The Anchorage Museum was wonderful. One floor was devoted to the history of Alaska as a whole and another floor was dedicated to the history of native Alaskans. A bonus was viewing a brand new exhibit called Gyre: The Plastic Ocean. This inspiring exhibit will travel across the country beginning in September. It should be required viewing for all humans! Another bonus was viewing the delightful artwork of Alaskan school children that was on display throughout the museum.
We boarded a bus in downtown Anchorage and drove about 50 miles to the Iditarod Headquarters in Willow. In Willow we observed several truckloads of dogs come in for vet checks. Every single dog is examined top to bottom. The vets use the H.A.W. & L system which stands for heart, hydration, appetite, weight and lungs. Each dog is microchipped and receives an ECG as well as a comprehensive examination of their joints, teeth, paws and coat. Each musher is required to keep a vet check notebook and check in at all 24 checkpoints along the route. Dogs can be randomly drug tested at any point during the race. Their urine and blood will be checked for both performance enhancement drugs and drugs that mask pain. In the 15 years since drug testing began not a single dog has tested positive. I cannot stress enough how well these dogs are cared for. Since I included so many dog pictures in my last post I will share a few shots from headquarters.
Hamsters aren't the only ones who need exercise. This giant wheel is a favorite of the dogs at the Van Zyles' kennel. Ruth Van Zyles told me their cat likes to run it as well and that their dogs will stay on the wheel for hours chasing the cat. Sadly, it wasn't working the evening we visited. They will get it fixed as soon as the weather warms up.
We've had the wonderful opportunity to visit several kennels. The treatment these dogs receive is second to none. I am constantly amazed by how the owners know the names and distinct personalities of every single dog. Some of these kennels have between 50-100 dogs and each dog is treated as if he was the number one dog. They receive exceptional treatment and love the attention offered them.
Our two and a half drive to meet our very own sled dog teams was one picturesque scene after another. I am our dedicated driver since there's an assumption that my years of driving in Cleveland and Chicago makes me the most qualified! Thankfully, all the rental cars in Alaska come with excellent tracking systems because my winter driving skills have become rusty after 17 years in Austin.
We are preparing to track our Musher. We've started discussing some of the Iditarod features and the uniqueness of Alaska. We learned that the fastest Musher completed the race in 8 days and the slowest in 32! So much more to discover. There is a set of twins racing this year and since our class has one set of twins and two other students who are one half a set I'm going to encourage our class to root for Anne and Kristy Bennington who are originally from Wisconsin.