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Gunnar Kaasen
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Animal Expert
    (March 11, 1882-November 27, 1960)
    Born in Burfjord valley, Norway
    Gunder Eisten Kaasen
    Balto's 'owner'
    Moved to the United States to mine for gold in 1903
    Professional 'musher' who ran the last leg of ran the final leg of the serum run to Nome (1925)
    Delivered a 25-pound cylinder of diphtheria antitoxin, enough to inoculate the community and prevent an epidemic
    Appeared with Balto in a 30-minute silent film, 'Balto’s Race to Nome' (1925)
    Serum run inspired the creation of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race (1973)
    He was accused of being a publicity hound by his colleagues.
    He and Balto got most of the glory and fame despite having done only the last leg of 'the Race of Great Mercy' as it is commonly known.
    Rather, it was the world-famous musher, Leonhard Seppala, and his dog, Togo, who did a majority of the Serum run (and across far more dangerous terrain surrounding the Denali).
    Seppala would later complain: 'It was almost more than I could bear when the 'newspaper dog' Balto received a statue for his 'glorious achievements... By giving him Togo's records he was established as the greatest racing leader in Alaska, when he was never in a winning team.'
    He only took over the final leg of the run because the musher it was intended for had been asleep at the time.
    He would continue to be at odds with Seppala in later years, usually responding to his attempts to engage him by saying 'get away from me little man.'
    He went on tour with Balto and the rest of the surviving team after the Serum run, but tired of it after two years and returned to his native Alaska (at which point Balto and the team were sold off to a circus which abused them).
    He gave an interview in which the writer had Balto the dog 'answer' half the questions ('You see Gunnar Kasson over there? He's been my master for five years!')
    He chose Balto to lead his leg of the race, even though Seppala deemed him inferior because he couldn't breed.
    His friends recalled his repeatedly saying that Balto was 'the smartest dog that ever lived' and 'I would not be alive today if it weren't for Balto.'
    He was completely written out of the picture for the ahistorical 'Balto' cartoon (apparently the dogs steered themselves in this version).
    His team traveled all night, facing winds severe enough to flip his sled over, nearly losing the cylinder containing the medicine as a result.
    Aside from sustaining frostbite, the snowfall was so blinding that he could barely see the dogs harnessed closest to his sled.
    Many Nome residents defended his taking on the last leg by pointing out that the man intended for it had no experience pushing through heavy snow storms.
    He never denied that Balto was far from the only dog involved in the effort, regularly pointing this fact out in interviews.
    He was unenthusiastic about doing a publicity tour with the dogs and only agreed after the Mayor convinced him.
    William Thompson backed this up, saying: 'he would rather make his harsh mush over again, day after day, than appear on the stage where every eye in the house would be staring at him.'
    On tour, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer described him as having 'the shrinking modesty so generally accepted as becoming of a man of strong deeds.'
    It is inaccurate to say that he 'sold Balto,' as the dogs were technically under the ownership of Seppala, whose deep resentment and grudge against 'the bone head dog' resulted in his being maltreated/neglected by circus handlers.
    The deal itself was brokered by the company that had sponsored the tour. Kaasen only reluctantly parted with the dogs.

Credit: BoyWiththeGreenHair

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