This year's Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race wouldn’t be run without thousands of volunteers along its nearly 1,000-mile length. 

While mushers may look forward to getting a quick rest when they roll into checkpoints along the Iditarod trail, the work of volunteer veterinarians is just beginning. 

Vet Claire Hohenwarter, at the Anvik checkpoint, is from North Carolina. She says she signed up to help as many members of each team make it all the way to Nome. 

“It’s great to see the families," Hohenwarter said. "I’m from the South, and we don’t even have snow!”

This is Claire’s first time to Anvik but her fifth time on the trail. Before joining years ago, she had her reservations about how the dogs were cared for and what the race was all about.

“Being a part of it made me realize it’s a production and they are well cared for,” she said. 

About 50 vets from around the world volunteer their time during the race. As a team, they make sure these four-legged athletes are all up to the challenge of the race. And sometimes, it takes a village, too. 

“I learn something new every time I’m here, and I learn something from everybody," Hohenwarter said. "Not just the vets, but the race judges, the people that help in the [communications],  logistics -- this is just an amazing volunteer operation."

Volunteer vets like Claire may be giving their time, but, she says they’re getting even more in return.

“It’s like one of these things you can’t just do once," Hohenwarter said. "You meet friends and it’s important to come back and maintain these relationships."

One of the volunteers on the trail this year is Jessie Royer’s hometown veterinarian.

Kimberly Henneman cares for Royer’s dogs in the off-season in Utah, making sure they stay in shape. Over time, she says she’s built a special bond with both Royer and the dogs -- one that carries over on to the trail.

"So, she started bringing her dogs to see me and I’ve been trying to help her out the best I can with the dogs," Henneman said. "We’ve developed a pretty good friendship and I try to keep those dogs as healthy as possible for her -- keep her happy, too." 

Anvik is Henneman’s last checkpoint as a vet this race. So far, she says Royer’s team is looking good. 

Shirley Young contributed to this story.

Copyright 2018 KTVA. All rights reserved. 


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