Having the honor of visiting Mary Shields in her cheerful, cozy Fairbanks home at dusk was among the highlights of our 2-week Alaskan vacation. The experience was extraordinary -- playing with her friendly puppies and dogs, learning about native plants in her garden, watching old videos, and enjoying homemade blueberry brownies (a first for us) while listening to her fascinating stories about not only completing the Iditarod but also what it means to be an Alaskan and to be one with nature -- and she is an extraordinary person as well. Her warmth radiates from the phone and her writing even before you meet her and is 100% sincere. She has shown tremendous courage and resilience in many facets of her life. She s highly perceptive and sensitive to the inclinations of individual people within the group, and encourages complete openness with questions and concerns throughout the conversation. She is, in a word, enlightened. It was a privilege and a treat to meet her...I was sad that our paths wouldn't be crossing again in the near future.
As an animal welfare advocate, I was also reassured that the safety and health of Mary's dogs is of paramount importance to her and highest priority, even when racing. She takes plenty of precautions to ensure that they don't overexert themselves, that they are well protected, and that they have plenty of nutrition to sustain them at every leg of their journey.
This is an experience not to be missed.
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