A dog musher from Saint John, who had high hopes for this year's Hudson Bay Quest dogsled race in Manitoba, wound up having to pull out early because his team got sick.
"It was a hard pill to swallow," said Justin Allen.
"We trained all year for this one event, so when it doesn't go your way, or you know, when things kind of fall apart like that, it's pretty gut-wrenching," he told CBC's Information Morning Saint John.
Allen, a part-time hair stylist, who moved to Churchill four years ago and fell in love with dog sledding, had claimed the race's last place trophy the previous two years and was aiming to complete the race within 40 hours, improving his time by seven hours.
He says his 10 dogs "started off strong," but as they approached the halfway mark of the gruelling 341-kilometre trek between Churchill and Gillam, Man., they were struggling.
"I know these dogs like they're like my best friends. I know all their mannerisms, I know all their little quirks … their body language speaks to me," he said.
"They seemed down, they seemed a little defeated."
After a six-hour rest, they pushed on. But Allen quickly realized they were in trouble.
Some of the dogs started vomiting, some had diarrhea and some stopped eating.
Allen, who also wasn't feeling well, doesn't know if his dogs picked up something from him, or maybe from one of the other teams on their way to the trail.
'I made the decision based on their happiness and their health.' - Justin Allen, musher
All he knows is "they were not having fun" and he didn't want to force them to continue.
"It's all about the dogs. That's the reason I run dogs, that's the reason I''m in the sport — for the love of running dogs and for the relationship between me and my dogs," said Allen.
"If we had pushed to the finish line, that was going to be for me, you know, not for them," he said. "So I made the decision based on their happiness and their health."
All of the mushers carry trackers that have a help button and an S.O.S. button, so Allen requested help and a couple of hours later, two men on snowmobiles arrived with toboggans in tow.
Allen and his dogs were transported to the nearest check point, and then took a train back to Churchill. It took about a day and a half, which he says isn't bad, considering "you're in the middle of the wildnerness."
Now that they're home and all doing well, Allen says he plans to start training for next year as soon as possible.
"We'll be bigger and better," he said.
The Hudson Bay Quest takes the best mushers 35 to 40 hours to complete, with a mandatory six hour pit stop at the halfway point.