Flying Dogs

Dropped dog Iditarod Air Force

A dropped dog awaits an IAF flight back to Anchorage.

Hello Friends,

One of the things I pay close attention to as I watch the 2019 Iditarod is how many canines the mushers come into the checkpoint with and how many they leave with. The ones left behind are called “dropped dogs”. They are dropped for various reasons, sore wrists or shoulders, not eating well, etc. Some mushers even plan ahead for dropping their dogs based on some kind of strategy. 

When a dog is dropped, the musher must explain the reason to the volunteer vet, fill out forms (this is where opposable thumbs come in handy), provide a leash, and leave the dog in the capable hands of the volunteers at the checkpoint. It’s hard for my canine buddies to be left behind, but – no worries – they will meet up with their team again soon. The pilots at the Iditarod Air Force pick up the dogs and bring them to Anchorage or Nome, wherever is closer. My friend, Ethan, wants to know how many dogs can fit on the bush planes. The amount of dogs on the plane depends on the size of the plane and how many other passengers will be flying. As you can see in the picture there are 4 of my canine friends flying together out of Nikolai. They are all from different teams and there wasn’t even a growl between them. We all get along pretty well. After watching the take off with interest, they all fell asleep on the soft duffle bags. When the canines arrive at their destinations, handlers are there to take care of them until after the race. Great question Ethan. If you have a question, please e-mail me at I’ll try to answer as many in this post as I can.

Tail wags,