When Blair Braverman attempts to travel the 1,000 miles from Anchorage to Nome in Alaska this March, she will do so with no human company, but with 14 of the most character-filled canine chums instead.
That’s because Blair, 30, is the driver of a dog sled. She is gearing up for the Iditarod race in March, which will see her cross the wilderness of Alaska.
To do so she’ll need a team of 14 capable dogs which she will choose from a squad of 20 Alaskan huskies – and Twitter is going wild for them.
That’s because each dog has a wonderful and unique set of characteristics which make them great company, and Blair has been sharing their stories with the world while she trains on the Denali Highway this winter.
Here’s Pepe for example, “our true Lead Dog” according to Blair.
The posts have received tens of thousands of likes on Twitter, with social media users falling in love with the group.
“The single most important thing for a sled dog is that he or she loves to run,” Blair told the Press Association.
“Secondary important traits are a good appetite, a double coat – with a soft downy layer under water-repellent outer hairs – and the ability to get along well as part of a team.
“The issue isn’t getting them to run, it’s getting them to stop!”
Having attended a dogsledding boarding school in Norway when she was 18, Blair became a dogsled guide in Alaska in the summer, and only got her own dogs four years ago when she moved to northern Wisconsin and began training and racing in earnest.
But what does it take for the dogs to fulfil their sledding potential?
“When we’re raising puppies, the biggest thing we want to teach them is how to be brave,” said Blair.
“We take them to different places and encourage them to explore and play and have fun, so that they’re exposed to a variety of people, smells, weather, and so on.
“After that, our secondary focus is to build confidence in them as athletes. If some young dogs are slower than others, we’ll divide them up into different playing and running groups so that no pup feels left behind if they can’t keep up with all their siblings.”
And while the dogs must be strong and tough, they come in all shapes and sizes, like Grinch here.
“A chiropractor once called Grinch a ‘borderline trainwreck’” Blair wrote on Twitter, but that hasn’t stopped him being part of the team.
Asked which dogs’ characteristics will be crucial to the race, Blair named lead dog Pepe as well as Jenga here, who “thrives on problem-solving”.
Meanwhile, Colbert brings an altogether different set of skills.
“Colbert is everyone’s alarm clock and cheerleader,” said Blair. “He’ll wake me and the dogs up at checkpoints and make sure we keep moving.”
Blair has only ever had one dog who didn’t want to work in sledding – that dog now lives with Blair’s mother where she enjoys a life of hiking instead.
As for the rest, they’ll enjoy the adventure of a lifetime with Blair when their race gets under way in March.
“I’ll be all alone and I’m not allowed to accept assistance during the race,” said Blair. “It’ll just be me and 14 of my dogs, embarking on a big adventure together.”