Iditarod Racer Saw Dogs' Ears Perk Up. Then He Saw His Friend

Scott Janssen awarded for helping save stranded racer Jim Lanier
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 20, 2018 10:00 AM CDT
Iditarod Racer Saw Dogs' Ears Perk Up. Then He Saw His Friend
Musher Scott Janssen poses in Anchorage, Alaska, in 2015.   (AP Photo/Mark Thiessen, File)

Scott Janssen hoped to win the world's most famous sled-dog race across Alaska. Instead, the 56-year-old took home a sportsmanship award for spending a chilly night with a friend in a sleeping bag he feared would become a body bag. Some 45 miles from the Iditarod finish line, Janssen saw his dogs' ears perk up before they pulled his sled off course and onto the frozen Bering Sea. At least two other racers had taken the same route with 50mph wind gusts creating blizzard conditions, per the Washington Post: Janssen's friend and mentor, 77-year-old Jim Lanier, whose sled was stuck on a piece of driftwood, and another racer who'd passed by without noticing him. "For some reason, say the grace of God, I looked to my left and saw Jim," Janssen tells KTVA. "At that point Jim said, 'I'm not going to make it out of here.' He says, 'You need to keep going.'"

Janssen didn't. Losing his gloves in the process, he freed his friend's sled, then used a satellite phone to call for help since Lanier's dogs were too tired to continue. Janssen then huddled with Lanier to battle frostbite and hypothermia. "The guy is a mortician, so he made a joke about how if they found us frozen to death, he would make sure we had the right sized coffins," Lanier tells the Post. "I told Jim that American society should be like what we are now, a Democrat and a Republican helping each other out," says Janssen. Had the Republican not seen his friend, a Democrat, "I wouldn't be able to live with myself," Janssen adds. But "I knew I was going to die if someone didn't come along." After five hours, rescuers arrived early Friday to find the men safe, reports the Anchorage Daily News. Their dogs, rescued a short time later, were in good condition, per KTVA. (Read more Iditarod stories.)

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