We were dealt a pretty big blow at the end of this years’ Iditarod with the passing of our beloved dog, Dorado. But we are moving forward and hoping that his death will make changes to the Iditarod dropped dog program that will make things better for EVERY dog that is left at ANY checkpoint. Since the end of the race, the Iditarod has had two Board meetings in which they discussed potential changes to the dropped dog program. While we were not personally there, we had ears there that gave us reports of the discussions and here is what we have found out…

Mark Nordman (Iditarod race marshal) is coordinating the construction of dog boxes to be sent to the hub locations of Unalakleet and McGrath. These are the main locations where dropped dogs are sent from the smaller villages to then be sent to Anchorage. These boxes will give the dogs protection from the weather while they are there. They are also talking about having REAL drop chains, instead of the 16” cable drop chains that the mushers are required to carry. This will add more security for the dogs and allow them to move about more freely while they are waiting to fly out. They will also have smaller planes with more frequent flights in order to move dogs out of these locations and get them to their handlers quicker.

Stu Nelson (Iditarod head vet) is taking a closer look at the entire dropped dog program and wants to make additional changes. He requested reports from key personnel at all dropped dog locations, Anchorage to Nome. To the above changes, he wants to add sufficient personnel numbers to have 24/7 monitoring in McGrath and Unalakleet, dog shelters for all Yukon River and coastal dog drop locations, another modified connex dedicated to sheltering dogs that need treatment in Nome (there is already one there for volunteers and dogs), 24/7 monitoring of the dog lot in Nome for at least 48 hours after the last team has arrives (there is currently 24/7 monitoring in Nome but we are not sure at what point this relaxes) and 24/7 monitoring at the Highland Correctional facility in Anchorage.

We were recently contacted by Stan Hooley (Iditarod Executive Director). He is organizing a special Board meeting in July to talk about further changes that need to be made and we WILL be attending this meeting. As you can imagine, we received A LOT of emails after Dorado’s death. We had some constructive conversations from people who had volunteered during this year’s Iditarod but also past Iditarods. From those conversations and our own observations, there are some things we would like to add to this list. The main one is having a better protocol in place for volunteers to follow at these dropped dog locations so that it is not up to the individual person or vet on when to check on dogs and how to care for them. We are not sure what the current training is for volunteers that help with dropped dogs but we will be reviewing that as well.

Also we have been looking into tracking systems so that a dropped dog’s location can be found simply by checking a website, similar to looking for your FedEx package. This could have lots of information about the dog attached to it like when the dog was last fed and last had its medications, the reason the dog was dropped etc. and could be easily viewed by anyone with a link to the website. Currently, there is nothing like this in place and our handler in Anchorage was often frustrated when trying to figure out where one of my dropped dogs was or when it would be arriving in Anchorage. There is a simple solution to this as the dogs are all microchipped and can be easily scanned when they arrive or leave a location so that there is more accountability for each dog. We have contacted a company in the Midwest as they have something similar for tracking beef from the field to the table in order to have USDA approval. We are not yet sure if this system will work or is affordable for Iditarod so we are welcoming suggestions from anyone that knows of other systems.

I have decided to sign up and run the Iditarod again in 2014. This was not an easy decision and I am still conflicted about it. But there are several reasons TO do it and those have outweighed the reasons not to do it. I received Dorado’s ashes and feel like I need to put them out on the trail while running with the team that he so much loved being a part of. I owe that to him. I also owe it to him and all the other dogs, dog mushers and lovers of the Iditarod to check to make sure that these changes to the dropped dog protocols are in place in time for the 2014 race and to let Iditarod know that I am watching to make sure this is done. Sign up are June 29th. If you would like to support Squid Acres in this endeavor, please contact us through this website or on facebook. We would love to make this Iditarod a positive experience for everyone! Thanks for all the supportive emails we received during this very difficult time. We love our fans!