In the photo below, meet “Fritz.” He appears at the right at a moment he was sitting in the tundra of the Seward Peninsula near Nome. Fritz was a leader on the famous 1925 Serum Run, but he didn’t get the press his teammates did even though he was an integral part of the team, was part of the 1926-7 tour of the U.S, and participated in the sledding demonstration in Madison Square Garden:
The dog at the left is a Siberian Husky of today. Notice anything about these Siberian Huskies? Don’t look too hard because you’ll find very little difference. Most purebred breeds show similar consistency over time, one reason why we celebrate purebred dogs on May 1.
Balto and Togo got most of the “press,” but Fritz was part of the trinity of dogs who made the Serum Run a success. He was the unsung hero of Seppala’s kennel, a half brother to Togo. Bred by Leonhard “Sepp” Seppala and born in 1915, Fritz was a cream-colored, mottled with brown and gray in parts, and was a hugely foundation sire in early Siberian husky pedigrees. Along with Togo, Fritz often led Seppala’s team in tandem on cross-country trips and in races, and during the Serum Run, he was co-lead with Togo. Fritz was simply a great dog, and an important early sire for the Siberian husky line registered by the American Kennel Club.
His sire, “Sepp, was an Siberian Husky in the kennels of Leonhard Seppala from original stock of imports from Siberia. His mum, “Dolly” (also Togo’s mother) was a Siberian Husky imported to Alaska from Siberia. In 1929, Fritz was sold to Doctor Beverly Sproul with whom he spent the next three years in Lake Placid, NY.
In our view, the dog deserved better than to be part of a Gimbel’s Christmas display in 1932. Tired and under-weight, Fritz died of natural causes (read: old age) on his own, and was the only one of the three famous serum run dogs not “put to sleep.” He was also the longest lived of the three dogs. Togo died at the age of sixteen, and depending upon the source, Balto was either eleven or fourteen years old when he passed away. Fritz, however, died at eighteen, an age any of us would want for our own dogs.
Fritz’s remains were auctioned in 2005 along with amusement-park items, his lot being called “Alaskan Husky Dog Mount in Glass Case.” One person, however, knew Fritz’s name and his story. As a youngster in the 1930s, Natalie Norris had stood more than once before the mounted Fritz. A member of a pioneer mushing family, herself, it was fitting that it would be Norris who brought Fritz back to Nome, a place he had left as a champion racer in 1926.
Fritz’s new home is the Carrie M. McLain Memorial Museum, and it’s our hope that he gets the attention he didn’t get in life.