If it’s Wednesday, it must be field trip day!
Wednesday is the typical field trip day for the teachers participating in the Winter Conference for Educators. The plan is always the same – vet checks at headquarters, lunch at Settler’s Bay, visit a kennel.
Today I had the pleasure of taking over the Skype Iditarod Classroom Club for 2016 Teacher on the Trail Laura Wright as she had commitments that kept her in Anchorage. Today is the second part of the the vet checks for the dog teams. Like Nathan, the other mushers have already taken their dogs to have their EKGs and blood work done. Today, the dogs are coming in for their hands on evaluations. Each dog has their microchip read and recorded, and then is given a hands on examination by the volunteer vets and vet techs. Not only is this a test for the dogs, in a way the experience serves as a test for the vets as well! Vets and vet techs that have an interest in hitting the trail someday, frequently have to “pay their dues” by working at the pre-race vet checks for a few years!
You can get a sense of what was happening at the vet checks by checking out the videos I posted for the Teacher on the Trail site here: http://itcteacheronthetrail.com/2016/03/03/vet-checks/
After a delicious meal at Settler’s Bay, we were off to the home and kennel of Matt Failor. I first met Matt the first year (2012) Mrs. Rizzuto and I travelled to Alaska for the Iditarod Winter Conference. At that time he was working for Martin Buser and preparing to run Martin’s puppy team. Last year, when we were in need of a new kennel to take the teachers two, I called on Matt to see if he was willing to let us visit his new kennel and homestead. It was a great success, and I was thrilled that we had the chance to visit him again this year. The bus ride out was a little bumpier than last year, but we made it! Matt and his family were amazing hosts again this year! He seemed much more comfortable having his home invaded by a busload full of crazy Iditarod Teacher/ Fans!
We started off by checking out the dog yard. The yard is divided into two sections. The houses on the right are for the race team and the houses to the left are the up and coming youngsters who may get their shot at the Iditarod Trail next year! Matt then took us inside to show us his sled and his gear that he is preparing to take out on the trail this weekend! Check out the message he has written on his sled…
Here are a couple of video clips of the seemingly endless questions Matt answered for the teachers!
It’s been a pretty special thing to follow Matt and watch him grow and develop from Martin Buser’s apprentice to a kennel owner with his own “apprentice” musher. He even discussed how much he has enjoyed mentoring his handler who is new to the sport and how they have worked to ensure that both guys will be running 17th Dog Kennel Teams in next year’s Iditarod! I have no doubt that Matt will continue to grow and develop and that he will be someone to watch in the race for years to come!