After 43 years, it’s very predictable. Jr. Iditarod is the last weekend of February. The mushers will meet with race officials to draw bib numbers on Friday evening. There will be pizza for the mushers and their parents. Earlier the same day, mushers bring their canine athletes in for vet check.
This morning I was at Iditarod Headquarters to meet the young mushers and snap a few photos. The mushers were busy unloading and loading dogs. They were going over paperwork with the veterinarians. The veterinarians were busy giving pre-race physicals to all the canine athletes. The dogs were interested in everything that was going on. Most of all the dogs were taking every opportunity to meet new people and they welcomed all the attention.
Mushers for the most part are a quiet bunch. If you want to strike up a long conversation, ask them about a leader or a special dog on their team. They are suddenly very animated and will tell many amazing stories about the amazing athletes they consider to be their best friends. The Jr. Iditarod mushers run a 10-dog team.
The vets follow an acronym, HAW&L for part of the physical. They listen to the HEART and they check HYDRATION. They observe the dog’s ATTITUDE. They observe the dog’s WEIGHT. They listen to the LUNGS and check the LEGS – toenails, paws, wrists, elbows, shoulders and hips. There will be a veterinarian as well as a medical doctor stationed out on the trail during the race.