For a little background, as you probably know,each musher starts out with sixteen dogs. There are very few exceptions. That is the maximum team size allowed by the rules. In the Yukon Quest it is fourteen and some of the shorter races have varying team sizes, but for the Iditarod it is sixteen. A thousand miles is a long way to go, especially when you realize how fast they have to move to make that journey in less than nine days--including at least forty hours of mandatory rests and more as the musher may choose to take. It is no surprise that some dogs get tired, some get injured and some get sick. At each checkpoint, sometimes as early as the very first one, mushers decide or the vets advise that a dog be taken off the team or 'dropped.'
|The Dog Drop Office-a Conex|
|Dog drop area with dogs,|
big trailer in background.
|A typical dog truck|
|A dropped dog--they come in all colors!|
Meanwhile another volunteer is contacting as many of the designated handlers for each musher as possible for them to come and pick up their charges. If the dogs cannot be picked up within a few hours, they are reloaded and taken to the women's prison at Eagle, just north of the city on the Parks Highway, where they will be cared for by inmates, who love the privilege, until the race is over and their folks can come for them.
|Selfie at the Dog Drop Office|
I was well assured that each dog is cared for with much TLC. Any sickness or injury is dealt with promptly and those with no serious issues get food, water, attention and their needs are met as well as possible. That was heartening indeed and I wish those naysayers who feel these dogs are abused or unloved could witness the love and attention lavished n them. It truly is "all about the dogs."