Making Foot Ointment

The countdown timer says 12 days until Iditarod 2019 begins and every day the hands of volunteers are doing more preparation. Volunteer work can leave your hands rough and calloused, but In this case the volunteers are leaving with even softer hands than before.

On Saturday, February 16, another group assembled at Iditarod headquarters in Wasilla to prepare the foot ointment used on the four-footed athletes. As with other race practices, this is an example of dedication to top-notch dog care. A simple mixture of 5 parts of zinc oxide to 1 part triamcinolone acetonide cream mixed with mineral oil, the ointment is given to each musher at the pre-race meeting and is also sent out on the trail to the checkpoints for the vets and mushers.

Dr. Stu Nelson, chief veterinarian for the Iditarod, explained that the ointment is used to protect the dogs’ paws, helping keep them from getting cracks for example. If a dog has a small nick in a pad, the ointment covers and fills it to prevent it from growing. You can think of it as similar to hand lotion for humans.  Some mushers use their own products, but it is available to all if it’s needed.

The foot ointment crew was convivial and ready to work. Long time volunteers and newbies alike were needed for the tasks in the process. Joyce has been a volunteer since 1992; she started in the phone room and is active still. Mary and Debbie had just worked volunteer food drop the day before and were back for more. A perk for volunteering for this is that you may just go home with the softest hands ever.

There is much pre-race work done that most people never see, but without which the race could not be run. The Iditarod Trail Committee is thankful for every volunteer that gives time to do these necessary tasks.

The picture captions describe the process.