If you are watching the mushers’ GPS trackers, you will sometimes see their names on an orange bar which means they are resting. What is really happening during a rest?
First of all, we dogs get to rest much more than our humans during the Iditarod. Mushers have to deal with sleep deprivation, big time. Having maybe 2-3 hours of sleep a day is common. On many dog teams, the dogs run for equal run/rest schedules. For example, run for 3 hours, then stop and rest for 3 hours. We dogs are ready to go after a good meal and a nap!
When a team stops for a rest, the musher sets the snow hook to keep the dogs from running off with the sled, an anchor of sorts. Going up and down the line of dogs, frozen meat snacks will be given to the dogs. Depending on how long the rest is, the musher will remove the dogs’ booties as well. At a checkpoint, straw will be laid down to make a cozier napping spot for the dogs. From there, the musher continues to work, firing up the cooking pot and filling it with snow to melt for hot water. Frozen meat and dog kibble will be placed in a cooler, and then hot water is poured upon it to make a type of soup. The liquid will help hydrate the dogs as well as thaw and warm the food. This non-appetizing mix (for humans) will be scooped into dog bowls for each dog. After the dogs are fed, mushers may drop a vacuum sealed burrito or other meal into the hot water to thaw for themselves. Each dog is examined and petted. Only then can the musher lie down for a little rest.
The 2021 resting has been mostly outside in bitter temperatures for the teams. The dogs stay warm and cozy with their fur, and the arctic rated sleeping bags help the mushers as many of them have had to camp in tents in negative temperatures along the way. Warm checkpoint floors are not an option during a pandemic.
So, when you see “resting” on the GPS tracker, know that it’s us dogs who are doing the most resting. Our tough humans are working hard keeping us comfortable and happy.
Until next time,