Straw and the Iditarod

Dear Girls and Boys,

House dogs often sleep on a fluffy pillow bed, but sled dogs in Alaska  have their own little huts outside.  Instead of curling up on a bed or pillow, sled dogs get cozy on layers of straw.

Three teammates resting in the straw at a race checkpoint

Lately, volunteers in Alaska have been covering straw bales with waterproof plastic.  These straw bales will be flown ahead to the Iditarod checkpoints.  When the dog teams reach each checkpoint, the musher may stop to rest, spreading out piles of straw for the sled dogs to sleep on; another option is to  carry a bale on his/her sled and camp outside the checkpoint along the trail.  Some mushers prefer to camp away from the other teams, saying it’s more restful for their dogs.  

Mushers cut off the blue plastic from the straw bales, then break off hunks and sprinkle the warm straw onto the snow.  Their dogs sometimes flop right down, curl up, and go to sleep.  Some sled dogs are more picky.  They turn around and around in circles, getting their bed of straw just right, then put their tails over their noses and rest.

Cutting the twine to be able to spread the straw

When the dog team leaves the checkpoint to run farther on the Iditarod Trail, volunteers rake up the used straw and often burn it.  This ensures that the dogs have fresh, clean straw for each rest.

Volunteers rake used straw day and night, whenever teams leave the checkpoint.

We appreciate the many volunteers who get our straw bedding ready for the race!

Until next time, this is your canine reporter,