I had to spend the day in Anchorage today in order to catch a flight to Galena. Once I get to Galena I will move along the trail. Back in Anchorage at the Millennium Hotel, Iditarod action is still proceeding as normal. Late this morning I looked out back and noticed some people milling around with shovels and buckets. This made me think that dropped dogs would be arriving soon, I was correct.
A lot of students always ask what happens to the dogs after a musher drops them at a checkpoint. The dogs get a flight either back to Anchorage or ahead to Nome. Depending on what part of the trail they are on determines whether they get flown to Anchorage or Nome. Normally when the dogs get flown back to the Millennium, the planes land on the lake out back. Due to the unusually warm weather this winter, the lake isn’t frozen solid enough for the landing, so the dogs landed at the airport nearby. From there dropped dog volunteers drive a dog truck over to the airport, pick them up, and drive them back to the Millennium.
When they arrive at the Millennium the volunteers check their microchip to make sure they have the correct dog and correct paperwork. The veterinarians will come out and check them over. One of the volunteers outside likes to call it a “100 point check.” After the vets check them over, straw is laid down for the dogs to be able to get comfortable. The reason the straw isn’t laid out immediately is because they would focus on the straw rather than be accessible for a vet check. Food is set out for the dogs to eat as well. The dogs will also receive warm, fleece blankets which have been made and donated by students across the country.
Now it’s just wait time for the dogs. They will wait for their handlers to drive over, pick them up, and take them home. While I was standing out there, Newton Marshall came over to pick up one of Karin Hendrickson’s dogs so she didn’t have to drive over. Bryan Bearss is running Karin’s dogs since she was injured after being struck by a car in a training run early this season. While the dogs are waiting, they are given all the love and attention they could want by the loving volunteers.
The dogs that are hanging out back today don’t have serious injuries. Some just have a sore wrist or soldier, or just aren’t eating out their on the trail. Mushers love their dogs like their children and if their dog is sore, the best thing for the dog and the team is to drop them. Sometimes the dogs are confused because they want to continue with their team, but they will run again.