A north-east musher has been forced to pull out of husky racing’s biggest event after his wife was diagnosed with breast cancer.
Wattie McDonald, of Craiggie Smithy, near Stonehaven, had been due to fly to Alaska on January 11 to begin training for the Iditarod with his pack of dogs.
But the popular dogsled racer has been forced to ditch his plans after his partner, Wendy, was found to have the disease at the end of last year.
The event – known as the 'last great race on earth' - takes around two weeks to complete with competitors covering 1150 miles of frozen Alaskan terrain as temperatures plummet to -55C.
It would have been the third time the musher had competed at the event.
Mr McDonald, 48, said: “It was just such a shock because it’s nothing you expect to happen to yourselves. There’s no way I could even think about going over to do this race and leave Wendy behind at home to deal with the illness on her own – it just wasn’t an option.
“I’ve probably let a lot of people down in a certain manner but at the end of the day Wendy is the priority – there’s just no way I can make it.
“I can’t expect to turn up on the day without training. The dogs would probably still want to do it but it wouldn’t be fair on them and they wouldn’t have a chance. You need 12-14 weeks with them.
“I need to stay here and support Wendy through her crisis and get her back on her feet, which they think will take two or three months.
“We’re very happy with the way they have explained everything to us and with the type of cancer - there’s no reason we can’t get back to normal in a few months.”
Team Wattie will still compete at the race however, with the kennel’s co-owner stepping in to fill Mr McDonald’s shoes.
Wade Marrs, who completed the race in 2009, will drive the pack in his place.
“I was doing a lot of intense fundraising and awareness stuff with people and managed to get a few sponsors on board,” Mr McDonald added.
“The sponsors have been understanding. The dogs are still out there and they are happy for my kennel partner to take over on the sledge.
“The organisers of the race have been very understanding in allowing Wade to switch places with me.”
Mr McDonald said he hoped to return to the event in 2014.