Your Voice – Wilmington woman works with Iditarod sled dogs

And there I was, embracing the intrinsic view of the snow-capped Alaskan mountains that surrounded me when I saw my first dog truck. It was early morning and the fog still lingered in sight. I see a man unloading the dogs, “dropping” is what they call, hooking them to the dog line.

It was then that I realized I was going to be working with the famous dogs that compete in the 1,049 mile race across Alaska known as the Iditarod.

The Iditarod is the golden egg of all dog sled racing. It is known worldwide not only for its distance, but also for containing some of the most beautiful, yet rugged terrain Alaska has to offer.

Starting in Anchorage, these incredible athletes work with their musher to pull their sled through frozen rivers, remote tundra, rugged mountain ranges and thick forests in well below zero temperatures in a long run to Nome. It’s amazing the kind of training and preparation needed to perform such a race.

These dogs are some of the most watched and cared for dogs in the world. Among many physical and other exams, every dog ​​must undergo an electrocardiogram (ECG), testing the electrical pathways of their heart. Blood is drawn to be sure they are ready to run such a race.

And I, Charlotte Talbert of Dineen Animal Hospital, a small animal clinic on the east coast of North Carolina, have to help them get there. As a volunteer vet tech, I was accepted to join the ECG program and ensure these eager dogs would approach that starting line in good health. More than 1,700 dogs entered the program in hopes of being chosen to run the race.

Witnessing the relationship between the musher and his dogs was truly a privilege. Everyone has their love and compassion for the sport of dog sled racing. Just like a Labrador is bred to fetch, these Alaskan huskies are bred to run.

These dogs are among the luckiest dogs in the world. They manage to do exactly what they were born to do. These athletes, musher and dog, work all year round just to be able to have the opportunity to run “The Last Great Race”.

When they reach that starting line, you can see it in their eyes. Chills ran through my body, I saw all the dogs jumping impatiently. You could see their lean muscles bulging, their gasps of impatience and their eyes focused on the track ahead of them.

They are not couch potato dogs. All they want in this world is to be with their team, lead their musher and race. Getting to see this was breathtaking. The mushers are all wearing their game faces, ready to unleash their team. Alaska and the Iditarod really changed my life. It was an honor and a privilege to work in such a place with such wonderful people and such amazing dogs.

The Iditarod took place in March. Find the results and learn more about the race on

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Bette C. Alvarado