The 46th running of the Iditarod kicked off in earnest on Sunday with its 2:00 pm restart in Willow, AK yesterday (3/4/2018). Above is a spread lifted from my Iditarod journal. It shows the “Vet Book” that all mushers are required to carry from checkpoint to checkpoint. The bright yellow covers make these little, waterproof notebooks easy to spot in the pocket of a sled when the head checkpoint vet needs to sign off on the mandatory vet checks.
Above is a journal entry I did when volunteering for the Iditarod in March on drop dogs and the people who care for them. Drop dogs are the dogs that are left behind as the musher and his team continue the race. There are many reasons a dog may be “dropped” at a check point. An injury, dehydration, not eating, etc.
Every dog is given a thorough check-up upon arrival at every checkpoint by checkpoint veterinarians. A veterinarian can pull a dog from the team, but, from what I witnessed 99.9% of the decisions to drop a dog were made by the musher. As it should be. They have been with these dogs day-in- day-out since training began in early fall and know these dogs very well.
Once the dogs are dropped they are cared for, 24/7, by veterinarians at the checkpoints until they are flown out to central transportation hubs such as Unalakleet or McGrath. Here they are cared for by Vet Techs, professional dog handlers and veterinarians until a plane load has gathered. Then they are flown to Anchorage where they are cared for at the Women’s Prison in Eagle River, AK until they are picked up by their mushers/owners.