Blog by Julia Redington
We booty up here at Redington Kennels … or perhaps the correct term is booting up and not meaning a computer restart. Joking aside, booties are a critical part of sled dog care. We take our dog care very seriously.
Why are booties needed? Dogs have tough pads on their feet and they sweat out of their pads. Even with those tough pads they may be vulnerable to damage on icy trails. The average sled dog by the time the season is over may have run over 3,000 miles. Dog booties provide a layer of protection to the dog’s pads (like shoes provide protection for people). Booties are disposable and are normally made from Codura material with Velcro attachments.
A musher may go through 1,500-2,000 booties during the Iditarod and more than that during training. The average Iditarod or Quest kennel could very well go through 3,000-5,000 booties in one season.
We recycle booties during training which means washing, air drying and then sorting the booties that are still in excellent condition for reuse. Some of the worn-out ones will be sent to school kids who write to Ray.
As noted, booties are the first layer of added protection to the dogs’ tough pads. However, even with booties sometimes a dog’s pad will still get sore or split. If you think about humans, sometimes we will get blisters or soreness on our feet, too. Dogs tend to not get blisters. Mushers take good care of their dogs’ feet and can often be seen rubbing special ointment on the dog pads after runs and at checkpoints during a race. This helps the canine athletes maintain healthy feet.
Booting dogs is second nature for Ray and most of his mushing peers. Ray has put on and taken off thousands and thousands of booties over the years. Ray is incredible efficient with correctly putting on dog booties; this is a talent that rookie mushers have to learn from experience.
What does it cost for booting up? Keeping our high-performing canine athletes healthy and raring to go is priceless. On average, a single booty costs between one and two dollars each (normally there is a volume discount). Every time a ten-dog team is run (with each dog using four booties), it will cost around $40 per run for the booties alone.
I was in Anchorage last week making one of many trips to pick up yet more booties for Redington Kennels. The supplier thanked us for all the great business and said we were one of the top two kennels this year for the amount of booties we have bought. We are at an all–time peak for bootie consumption due to the multiple teams running out of our kennel this year. This is a cost we plan for in the operation of our sled dog kennel.
That said, special mention goes to Bill and Carole Stead who have bought Ray’s dogs’ booties during Iditarod for all but Ray’s first Iditarod. Huge thanks to them and to all our sponsors for helping Team Redington Booty Up!