Saturday, March 6, 2010

And they're off!

Today is the first Saturday in March, and that announces the beginning of the most famous (and controversial) dog race of the year: the Iditarod. This annual race is a grueling 1,161 miles, which these amazing doggie-athletes can run in nine to fifteen days, through freezing temperatures and blizzards. This race can be incredibly dangerous for the unprepared: both mushers and dogs. For this reason there has recently been a movement away from supporting the race; the winner's purse is down almost $50,000 this year due to lack of sponsor support.

There is a lot more veterinary care given to dogs in the years since the establishment of "Mush With PRIDE (Providing Responsible Information on a Dog's Environment)" in 1991; this year over thirty-five volunteer veterinarians will be performing exams at every checkpoint along the race. Mushers must also present the vets with a dog care log, showing details of when they were last rested and fed. Dogs who are unable to continue in the race are "dropped" at these checkpoints.

The race remains, at least, a tribute to the 1925 serum run to Nome, which saved the small town from a diphtheria outbreak. Perhaps we can come up with a safer way to honor that extraordinary act of heroism.

As for me, hearing about the Iditarod always brings to mind one of my favorite childhood movies: Balto.

Have a good weekend!


PS-- If you're interested in keeping track of the race, you can follow the standings by clicking here.

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