Blind sled dog completes 100-mile race in northern Minnesota

A dog stands with its mouth open
Indy, a 7-year-old Alaskan husky, is officially back in action after losing his sight more than three years ago. He’ll join a team of sled dogs to take on the 300-mile John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon later this month.
Courtesy of Frank Moe

Indy was a “superstar” sled dog in his earlier days, according to his owner, Frank Moe. But three and a half years ago, Indy lost sight in one eye.

To help Indy cope, Moe began running him alongside Popcorn, a friend in the sled dog team, on the trail in northeastern Minnesota.

Indy adapted well to running with one eye, Moe said — and then he lost sight in his other eye. Moe gave Indy a year to adjust to his loss of sight.

That could’ve spelled the end of Indy’s racing career, but the pup couldn’t stop running.

“He's such a happy-go-lucky dog,” Moe said. “We almost turned him into a house pet. But he just wants to run. It's all he wants to do."

After Indy’s year off, Moe, a former state legislator who lives in Hovland, ran him in some recreational races to get him back on the trail. Then, last season, Indy took on some longer races and became as strong as the rest of the dogs.

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Indy’s known as a wheel in dogsled parlance — which means he runs behind the rest of the dogs, right in front of the musher. Wheels must be among the strongest dogs on the team.

He proved his strength this weekend, completing the 100-mile Gunflint Mail Run in Cook County, Minn. It’s two 50-mile legs with a few hours of rest in between.

"He was as strong as any of the other dogs,” Moe said. “We just thought, 'Oh my gosh, Indy's back!'"

Indy will be on Moe’s team again later this month at the John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon — a 300-mile race up the North Shore.

Moe isn’t worried about Indy’s ability in the Beargrease. He’s convinced he’ll be one of the strongest dogs out there.

“As long as he gets some love and attention and some treats at the end,” Moe said, “that's all he cares about.”