Vet Check & Musher Meeting

by Terrie Hanke

February 24, 2023

It’s the day before Jr. Iditarod.  Out on the trail, at Iditarod Headquarters and at kennels it’s evident that race organizers  and racers are hard at work going down the list of tasks reserved for the day before the event.  Very much the opposite of what happens on the night before Christmas when all through the house, not a creature is stirring, not even a mouse.


Early this morning Richard Plack and his trail crew headed their snowmachines toward Yentna Station.  They’ll place 1,000 orange tipped reflective trail markers so the Jr. Mushers can find their way along the 31 mile route out to Eagle Quest and then on to Yentna Station another 44 miles.  Richard will be on hand at the musher meeting tonight to share specifics about the trail and markers with the mushers. 


Also this morning, mushers will be trailering their dog teams to Iditarod Headquarters for vet check.  The mushers will be busy unloading then loading the dogs again for the trip back home.  Between the unloading and loading, vets will exam each dog and go over paperwork for immunizations.  The dogs are interested in everything that’s going on.  Most of all they’ll take every opportunity to meet new people and enjoy all the attention.


The vets follow an acronym, HAW&L for part of the physical.  They listen to the HEART and they check HYDRATION.  They observe the dog’s ATTITUDE.  They observe the dog’s WEIGHT.  They listen to the LUNGS and check the LEGS – toenails, paws, wrists, elbows, shoulders and hips.  It’s a big job!  There are sixteen teams of ten dogs, that’s 160 canine physicals.  There will be a veterinarian stationed out on the trail during the race.


Later this evening, mushers and parents will gather for the mandatory musher meeting.  The first order of business is for the mushers to sign bib# 1 to be presented to Honorary Musher Lance Mackey’s family.  There will be pizza for all to enjoy and then the much awaited bib draw.  As the numbers are drawn for start order, each teen will receive a large bag of useful musher gear donated by local merchants – socks, gloves, hand warmers, blinking lights, snacks, a neck gator, water bottle, booties and any number of other useful items.


Board member and Jr. Iditarod veteran, Emily Dinges, will share a plethora of information with the mushers and parents then answer question at the Friday evening meeting.  Emily participated in the Jr. race in 2010 and 2011 placing 9th and 3rd respectively.  She wears many hats during the race but none more important than mentor for these young mushers.  She speaks from personal experience.


Dakota Schlosser is returning for his second year as race marshal.  He’s run the Jr. Iditarod twice.  In his rookie run of 130 miles on the Denali Highway in 2015, Dakota placed 4th.  In 2016 Dakota again placed 4thwhen the Jr. Iditarod followed the Yentna Station route.  Dakota is also a veteran of the Iditarod, completing his rookie run on the Gold Trail Loop of 2021.  Like Emily, Dakota is a mentor for the young mushers who speaks from personal experience and feels strongly about giving back to the sport that has given him so much.


Mushers for the most part are a quiet bunch.  If you want to strike up a long conversation, ask them about a leader or a special dog on their team.  They are suddenly very animated and will tell many captivating stories about the amazing athletes they consider to be their best friends.  The Jr. Iditarod mushers run a 10-dog team.


Teams will report to Knik lake at 8:00 am for the 10:00 start on Saturday February 25th.  Who will lead the teams down the trail at the Knik start – a rookie, a veteran – only time will tell.  Who will be the first to arrive at Yentna?  Who will be the first to depart from Yentna?  Again only time will tell.  Start order and standings will be available on the page and on the Jr. Iditarod Facebook page.