Iditarod dogs that don't finish the race get pampered in Anchorage
Mushers that complete the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race don't always finish with all of their dogs. The person in charge of the "returned dog" program says dogs are withdrawn for various reasons.
"Anything from getting tired, to maybe like a sore foot or a sore shoulder and, you know, sometimes a female goes into heat and that will cause issues," said returned dog coordinator Liz Millman. "Sometimes it's just attitude issues."
The term "returned dog" now replaces "dropped dog" in race vocabulary. A spokesperson for the race said the Iditarod changed it in 2019 because of the potentially negative connotation. It also more accurately explains that the dogs are returned home to their kennels.
Veterinarians in Anchorage examine the dogs from head-to-tail, checking on their health. Dr. Erika Friedrich and the rest of the medical staff want to know as much as they can about their patients.
"Where they are stopping their run, why they're stopping their run, what treatments they may have had, if any," she said.
The dogs typically spend just a few hours at the hotel until their handlers are able to pick them up.
"We try and get them checked in and we feed them," Millman said. "We make sure they're good to go and we try to get them home as soon as possible."
If any of the dogs need to spend the night in Anchorage, they are sent to the Hiland Mountain Correctional Center where they are cared for by inmates.
"It's a really safe location," Millman said. "The dogs get a really nice pavilion to be under and a lot of straw and they get bedded down."
Organizers say just over 100 dogs have been returned from the Iditarod so far this year. That's about the same compared to previous years.
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