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Near Iditarod’s Half-Way Point, Dogs — and Especially Mushers — Need Rest

Two men in parkas kneel over resting sled dogs

As the lead mushers are approaching the Iditarod checkpoint, and the halfway point in the 2018 sled dog race, the wear and tear of the trail is starting to show in a couple teams further back in the standings.

Upon racing more than 300 miles of the trail into the checkpoint of McGrath, the 2018 Yukon Quest champion Allen Moore noticed his younger, inexperienced team start to fatigue.

“My goal is to try to get as many dogs to the finish line as possible, no matter how long it takes. So when they get tired – like, they’re a little tired on this run, and they’ve never ran seven hours before – well, I’m resting them. If I had a little bit more mature dogs I would’ve kept going through, but they’re a little tired, so we are resting here a little while, and then we’ll go on.”

While in McGrath around 10:30am yesterday, Moore gave a few of his dogs extra tape around their shins as a way to prevent injuries. Parked parallel to Moore in McGrath was rookie Andy Pohl’s team of 15 dogs, who were sleeping on hay piles with some extra blankets around just for good measure.

Sled dogs resting in the McGrath checkpoint

Andy Pohl’s team of 15 dogs rests in McGrath. Photo: Davis Hovey, KNOM.

A sled dog sleeps on a bed made of straw

A sleeping sled dog in McGrath. Photo: Davis Hovey, KNOM.

Pohl points out that sometimes it’s not necessarily the dogs who are the ones getting beat up along the trail.

“It’s more the musher; I think the musher gets beat up more than the dogs do. Being a rookie, I guess (I’m) getting thrown into it a little more. The dogs sure do bounce off a lot of stuff, whether it’s going through some of the walls created by snowmachines on the trail (or) soft snow conditions. We haven’t had too much ice yet, that will probably be later. But they are doing great.”

Pohl is one of sixteen rookies competing in this year’s Iditarod. With only two scratches thus far, none of the rookies have left the race.

Image at top: Andy Pohl examines one of his dogs with Iditarod veternarian staff in McGrath. Photo: Davis Hovey, KNOM.

Sled dog team standing at the check-in line in McGrath.

A dog team waits patiently at the check-in line in McGrath. Photo: Davis Hovey, KNOM.