From Everest to Iditarod: Cindy Abbott’s Incredible Journey

Cindy Abbott is a wife and a mother with some “normal” hobbies and interests (ballroom dancing, SCUBA diving and cheering on the San Diego Chargers) … and others that are not so normal.  In 2010, Cindy summited Mount Everest, and she’s currently in training for the 1150-mile Iditarod sled dog race in Alaska.

More extraordinary?  Cindy was diagnosed in 2007 with Wegener’s Granulomatosis – a rare and incurable form of vasculitis that affects the nose, lungs, kidneys, and other organs.  She’s functionally blind in her left eye and suffers extreme joint pain, fatigue and circulation issues because of the disease.

Not really the kind of person you’d expect to be summiting Mount Everest or braving the extreme conditions of the Iditarod, is she?

When we first heard about Cindy and her remarkable story, we did what bootmakers do (naturally): We sent her some boots.  As she trains to compete in the “Last Great Race on Earth,” her feet will stay warm and dry in a pair of our Earthkeepers Stratton Tall boots.

Cindy’s motivation for taking on these incredible challenges is simply to raise awareness for rare diseases such as her own – and that’s a mission we’re happy to support.  In the coming months, we’ll be providing updates on Cindy’s training and preparation for the Iditarod on our women’s site – please check back often to see how she’s doing.  In the meantime, you can learn more about Cindy and the journey that has brought her to this point on her website, reachingbeyondtheclouds.com.  To offer your support, go to Cindy’s fundraising page.

  • Margery Glickman

    Shame on Timberland for sponsoring Cindy Abbott in the Iditarod. What happens to dogs during the Iditarod includes death, bloody diarrhea, paralysis, frostbite (where it hurts the most!), bleeding ulcers, lung damage, pneumonia, ruptured discs, viral diseases, kennel cough, broken bones, torn muscles and extreme stress. At least 142 dogs have died in the race, including four dogs who froze to death in the brutal cold.

    Veterinary care during the Iditarod is poor. Here’s just one example: Veterinarians have allowed dogs with kennel cough to race in the Iditarod even though dogs with this disease should be kept warm and given lots of rest. It’s dangerous for the dogs with this disease to exercise with any intensity. Strenuous exercise can cause lung damage, pneumonia and even death. Kennel cough is a highly contagious disease that normally lasts from 10 to 21 days.

    Iditarod dogs are beaten into submission. Jane Stevens, a former Iditarod dog handler, describes a dog beating in her letter published by the Whitehorse Star (Feb. 23, 2011). She wrote: “I witnessed the extremely violent beating of an Iditarod racing dog by one of the racing industry’s most high-profile top 10 mushers. Be assured the beating was clearly not within an ‘acceptable range’ of ‘discipline’. Indeed, the scene left me appalled, sick and shocked. After viewing an individual sled dog repeatedly booted with full force, the male person doing the beating jumping back and forth like a pendulum with his full body weight to gain full momentum and impact. He then alternated his beating technique with full-ranging, hard and fast, closed-fist punches like a piston to the dog as it was held by its harness splayed onto the ground. He then staggeringly lifted the dog by the harness with two arms above waist height, then slammed the dog into the ground with full force, again repeatedly, all of this repeatedly.”

    During the 2007 race, eyewitnesses reported that musher Ramy Brooks kicked, punched and beat his dogs with a ski pole and a chain. Jon Saraceno wrote in his column in USA Today, “He [Colonel Tom Classen] confirmed dog beatings and far worse. Like starving dogs to maintain their most advantageous racing weight. Skinning them to make mittens. Or dragging them to their death.”

    Jim Welch says in his book Speed Mushing Manual, “Nagging a dog team is cruel and ineffective…A training device such as a whip is not cruel at all but is effective.” He also said, “It is a common training device in use among dog mushers…” Former Iditarod dog handler Mike Cranford wrote in Alaska’s Bush Blade Newspaper: “Dogs are clubbed with baseball bats and if they don’t pull are dragged to death in harnesses…..”

    Iditarod dog kennels are puppy mills. Most mushers have more than 50 dogs. Some have more than 100. Mushers breed large numbers of dogs and routinely kill unwanted ones, including puppies. Many dogs who are permanently disabled in the Iditarod, or who are unwanted for any reason, including those who have outlived their usefulness or have no economic value, are killed with a shot to the head, dragged, drowned or clubbed to death.

    FOR MORE FACTS: Sled Dog Action Coalition, http://www.helpsleddogs.org

  • Anonymous

    Margery, thanks for reading our blog and for sharing your thoughts. To be clear, Timberland’s small show of support for Cindy Abbott is not an endorsement or expression of support or sponsorship of the Iditarod. She approached us about her campaign to raise money for rare disease research
    and awareness. We were moved by Cindy’s work and her ability to accomplish
    amazing physical feats despite suffering from a painful and debilitating
    disease, and so we sent her some boots to wear on her journey.

    Thanks again for sharing your thoughts.

  • http://www.facebook.com/cindy.abbott Cindy Abbott

    Margery,

    I just read your post. As we all know, there are people who abuse animals – one may live next door to you. I am a huge animal lover and agree that any form of abuse is unacceptable.

    As with anything, where are rare individual cases of extreme behavior. However, I have never seen any of the things you have menetioned; and if I did, I would be the first to report it. What you wrote is 99.9% incorrect, especially in today’s mushing world.

    The iditarod Officals and veterinarians go to great lengths to insure the best care for the dogs: extensive pre-race physicals, check-point exams, and continuous monitoring.

    I love and treat each of the dogs as if they were my family – because they are! I give them love, hugs, and kisses which they return. These amazing athletes love to run.

    I invite you to come come to one of the races I will be running I see for your self how these wonderful dogs are actually treated.

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