Since 1973, always beginning on the first Saturday in March, the Iditarod Dog Sled Race has run in Alaska from Anchorage to Nome. Typically there are some 65-70 mushing teams beginning with 16 dogs that set out to complete the approximately 1000 miles of the National Historic Trail. Over 2,000 volunteers, including approximately 40 veterinarians, participate in the operation of the Iditarod, the most well-known sled dog race in the world. The vast majority of the veterinarians have served on numerous races.
For over 10 years, Dr Roger Troutman has been among the volunteer Iditarod veterinarians, generally spending about 2 weeks on the trail. Primary responsibilities of the veterinarians are to provide examinations and medical care as needed for the canine athletes at the checkpoints along the trail. The trail veterinarians collectively perform 10,000+ exams and provide medical attention if needed for the canine athletes at the checkpoints. Roger has also participated in the required pre-race examinations of the dogs as well as post race assessment following their 1000 mile journey, and on occasion, providing first aid to people along the trail.
Typically some 6 veterinarians are stationed at each checkpoint. They work in teams examining and caring for dogs as they arrive during all hours of the day and night. Living conditions vary from sleeping on cots in school gyms or community huts in the native villages to sleeping bags in tents at the more remote checkpoints. Temperatures are usually around 0 degrees Fahrenheit, but can drop to colder than -50 degrees.
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Catawba Animal Clinic veterinarian Dr. Roger Troutman on his travels to Alaska as a trail veterinarian on the thousand-mile Iditarod race.