You’ll hear that come up again and again when people are asked, “What makes you keep coming back to Iditarod year after year?”
The people who make up the race are definitely something to look forward to each year. You know how you have those friends that you only see a few times a year, but when you meet up with them it’s like you’ve never been apart? That’s what Iditarod people are like.
I met up with two of those people today. I met up with Nathan Schroeder and his handler (she really is so much more than that though) Kerry to help them out at his vet checks. Those who have been following my Iditarod adventures will remember that Nathan is the musher I got to ride with as an IditaRider with during my Teacher on the Trail™ year. It’s been a lot of fun to stay in touch with and to continue working with him over the past few years. I’ve been helping him work on his new and improved website and lots of other little projects. My boys packed some treat bags for him for his drop bags – his choices? Gatorade and Kool-Aid packets (grape), dark chocolate chips, Scooby Doo gummy snacks, and almonds! He and his handler Kerry were also awesome enough to text us every time they stopped to drop the dogs on their drive from Minnesota to Alaska. The boys were pleased to learn that “Drop Dogs” just means they let them out of their boxes to do their business and stretch their legs. We used MapQuest to track their driving route and the boys were FLOORED when, as the mileage kept piling up, they realized that the team was driving more than twice the distance of the race just to GET there!
Pre- race vet checks are a crucial part of the final preparations for the race. Each musher is allowed to vet check up to 20 dogs, as they don’t have to finalize their race rosters until start day. Nathan had 17 dogs to be checked. He actually has 18 dogs with him as retired dog, Chevy, gave him the sad puppy dog eyes as he was packing the truck to leave, so he earned himself a ride in the back seat!
Nathan’s checks were completed at the Wasilla Vet Clinic this year. We pulled the whole dog truck around to the back of the building. Nathan hooked chains up both sides of the truck and it was time to unload all of the dogs. Each dog had a carefully chosen place on the line – hmmm – just like some kids I know, some dogs can’t be in line next to each other!
Then the whole process got started in a well mapped out routine! Kerry took a dog in to the clinic and they had their blood drawn. Then Nathan took them over to the table where they were hooked up to the EKG machine. Nathan’s job was to keep them calm and relaxed while their hearts were checked. Then that dog was brought back out and the next dog was brought in. And on and on and on until all 17 dogs were tested. (Thanks Kerry for sharing your photos!)
So now you are wondering what my uber important job was right? Actually there were two. First, I had to keep the calm amongst the dogs waiting. I have pretty good practice with that – sixteen students vs. eighteen dogs – no problem. The other part was not quite as pleasant… scooping the poop. There can not be dogs without poop.
I’m pleased to announce that all the Team Schroeder dogs passed their vet checks with flying colors! They are one step closer to hitting the trail!