While we’re at it…
If you want a “hero” from the Great Race of Mercy that wasn’t the native teams, here’s Togo and his handler, Leonhard Seppala.
“Balto” was a farce. Usurping amateur who did little work compared to Togo.
And to boot, the statue of Balto in Central Park is modeled after the real Balto, but every color and medal he wears was awarded to Togo. Officials and historians honored and knew Togo to be the real pack leader, who really deserved the praise. Roald Amundsen (of South Pole Expedition fame) even personally gave Togo a gold medal at Madison Square Gardens.
But that’s not what people see these days. Togo’s silent honor was easily overshadowed by a fame-hungry musher who couldn’t wait to be in photoshoot after tour stop after film after headlines. Balto’s owner/musher, Gunnar Kaasen, knew how to exploit this opportunity to its fullest. After the rescue run, he and his team toured around the country with Balto at the forefront, and told heroic tales of “Balto’s” triumphs, the majority of which were what Togo led his team through, and which Kaasen had overheard Seppala speak about.
Of course, none of that was Balto’s fault, and I feel sorry for the dog. Not only was he an amateur who wasn’t ready to lead a team in tough conditions up north, he was actually sold to a circus after Kaasen couldn’t milk anything else out of his appearances. He was malnourished and treated horribly there, before the children of Cleveland, OH found out, and had a fundraiser to bring Balto and his team to the local Zoo to live out their retirement.
Here’s a source or two on the topic, but most of this is from old newspapers and accounts, as well as the Iditarod Museum.