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'Nigel's Choice' is Nigel's voice - ND sled dog paws tell-all

Nancy Yoshida hangs out with Iditarod sled dog race veteran Nigel, one of two Alaskan Huskies that Yoshida kept after disbanding her kennel in 2010. Herald photo by Eric Hylden

Thompson sled dog 'pens' book about Iditarod

THOMPSON, N.D. -- Nancy Yoshida certainly hasn't held a grudge with Nigel, the Alaskan Husky that ended her 2009 Iditarod, the world's foremost sled dog race.

Nigel is one of two sled dogs that the rural Thompson resident has kept after disbanding her kennel in 2010. And, Yoshida is the ghostwriter of "Nigel's Choice," a paperback book that is told in Nigel's voice.

"There was no way, after losing him and then finding him, that I'd let him go away forever," Yoshida said about choosing Nigel among her 20 Huskies to continue living in rural Thompson.

And there was no way that the perpetually energetic Yoshida was going to let her 2009 misadventure in Alaska go without a positive twist.

The book, targeted for middle school-age readers, is that rainbow. Nigel, an 8-year-old retired from racing, "writes" about preparing for and competing in the Iditarod. The team's race ended after a crash going down a steep hill, which caused a spooked Nigel to run off. Since mushers aren't allowed to continue if a dog is lost, Yoshida's Iditarod was stalled. When Nigel was found several days later, it was too late to continue.

In the book, Nigel refers to Yoshida as "Mom." It's a fitting reference because the musher takes care of the dogs' physical and emotional needs. It also works because the book's message to the targeted youngsters is basically this: Listen to your mom (and dad).

Or, as Nigel puts it: "Never run away from those who love and care for you the most."

And, "Every choice one makes leads to a result."

Readers, Yoshida said, "hopefully will think of the choices they make and the impacts those choices have on themselves and other people. All of our choices have consequences."

The book's other benefit is that it's been therapeutic for Yoshida, whose dream was cut short after traveling only one-tenth of the race's 1,151 miles.

Adding to the frustration was when her health, at age 60, and other factors cut short plans to compete in the 2010 Iditarod. Later that year, she sold or gave away all of Huskies except Nigel and Mike, who also was on her 2009 Iditarod team despite losing toes in a trap four weeks earlier.

But that's another story, coming soon in another book written by "Nigel."

"Three chapters are done," Yoshida said.