by Nancy Cowan
Dick was a racer of world renown…won the Laconia World Championships more times than anyone else ever.
Dick began driving a team of Eskimo sled dogs when he was about nine years old. The dogs belonged to a neighbor in Meredith, NH, and each probably weighed double the youngster’s weight! But Dick was already a “dog man,” so much so that his nickname around town was “Pooch.” And he could handle those dogs. He told me that they got after the preacher’s little scrap of a black lapdog and he knew that he was the only thing between the Eskimo sled dogs and the preacher’s dog going to dog heaven. Well, the preacher’s pup lived to run home and hide under the porch and Dick emerged victorious, if not unbattered, from the fray.
When Dick got to be teenaged, Milton Seeley stopped by to talk to his folks about Dick coming to work at Chinook Kennels. Over time, Dick became very near to the son that Milton had never had, and all the rest of his life, Dick tried hard to emulate the quiet, gentlemanly, and kind Mr. Seeley. Dick did all manner of hard work, and drove the Chinook Kennels number one Siberian team to victory in many races, but all the time he was there because, in his words, “This was where it began”, meaning that beckoning pathway to Antarctica. His dream was realized when Milton insisted that Dick be sent along to accompany the Chinook Kennels teams on BAE III. That expedition was funded in part by the United States military. When world war broke out, the expedition was hastily called home. By virtue of being expedition members, the dogs and dog drivers were already members of the military. When the sled dogs were called into service for first the snow patrol outfits and then what became Search and Rescue, Dick was a major player. Sgt Moulton led several expeditions in Labrador to rescue downed aircrews—this was through mercilessly tough, unmarked territory—and Dick told me that some of the injured men wished to die rather than continue the journey by sled.
When the Battle of the Bulge was happening, wounded troops could not be evacuated to medical facilities due to the deep snow. Dick was in charge of assembling the teams and drivers from wherever in the arctic regions they had been stationed, and getting them onto transport planes for a flight to Europe. Sleds, sled dogs, and dog drivers landed on a French airfield in one of the most sudden, warmest Spring thaws to hit the continent. The dogs were never used. When sled dog racing resumed in New England after the war, Dick was back into it.
By now Mr. Seeley was dead and Short Seeley was in very precarious health. When she could no longer carry on with the kennels, Dick bought them from her. He continued the process of outfitting the post-war Antarctic ventures with dogs but Short could not stand not owning the kennels that had become her reason for living. Quite a bit of the monies paid by Dick were spent, but he returned the kennel property to her at a severe personal cost. Dick did not look back, as his respect for Milton Seeley’s memory would not allow him to do less for Eva Seeley. Even when his racing days were done, Dick was keenly involved—helping younger drivers, running the races and serving as judge and trail boss and everything else for the Lakes Region Sled Dog Club.
He served with Dr. Charlie Belford and Dr. Roland Lombard to advance the SEPP evaluations in an attempt to retain the working and racing capabilities of the Siberian Husky. He probably knew more about the inside and the outside of the racing sled dog than most vets—and certainly Lombard and Belford, two premier sled dog racing vets, had immense respect for his knowledge and expertise.
And Dick loved the races. In the last few years, he never missed attending the Laconia World Derby and the Sandwich Notch Sixty and any NESDC—of which he had been president—races around. Once I asked the famous sled builder, Ed Moody, who in his opinion was the finest dog driver of all time. Moody, like Moulton was an Antarctic and a Search and Rescue vet, and had known, and often outfitted, the finest racers in the world. Ed thought a bit: “The finest driver, the person who could get the most performance out of a team—that would have to be Dick Moulton.” Ed knew what I knew, and what the townspeople of Meredith knew when Dick was nine, Moulton had the talent for being inside the head of a sled dog and thinking like a dog! That is one of the highest praises that one dog man can give another, for sled dogs cannot be forced to run. That wonderful and mystical ability to spot and to measure the urge to run, to know the leaders, to ferret out the problems is a supreme asset to one who would drive dogs. Dick had that. He was my friend and I will miss him very, very much