It’s All About the Dogs


Field trip day! Today, we visited the Iditarod Headquarters, in Wasilla, and Matthew Failor’s kennel, 17th Dog, in Willow.

Iditarod Trail Headquarters, located in Wasilla, Alaska, is about an hour north of Anchorage.  It was a Veterinarian Check Day for the Iditarod mushers.  These are the final vet checks before the Iditarod Ceremonial Start on Saturday. Mushers and their dogs lined the parking lot, and many completed their vet checks during our visit this morning.  

The health of every dog in the Iditarod is of utmost importance.  There are over 40 licensed veterinarians that volunteer their time to ensure the safety and care of the Iditarod dogs.  The veterinarians were working hard to assure every dog was prepared and healthy for the long race ahead.  During today’s exams, the veterinarians used a 21-item checklist as they examined each dog.  Care for the dogs is not just a one-day event; this important job starts well before the race, at each checkpoint of the Iditarod Trail, and continues well after the Iditarod is over. 

As we continued to explore Headquarters, I made my way inside.  Not only is there a great store inside, but it also is the home of the Joe Redington Sr Trophy, the Red Lantern, and many other Iditarod mementos.  Pictures of each of the Iditarod winners and their lead dogs lined the walls. It was a fantastic walk through history.  I was even lucky enough to run into Cindy Abbott! 

The second stop on our journey led us to Matthew Failor’s, 17th Dog, kennel.  The drive from Wasilla to Willow was spectacular.  We were lucky enough to get a clear view of Mt. Denali. It was breathtaking! Mt. Denali is the tallest mountain in North America standing at 20, 310 feet above sea level.

As we pulled into Mathew Failor’s home, I was excited to see the dogs all playfully running around their homes.  You could tell they were eager for us to visit with them.  We made our way over to the yard, and Matthew spoke about the ages of the dogs, their litter names, as well as introduced his staff, who are also training to, and one is, running the Iditarod.

Before we began exploring and interacting with the dogs, Matthew had us stop and listen to the sounds from the kennel.  It was extremely quiet, for a group of 30 people and 50 dogs.  The only sounds you could hear were the rustling of the paws, as the dogs walked around their homes.  He spoke about proper socialization, playtime, and exercise, being instrumental in the health and wellness of sled dogs.

It was finally time to play!  We spent time interacting with his many dogs, all eager to be pet and cuddled.  We then moved into his garage to look at his sleds and learn about the gear that needed along the Iditarod trail. While in the garage we were also introduced to a new litter of two-week-old puppies. They were absolutely adorable!  

With today’s “sneak peek” of the mushers, I am excited for the Musher’s Banquet tomorrow night!