Maurice Andrews is the one to beat this season. The Bethel musher has won every local sled dog race he’s entered since December, except for one. And in that race, he took third. There’s also the time he lent his dog team out and they returned home champions. KYUK visited Andrews at his home to learn how he went from never having won a local race to winning four so far this season.
Maurice Andrews chops meat on a stump in his back yard. Wearing orange rubber gloves, he swings an ax into frozen chunks of salmon, smelt, moose, and beef. Most is freezer burnt, or even moldy, and comes from friends.
“Whatever gets old in their freezer. [It’s] gold to us,” Andrew said, smiling beneath his reflective sunglasses.
The donations make up about 70 percent of his dogs’ diet. The rest comes from meat trimmings from local grocery stores and from commercial dog food, paid for by his winnings.
“This is stuff the dogs bought themselves,” Andrews said, opening a tote of frozen chicken.
As he’s separating and cutting the meat, Andrews picks up every tiny piece of red muscle and fat that falls on the white snow.
“Don’t like to waste,” he says, adding the scraps to the bin of chopped meat that he’ll boil and serve as a warm dinner to his kennel.
We walk about 50 yards behind his house.
“Here’s our main yard,” Andrews said, gesturing to a cluster of wooden dog houses scattered among the snow and tundra shrubs.
About 35 dogs wag their tails and jump on their chains, each with athletic long legs and lean bodies.
“A lot of them is what my stepdad bred by himself,” Andrews explains.
“Serious Business, he’s my main leader,” Andrews says, rubbing his gloved hand over a brown and white dog. “He’s been in all the races that I’ve been winning. He listens to me.”
When asked what he sees when he looks at his dog yard, Andrews replies, “Family. They’re family. Just treat them right; they’ll do good for you.”
We go inside his home. It’s small and white and sits off the Bethel highway. On the walls hang framed pictures of his stepdad, John Simon, with the winning team that Andrews now races.
Andrews is 34 years old. He started mushing when he was 16, but didn’t get serious about it until four years ago.
“Those other years I’ve been top five,” he said. “This year I was hungry for first place.”
Andrews mushes full-time in the winter. During the summer he works in Emmonak at the Kwik-Pak fish processing plant. He says what’s made the difference in his success this season is learning to read his dogs in a new way.
“They just have a look,” Andrews said. “They tell you if something is wrong with them and something is not right. So check them and care for them.”
But how is his team so fast?
“Just let them go. Can’t really give you all my secrets,” Andrews said, laughing.
To find out those secrets, you’ll have to catch up to him.