch think, and we'll stop on the trail and we'll snack each dog. Then approximately every 50-60 miles depending on the musher and the dog team, we stop and we camp with the dogs, Janssen."
 
For the undertaker of Iditarod putting man's best friend to rest was simply not an option. Last year after a vet check in Rainey Pass, Marshall, a middle dog, hit the snow and Janssen knew this was not an accident. Janssen immediately stopped his team and ran to Marshall's side.
 
When I picked him up by his harness and put him up on his feet and when I did he fell over the other way and when I looked at his eyes they were glazed over and he was dead he had no heart beat, no respiration, and I instantly stuck his tongue back into his mouth and started breathing through his nose and mouth and I was working on his heart and I did that for a long time and it was probably 5 or 10 minutes, and I looked up into the sky and I said please dude come back and I looked down and he coughed and then started breathing and I layed down with him for 40 minutes, Janssen."
 
But, the miracle of Marshall's come back was noticed by all his k-9 family.
 
"All of the other 15 dogs, we're only 200 some miles into the race and they were charged up and they all sat there and they whimpered and not a single one tried to pull that snow hook. And after about 45 minutes I took my big beaver mitts and beaver hat and made a bed for Marshall on top of the sled and I strapped him into it and I said lets go guys I got to get Marshall to the doctor, Janssen."  
 
Marshall is now retired living in Janssen's home. This years team is excited and ready to go.
For janssen, the race is more about living and fulfilling his Alaskan spirit. 
 
" I told my wife in a month it's all going to be over, and that's the wild thing and you look at the experiences along the trail and there's a little fear about the trail there's a little fear I'll tell you. But the excitement is heightened every day as we go. I'm gonna make the best of it I'm going to have a great vacation on the Iditarod trail."
 
The mushing mortician is hoping to arrive in Nome on his birthday on March 11.