Iditarod legend DeeDee Jonrowe celebrated in Unalakleet

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UNALAKLEET, Alaska (KTUU) - DeeDee Jonrowe may have raced her last Iditarod but that didn’t stop her from heading to Unalakleet to welcome her competitors and spend time with a community she loves.

Under blue skies, Jonrowe spoke to a Channel 2 crew about her decision to scratch, her future and her mood as she moves to another stage in her life.

The musher says her decision to end her race a few checkpoints early was to not be selfish. Jonrowe pulled into Rainy Pass soaking wet and realized she would likely only be able to get dry at Rohn

The musher describes when she went inside she realized how dehydrated she was. “I was kind of slurring my words and it became apparent that fluids taken orally weren’t going to be enough.”

She decided to pull out of the race but her thoughts were always on others; she didn’t want to push on and put others at risk who may have to rescue her.

Jonrowe was given some intravenous fluids and felt better before coming down with a stomach bug. “If I had been out in the burn with that, it would have been bad, bad news.”

Although her last Iditarod ended early, the fan favorite was untroubled by what happened. “I’m having the time of my life,” she said, dressed in her trademark pink parka. "I'm called to Alaska, and I could not be happier."

The musher finishes a storied career with 36 Iditarod starts, 32 finishes and 16 times placing in the top 10. Her strong connection to Iditarod isn’t over though, Jonrowe says she wants to be supportive and “give back to a great organization that’s given a lot to me.”

Her help with this particular race isn’t over either, Jonrowe stood patiently in Unalakleet as Nicolas Petit, Joar Ulsom and Mitch Seavey pulled into the coastal checkpoint. She waved a Norwegian flag to welcome Ulsom and went over to defending champion Mitch Seavey to give him a big hug. “My competitors are some of my most favorite people, so it’s fun to see them.”

The iconic musher is now focused on giving back: She wants to train service dogs and maybe create a program providing for seniors and their pets.

For now, her focus is on the present and the people of Unalakleet. An appreciation ceremony potluck was held in a packed hall.

Children gave her handwritten letters, she was presented gifts and a big cake was shared thanking her for all she’s given to Unalakleet.

A love that is clearly mutual.