Usually it’s teachers taking students on field trips by today it was the teachers who went on a field trip. Teachers from around the world are in Anchorage at the Winter Iditarod Teacher’s Conference. They are attending classroom activity based sessions throughout the week but today’s field trip provided valuable information of the care of sled dogs. Thousands of teachers use Iditarod as a theme for education providing their students with real life applications for standard’s based learning.
The Iditarod Vet Check today offered teachers the opportunity to observe the veterinarians interacting with the canine athletes and the mushers. Prior to today each dog has gone through blood tests, had an EKG and has been micro-chipped. Results of the tests have been shared with the mushers. Today the vets focused on general physical exams and certifying vaccinations.
The teachers had the opportunity to observe the physical examinations and being able to hear explanations from the vets during the process. Teachers came away with extensive knowledge about the care of the sled dogs and how the mushers and veterinarians work together to insure the health of the canine athletes over the duration of the race.
Mushers with teams at vet check this morning included rookies Tara Cicatello of Buffalo, NY and Matt Hall of Two Rivers, AK. The teachers had the opportunity to make connections with these and other mushers. Many communicated with their students via SKYPE and Facetime. Kids who follow the mushers their teachers met today will have a special connection with the trail and the real life applications the race offers.
The next stop on the field trip was at Matthew Failor’s 17th Dog Kennel. Matthew is set to run his seventh Iditarod in only a couple of days. He spent time with the teachers introducing his Iditarod athletes. Tim Pappas, an Iditarod veteran who works for Failor, shared information about gear mushers use on the trail. Pappas has just recently completed his rookie Yukon Quest. Failor will take eight of the Quest finishers to the Iditarod start line as part of his sixteen-dog team. Conditioning from the Quest will make Failor’s team strong and race ready.
Matthew introduced a three-week old litter of puppies. He explained the growth, development and training of the pups while teachers had the opportunity to handle and socialize the puppies.
As the final educational component of the day, Failor hooked up an eighteen-dog team and headed out for a training run. Teachers saw the whole process – harnessing, booting and departing. Many of the teachers commented on how impressed they were with the special attention paid to each dog using the right size and style of harness and suitably sized booties. No question, the dogs were excited to run. There was plenty of barking and lunging before the snow hook was pulled but the instant the dogs took to the trail, they were all business putting every once of their energy into going down the trail.