Former Iditarod Musher Missing; Friends Say She'd Never Have Left Her Dogs Unattended

When Melanie Gould didn't show up for work a week ago without checking in, friends took notice, but when they realized the veteran musher's sled dogs uncared for in her empty home, they knew something was really wrong.

Alaska state troopers and friends have been searching on the ground and in the air for any clues that might lead to the whereabouts of Gould, 34, who was last seen May 30.

Gould's abandoned truck was found Saturday on a mining road off the remote Denali Highway near Mt. McKinley, but there still has been no trace of the woman herself.

"Considering the circumstances, considering we found her vehicle, we have an active to search through," Alaska State Trooper spokeswoman Megan Peters said.

Friends began to worry after Gould missed her shift May 31 at the Talkeetna Roadhouse, where she worked as a housekeeper.

Talkeetna Roadhouse owner Trisha Costello said it raised flags when she didn't show up for her shift

"We talked Monday night [May 30], she even offered to stay late to help me," Costello said. "She's reliable and conscientious. She would be mortified to know I had to work the whole day without her."

Friends went to her house to check on her. Instead, they found her sled dogs in the empty home, food on the table, her cell phone on the counter and laundry hanging dry.

"It looked like as if she just walked away," Costello said.

Neighbors said they saw Gould leave her house the night of May 30 around 8 p.m. A local taxi driver reported seeing the woman driving north toward the Denali park entrance later that night, according to Costello.

Gould is a seven-time veteran of the Iditarod Trail Dog Race. She last competed in the race in 2007. According to friends, her sled dogs are everything to her, so leaving them alone is completely uncharacteristic.

"It's beyond normal. The fact she left her dogs, especially (Jane). She loved that dog," Costello said. "It's highly unusual for her to leave them without asking anyone to care for them."

Talkeetna is small close-knit community about two hours north of Anchorage. The town of about 900 is a popular tourist location during the summer and a training ground for dog sledding, according to locals.

Neighbors said Gould does not have any family or partner in the area.

"Your community becomes like a family," Costello said. "Most people move here don't have family here, so we look out for each other."

People say the remote location where the truck was found is terrain frequented by recreational mushers and ATVs.

"(Friends) searched the area. It's a rough area. You don't go off on side roads here," Costello said.

The Facebook page "Have you seen Melanie Gould?" was created to keep search volunteers and fellow mushers up to date on the efforts.

"Police don't want people going to the area they are searching," Costello said. "(We are) reporting the areas searched to avoid missing any areas,"

Alaskan authorities say there is no evidence of foul play and police dogs have been unable to trace the woman's scent. Peters said she believes it possible that she is just camping, but police will keep searching until they find reason to stop.

"We want to make contact with her," Peters said. "We want to find her. We need to know she's OK."

Gould is 5 feet 9 inches tall and weighs 145 pounds. She has blond hair and blue eyes and was last seen driving a 1994 blue Toyota pick up.

As for Gould's dogs, they are in temporarily being taken care of by friends.