How do you get to the races?
Very few mushers are fortunate
enough to live at race sites, so they are faced with a complex problem
transporting three, four, six, eight or more dogs, sleds and lots of
miscellaneous equipment. In the early days of racing, mushers would 'mush"
their teams to the race. Fortunately for everyone, highways and pickup trucks
have made getting to the race much easier for musher and dogs.
If you glance around a race site
you'll see that sled dog trucks are as varied as their owners but they have many
common features. Dog trucks are equipped with separate compartments built on the
truck itself or on a trailer.
The compartments or "dog boxes" generally house one or two dogs. The
boxes are kept relatively small so the dog's body heat will keep the box and the
dog warm, but yet large enough that the dog can travel in comfort.
Sled dog boxes are well
ventilated so the dogs get fresh air and stay dry. The humidity from the dog's
breath would make the box a damp and then cold place if it is not allowed to
escape through vents or the door. Most boxes have a large opening covered with
some form of metal grating. When the temperatures are colder than what the dog
normally experiences a portion of the metal grating or other opening may be
partially covered to conserve heat, yet still allow humidity to escape.
Mushers put a variety of
materials in the boxes for bedding. The most common bedding is fresh straw.
Straw provides padding and insulation. It must be changed regularly so it does
not become wet, molded or soiled.
The dog boxes quickly become a
sort of mobile home for the dogs providing a safe haven and a familiar
environment no matter where the team travels. The dog truck is equipped to haul
everything from sleds to dog food and is rigged with a number of special devices
to make travel easier. Lights on the side of the boxes and the rear make it
easier to feed at night. Eye bolts around the bottom of the truck give the
musher a place to attach short leashes, called ‘drop chains’, to the truck
so that the dogs can get out, stretch and relieve themselves while remaining
securely attached to the truck and out of harms way.