Vet Check, Double Check

Outside the Summit Logistics bldg. in South Fairbanks, the temperature was an icy -50°F. Inside, the temperatures ranged anywhere from 98°-102°, for the dogs, that is. This was Vet Check for the 2012 Yukon Quest, when mushers bring their dogs in to be checked by a brigade of volunteer veterinarians. The health of these animals are paramount for the mushers depend on them for their lives. At home, they are fed special diets with food supplements and vitamins. Their feet are inspected on a daily basis and any problems are dealt with immediately. Their training runs have been regulated and measured. By the time they arrive here, at Vet Check, they are (hopefully) at the peak of their powers. The mushers take great pride in the health of their teams. To win the Veterinarian’s Choice Award is a highly respected honor… “Presented to the musher who demonstrates outstanding canine care for their dogs throughout the race, in the best spirit of the Yukon Quest. The doctors here, mainly confirm the dogs’ good health, but occasionally they will run into a problem and they freely exercise their right to disqualify any pooch for poor health.

The routine Saturday called for mushers to drive their trucks w/attached dog boxes directly into the building. The dogs would be taken out, one at a time, weighed, and then put on an examining table. The doctor will check their dental heath, heart rate, temperature, joints and feet and answer any questions a musher may have. Here is a clip of Dave running Denali through the exam: Vet Check 2012

Food Drop 2012

 

When you sign up and pay your entry fee for the Yukon Quest, you’re officially in, but the food drop is when it becomes real. The hundreds of 40 lb. burlap bags lined up for each musher, each checkpoint give visual reference to the hard work of the mushers and their handlers. A process started months ago, outfitting for the World’s Toughest Sled Dog Race is a time consuming and costly endeavor. Careful thought is necessary and organization is key. This is the kind of event that logistics experts long for. Deciding what and how much of it to bring is every bit a challenge to the racer as overflow on the Yukon River. A seasoned veteran like Dave Dalton, entering his 22nd. Yukon Quest, has a good idea of how to pack.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Everything starts with the dogs and their needs, chief of which is food. Cut into two-inch cubes, the Dalton gang has about 450 pounds of beef to take them through the race. Coupled with another 450 lbs of dry kibble and 300 lbs of doggie treats like frozen turkey skins and poultry fat, and the dogs are well taken care of.  This is divided among 45 burlap bags that also includes Dave’s food and clothing, parts for the sled, extra collars, harnesses, gang lines, and dog booties (at least 1000). When all is said and done, each musher will have about a ton of supplies for their use. These supplies are then taken to the central collection point. This year, the collection point was Summit Logistics in Fairbanks. For Canadian dog mushers, the collection point is at the White Pass & Yukon Route Depot in Whitehorse.

The minute Dave, or any musher, pulled into the parking lot, they were greeted by an army of volunteers, directing them to a designated spot and helping them unload their trucks.

The bags were put onto pallets and prepped for long-distance hauling. With twenty-four mushers registered for the race, that’s a lot of pallets, each heading to one of the ten checkpoints along the trail. Once the race starts, no food or equipment can be delivered, with the exception of Dawson City.

 

The judges want to make sure mushers are independently able to care for their dogs, themselves and also have the ability to offer emergency assistance to another musher in need. Just another reason why it’s “The World’s Toughest Sled Dog Race” and why Dave Dalton wouldn’t have it any other way.