Since visiting the kennel of Jon Little in Soldotna, Alaska last summer, I've been following his blog. I also visited the Iditarod Headquarters in Wasilla, where I gained an appreciation for the athleticism of these mushers.
This year's Iditarod is more than half over. Seventy-two teams started the 1,000 mile race over the weekend.
For anyone who has seen the remote Alaska wilderness in the summer, it's almost impossible to imagine people traversing it in subzero temps. It was quite interesting to hear Jon Little explain some of the background on what mushers do to prepare for races and operate a kennel. Jon had fashioned a water jug with a long "straw" so he could keep hydrated during a run without stopping or digging in his sled. Mushers also carry at least enough dog food for one rest stop. Jon had several freezers on his property and he collected scraps from local salmon canneries to feed his dogs. The dogs expend so much energy that they must have a very high protein diet. Jon also showed the newer design of sled, which is split into two sections. This allows for more stability and gives the musher a place to sit for short periods of time. Every square inch of the sled is tightly packed and nothing "extra" is allowed. During rest stops the musher cares for his dogs before thinking of himself.
Jon had about ten puppies in a pen when we were there. Some of his puppies spend time at the Iditarod Headquarters where they get regular attention from visitors. This socializes them before they become part of the working kennel.
Check out Jon's blog to learn more about the Iditarod and other races!