Togoby Robert J. Blake (Author, Illustrator)
A True Story!
Sled dogs are a group of dogs that are bred specifically for the purpose of pulling dog-sleds. In harsh arctic areas, the sled dogs are trained to pull sleds carrying invaluable supplies such as food, mail and medication. The sled dogs also enabled initial exploration when snow-mobiles were not yet invented.
Togo was a sled dog. His owner, Seppala, was looking for a pup who could lead his team of dogs in a sled-racing. Seppala never once believed that Togo, who was too independent, small and wild, would end up working and pulling harder than any other dogs and leading his dog team to victory! Race after race, Togo and his team snapped up the prizes. Seppala soon came to be known as the fastest man in North America.
One icy morning, a man came racing to Seppala’s door. “Diptheria” he announced. The deadly contagion was spreading fast and could wipe out the population of Nome. The antitoxin was available in Anchorage. A train from Anchorage would drop off the antitoxin at Nenana. And a dog team was standing by to bring the antitoxin from Nenana to Nulato. Could Seppala and his dog team travel the critical 300 miles to Nulato to fetch the serum?
Normally it took 30 days to make a run from Nenana to Nome. But Nome had less than 2 weeks before the disease took a nasty turn. Seppala got busy. He chose each dog carefully. He needed the fastest, the most trail-smart and obedient dogs. With Togo in the lead, the team left Nome.
“Togo” is the amazing story of a dog that lead his team 350 miles through severe ice storms, with temperatures often 40 below zero and with little time to rest. Blake mentions “He gave so much of himself that he was never able to race again.”
Author Robert Blake travelled to many of the villages that was part of Togo’s journey. In Alaska, Blake spend time researching both the nature of the dog as well his owner Seppala. In this picture book, Blake has captured the essence of the struggle that the team went through on this serum run. Beautiful double-spread impressionist style paintings capture the brutal weather and the hardship of this run. Urgency and desperation of the events are painted vividly as the text re-tells a story that could have been forgotten.
Under Author’s Note at the end of the tale, Blake describes how another dog Balto actually got the credit for the serum run. The dog-team led by Balto ran the last 53 miles to actually deliver the serum. Balto was celebrated and called a Hero. However, it was Togo who actually made that last leg even possible.
A strong story of a brave dog, Togo is a great read for children of all ages.