Foot Ointment

Dear Girls and Boys,

Have you ever seen the foot of a sled dog?  We have pretty big feet with four toes.  When we step down, our toes spread and give us lots of balance.  Our feet don’t get as cold as yours do in the snow because of something called “countercurrent circulation” where warm blood goes up and down inside our veins.  

When we run and play in the cold, it’s like when you play outside in the cold.  Sometimes your lips get chapped.  Our mushers take care of us, just like the adults in your life!  What do you use to keep your lips hydrated and not chapped? Chapstick? We use foot ointment!  Mushers and vets will rub this special recipe on our feet during the Iditarod, then put on booties to prevent the chapping of our toe pads.  

About 15 Alaskan volunteers worked several hours last weekend to make 168 tubes of foot ointment for the mushers and veterinarians to use for dog feet on the Iditarod race!  Chief Iditarod Veterinarian, Stu Nelson, has the recipe.  Here’s what you do:

  1. Put in cans of zinc oxide, thuja-oxide and mineral oil into a large stew pot.
  2. Melt the mix into liquid by warming it on a hot plate.  It comes out looking like heavy cream, and pretty dense (thick).
  3. Pour it into a plastic tub and mix with a mixer head put onto an electric drill
  4. While it is still liquid, pour the mix into an “ointment cow” (looks like a cow’s udder with a small opening at the bottom).  From this, take a plastic tube,  clamp the bottom shut, and fill the tube about half full.  
  5. Volunteers pass the tube down the line.  Someone closes it like folding over a toothpaste tube, another person wipes off the extra ointment from the outside, and someone else packs the tube into a box.
  6. It gradually firms up as it cools.  
  7. The boxes are then out to the checkpoints for vets and mushers to use.

Our mushers and the vets plan ahead to take really good care of us so we can do what we love:  RUN in the snow!

Musher Larry Daughtery puts booties on his dogs before leaving Takotna.

Until next time, this is your canine reporter,