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Susan Butcher

Loved Animals, Hated The City

Butcher was born December 26, 1954, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, a college town near Boston. She is the youngest of two daughters of Charles, a chairman of his family's chemical company, and Agnes Butcher, a psychiatric social worker. Both parents were progressive thinkers who encouraged their daughters to achieve whatever they

Susan Butcher

set their hearts on, and to be self-sufficient. Charles bought his daughters carpentry tools and taught them basic building skills. He spent years with his daughters teaching them to sail and trying to restore an old sailboat. Early on, the urban bustle of Cambridge did not agree with Susan Butcher, who began a school essay with "I hate the city" when she was eight. She always preferred animals and nature. Her Labrador dog, Cabee, was her best friend.

Butcher's parents divorced when she was eleven, and her world was torn apart. She and her sister remained with their mother, but the situation was rocky and both girls left home in their teens. Butcher also was diagnosed with dyslexia, a learning disability, which explained her struggles in school. She was a natural at sports, and played softball, basketball, field hockey, and loved to swim and row. She excelled at math and science and, with the help of a tutor, she made it through her English classes. Cabee died when she was fifteen, and her aunt gave Butcher a husky, Manganak. It was love at first sight, and she soon got a second dog.

After high school, Butcher and her dogs left for Colorado, where her father and stepmother lived. She found work for a woman who bred and raced sled dogs, and borrowed her dogs to learn how to mush. She quickly learned the important voice commands—like "all right" for "go," "gee" for "turn right," and "haw" for "turn left"—and found she had the physical endurance necessary to thrive in the sport, and found she was good at it.

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