50 alaska Before the Iditarod, each dog must be checked over by a vet. They are all microchipped, receive an ECG, and an overall physical exam 48 hours before the start of the race. Each year 1-3 dogs flunk out of the race because of their ECG results! Checkpoints in the earlier part of the race are very busy and packed and there are many more vets stationed there. The ITC provides straw for all the teams while on the course. Mushers will pull into a checkpoint and bed the dogs down to rest. Most mushers will have blankets to put over the dogs to give them a timeout from all the eyes of tourists and media. The dogs get a physical exam once they have been bedded down. As mushers are cooking dinner for their dogs, the vets go through and check out the dogs. IS THERE A TRAIL THE MUSHERS ARE FOLLOWING OR DO THEY HAVE TO FIGURE OUT HOW TO GET TO HOME ALL ON THEIR OWN? There are trail breakers that ride on snow machines (what most people call snow mobiles) that are running in front of the lead sled dogs. They cut and mark the trail, packing it down in windswept areas, which gives the dog teams a safe path to run on. Sometimes though, the wind and snow storms are so bad that the mushers can’t see the trail and end up way o” course. IS THERE ANYTHING SPECIFIC EACH DOG SLED TEAM MUST HAVE? Yes! The ITC has set out certain pieces of equipment that each team must have to stay on the course. This includes an arctic parka, a heavy sleeping bag (has to weigh at least 5 pounds), an ax, snowshoes, musher food, dog food, and dog booties for each pup’s feet to protect them against cutting ice and hard-packed snow injuries. They also must have a veterinarian notebook, non-chafing harnesses and a cable drop line for each dog. To heat up the food, they need to have a cooker with fuel and a large camp pot that can boil at least three gallons of water at a time. HOW MANY IDITAROD TEAMS ARE THERE AND WHERE DO THEY COME FROM? This year there were 67 mushers, 16 women and 51 men, as well as 16 rookies and 3 Iditarod Champions. Defending Champion and 3-time Winner Mitch Seavey was on the trail along with 4-time Champions Je” King and Martin Buser.