Fan favorite Iditarod musher Zirkle retiring after ’21 race

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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) One of the sport’s most popular mushers has announced she will retire from competitive dog mushing after this year’s Iditarod, her 21st entry in the world’s most famous sled dog race.

Musher Aliy Zirkle made the announcement in a retirement letter posted on her website Thursday.

“I don’t want you to think that I’m just up and quitting,” Zirkle wrote, saying this has not been a quick decision.

Zirkle said the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race has always been a spectacular adventure for her, but it’s also been physically and mentally demanding.

“And if I’m being honest, at times, I have been challenged to my very core,” she wrote. “I know that in the not so distant future, I will not be able to give it my 100%. So, I am retiring before I have to retire.”

This year’s race will start March 7 near Willow, Alaska, about 50 miles (80.5 kilometers) north of Anchorage. The traditional ceremonial start the day before in Anchorage has been canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has also led organizers to shorten the nearly 1,000-mile (1,601 kilometer) race to 850 miles (1,368 kilometers).

The race will not go to the Bering Sea coast for its normal finish in Nome. Instead, mushers will travel from Willow to the ghost town of Iditarod and back to Willow for the finish. Forty-seven mushers are signed up to race, the smallest field in two decades.

Zirkle is a fan-favorite though she has never accomplished her goal of becoming the third woman – and first since the late Susan Butcher won her fourth title in 1990 – to win the world’s most famous sled dog race.

She endeared herself to fans with her effusive personality, her ever-present smile and can-do attitude vividly on display during three straight second-place finishes from 2012-2014. Since then, she’s had four other top 10 finishes. Last year, she placed 18th.

She’s also exhibited the tough Alaska persona that one would expect from a competitor in a race that takes about 10 days to finish in elements that requires them to carry an ax. She once broke another woman’s arm during an arm wrestling contest in a Nome bar following one race.

But it hasn’t always been easy for Zirkle, who told The Associated Press in 2017 she had suffered panic attacks and sought therapy after being attacked by a man on a snowmobile on the trail in the previous year’s race.

Arnold Demoski was given a six-month sentence for driving a snowmobile at four-time Iditarod champion Jeff King and Zirkle in separate attacks on March 12, 2016, near the Iditarod checkpoint in Nulato, Alaska. One of King’s dogs, Nash, was killed, and other dogs were injured.

Demoski pleaded guilty to felony criminal mischief and misdemeanor charges of assault, reckless endangerment and driving under the influence.

“Over the course of almost two hours, one man, by using his snowmachine, made prolonged, aggressive and what I believe to be deliberate threats to me and my team,” Zirkle said in a statement just days after the attack. Snowmachines are what Alaskans call snowmobiles.

“I was terrified. Had it not been for my defensive reactions, we could have been maimed or killed,” she said at the time.

She struggled but continued the race, placing third that year. At the finish line, fans chanted her name, hugged her and she even got a bouquet of roses. She credited fans and race volunteers for their support for helping her get through the race.

Zirkle was born in Manchester, New Hampshire, in 1969 and first came to Alaska in 1990, midway through getting a degree in biology from the University of Pennsylvania. She lived in a wall tent on the Alaska Peninsula, counting birds for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

She went back to college and finished her degree in 1992, and then came right back to Alaska. She and her husband, musher Allen Moore, own a kennel.

They built their home in Two Rivers where they hunt moose in the fall.

Zirkle, who has earned almost $475,000 since her first race in 2001, said her post-Iditarod future is somewhat undecided.

“I love Alaska and will continue to explore our great state. Of course, my husband, Allen, and I will together decide what our next life adventure will be,” she wrote. Zirkle didn’t immediately respond to an email from the AP on Friday seeking more information.

French Bulldog wins Best in Show at 2022 National Dog Show


The French Bulldog has won Best in Show at the 2022 National Dog Show.

Winston the French Bulldog beat out around 1,500 of dogs representing 212 breeds and varieties recognized by the American Kennel Club. First, he claimed victory in the Non-Sporting Group in a field of 20 breeds. He then took on the other six group winners before taking home the top honor. The English Toy Spaniel, winner of the Toy Group, was named Reserve Best in Show.

Hear from Claire’s handler Perry Payson about the victory:

The German Shepherd Dog won the Herding Group; the Irish Water Dog won the Sporting Group; the American Staffordshire Terrier won the Terrier Group; the Tree Walking Coonhound won the Hound Group; and the Alaskan Malamute won the Working Group.

This year, three breeds made their National Dog Show debut. The Russian Toy joined the Toy Group. The breed has a curly coat that can be black, gray, brown, or fawn in color, sometimes with white markings. The Mudi, which falls under the Herding Group, was originally a Hungarian farm dog. The breed is agile, intelligent and courageous, making it perfect to work with livestock. The Bracco Italiano, also known as the Italian Pointing Dog, joined the Sporting Group. The breed is known for its adaptability in hunting and its intelligence.

Related: Full list of breeds at 2022 National Dog Show

NBC televised the 2022 National Dog Show directly after the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade for the 21st straight year. Every year, more than 20 million people tune in for the event, which was commentated by longtime hosts John O’Hurley and David Frei. Mary Carillo also returned for more commentary, analysis and behind-the-scenes looks at one of the oldest dog shows in the world.

How to watch National Dog Show 2022 on Thanksgiving: Start time, TV channel, live stream, date


The National Dog Show is one of the most well-known dog shows in the world. Hosted by the Kennel Club of Philadelphia, the show was founded in 1879 and has been held annually since 1933. The NDS is sanctioned by the American Kennel Club, and only purebred dogs registered with the AKC can compete. The AKC recognizes 212 dog breeds and varieties, split into seven different groups. Click here to see who won the 2021 National Dog Show, watch video, highlights and more.

Related: What to know about the 2022 National Dog Show

NBC has televised the event after the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade since 2002. John O’Hurley and David Frei will reprise their roles as hosts, having co-hosted together since the National Dog Show first aired. Mary Carillo will also be back for more commentary, analysis and behind-the-scenes looks at one of the oldest dog shows in the world.

This year, three breeds are making their National Dog Show debut.

Related: Full list of National Dog Show breeds

How can I watch the dog show on Thanksgiving Day?

Watch the 2022 National Dog Show on NBC directly after the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Coverage of the National Dog Show begins on Thursday, November 24 at 12 p.m. local time and runs until 2 p.m., covering group and Best in Show judging.

The National Dog Show can also be streamed here on Peacock, and on the NBC Sports app at 12 p.m. ET on Thanksgiving. The NBC Sports app is available on mobile and connected devices, including Roku, Apple TV and Amazon Fire.

Can I re-watch the National Dog Show from past years?

Select previous Dog Shows are available to watch On Demand on Peacock, and if you miss Thursday’s airing of the 2022 Dog Show, it will also be available after Thanksgiving on the streaming platform. Highlights from previous National Dog Shows, including Best in Show judging from 2021 and more, is also available on the NBC Sports YouTube channel.

Watch NBC’s coverage of the National Dog Show on Thanksgiving day, November 24, directly after the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade from 12-2 p.m. local time on NBC, and the NBC Sports app.

Thanksgiving Day schedule on NBC and Peacock

The 2022 National Dog Show comes in the middle of a fun-filled Thanksgiving Thursday, and is just part of the Big Event weekend across NBC and Peacock. See below for the full schedule of some traditional favorites, as well as new and exciting highlights to keep you entertained the whole holiday weekend:

Thursday at 9am ET: Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on NBC and Peacock

Thursday at 12pm ET: The National Dog Show on NBC and Peacock

Thursday at 8pm ET: Sunday Night Football NFL Thanksgiving Special – Patriots vs Vikings

Friday at 1:30pm ET: Copa Mundial – England vs USA en Español on Telemundo and Peacock

Saturday at 7pm ET: WWE Survivor Series War Games on Peacock

Sunday at 7pm ET: Sunday Night Football – Packers vs Eagles on NBC and Peacock