Dogs lead to lasting love |

Dogs lead to lasting love

Casper's Corner
Jeff Caspersen
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

Packed with entertaining tales from the trail that had a sizable finishing banquet crowd chuckling, Bill Pinkham’s post-Yukon Quest dog sled race speech seemed ordinary enough.

Then it veered a bit.

The Glenwood Springs musher, a veteran of many an Iditarod, then altered his tune a bit, waxing philosophical on what his dogs have taught him about life.

“I tried to segue into the fact that I’ve learned a lot with dogs,” Pinkham recalled saying in his late February speech, a customary post-race practice for all race finishers. “My whole being more accepting and more caring and more, I think, forgiving. I’ve learned a lot from dogs, and that’s kind of transgressed into people, too. I’m more open, more give and take.”

So where was he going with all this?

While tackling the 1,000-mile Yukon Quest trail, which routes mushers through raw, gnarly terrain between Fairbanks, Alaska, and Whitehorse, Yukon (Canada), Pinkham paid plenty of mind to what his Quest race handler and girlfriend of two years, Jodi Swanson, meant to him.

“You know, you’re out there thinking about what you’re doing and who you’re doing it with,” Pinkham said. “Who’s helping you do what you’re doing seemed kind of like a culmination of all the help she’s given me the last two years.”

You can probably guess what happened next.

Pinkham’s speech took a turn down Marriage Proposal Lane.

“Then he talked about how I came into his life and how that helped,” Swanson said. “Honestly, I’m a little blank on what he said right before. He started hesitating a little. I looked at my girlfriend Amy [who served alongside Jodi as a handler for the race]. I said, ‘Amy, what is he doing?’ She looked at me and said, ‘I don’t know, I don’t know.'”

And then came the proposal.

“He said, ‘And I want you to know that I want you to marry me,'” Swanson recalled. “Everyone clapped and cheered. I was at a table pretty far in the back and he had spotlights in his eyes so he couldn’t see what I was doing. He said there was a moment where he didn’t know if I was on my way up [to the stage] or running out the door.

“I basically sprinted up to the stage. At that point, he was down one knee. I gave him a big hug and said ‘yes.’ It was quite the moment ” very romantic, quite the scene.”

And so turned another chapter in a relationship built around a common interest ” dogs.

Swanson moved to Glenwood Springs from Minnesota roughly two years ago, taking a job at Pinkham’s kennel. The two connected immediately on a personal level and sparks flew. A relationship was born. They had talked marriage in the past, so Pinkham’s proposal wasn’t entirely out of the blue.

“It really seemed appropriate,” Swanson said. “We were brought together by dogs and our passion for dogsledding and outdoor adventures. I had my own challenges on the Quest handling for him. He had just pulled through a major individual experience, and we came back together. It seemed appropriate he asked me after the race.”

And so, somewhat unexpectedly, the drive back to the states from Canada featured plenty of wedding talk for the newly engaged couple.

Swanson, who’s never planned a wedding before, joked: “We’ll see what’s more challenging, the Quest or planning for the wedding.”

I’ve never done a 1,000-mile dog sled race or planned a wedding, but I’d venture a guess that neither is easy.

Congratulations, Bill and Jodi.

Contact Jeff Caspersen: 384-9123

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