Arctic musher urges Kingsport students to never give up their dream

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Washington Elementary students listen to Pam Flowers discuss her solo ‘mush’ across the Arctic.

It took 11 months to finish the journey, but Pam Flowers and her dogs made it 2,500 miles across the Arctic alone.

That journey made Flowers the first woman to accomplish the solo “mush” across the Arctic. Her travels are chronicled in several books including “Alone Across the Arctic”; “Douggie: The Playful Pup Who Became a Sled Dog Hero” and “Big Enough Anna: The Little Sled Dog Who Braved the Arctic,” which won the 2007 Volunteer State Book Award.

The author is visiting several Kingsport City Schools to share with students some stories and photos of her trip.

Flowers visited Kennedy Elementary last Thursday, Washington and Roosevelt Elementary schools on Monday, and was scheduled to visit Lincoln and Jackson Elementary schools today.

Flowers made her 2,500-mile trip across the Arctic in 1993-1994 with her team of eight sled dogs. She started in Alaska and traveled to Repulse Bay in Canada’s Nunavut Territory. Though the trip itself took 5½ months, Flowers and her team were stranded on an Arctic island for another 5½ months after rising summer temperatures made the ice unstable. She used the trials and tri- umphs of the journey to teach students some important lessons. On her Web site, Flowers said of the program’s main message, “even if you are young, even if you are small, you can still reach many goals, and make your dreams come true.”

“We’re sledding along in the Arctic day after day,” Flowers said. “After a couple of weeks I did something I’ve never done. I took a young dog, in this case Anna (the dog in ‘Big Enough Anna’) and put her right up next to the number one lead dog. … You should have seen her. She had never been in lead before, but she wasn’t afraid to try.”

Another message for students came from Flowers’ dog Ellie, who also visited the schools this week. Ellie and her brothers and sisters were left in a box on the side of a road. After they were found and taken to a shelter, all were adopted within four hours, Flowers said. “I was lucky enough to get Ellie,” Flowers said. “I always tell this story because it’s very important to remember your responsibility to animals, if you’re going to have a pet.

Sometimes things happen in your life — you move and you can’t take your pet or something happens in your parents’ life where they can’t afford the vet bills. … You have a responsibility to that pet. You can’t just take it out and throw it away. In every city there is an organization — SPCA, Humane Society, something — somewhere where you can take that dog and some person will take that pet and give it a home. They’re not garbage, and if you’re going to own a pet you have a responsibility to take care of that pet always. … Ellie and I have a future together.”

Ellie will be joining Flowers on her next expedition — a 2,200-mile hike down the Appalachian Trail. Students across the country will be able to join “Ellie’s Walking Club” and walk miles along with Ellie and Flowers.

Source: Kingsport Times-News

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