Booty Up

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.

bootiesA 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!

The Weight (and Pressure) of an Iditarod Food Drop

Blog by Julia Redington

Ray will be racing in his 13th Iditarod this year and we just completed the Iditarod food drop for the 13th time this past week.

So do you think food drop for Iditarod has gotten easier for us?

Yes, we are pretty good at the mechanics of assembling it …. However, the stress of figuring out what to plan for during the race has gotten more difficult.

Ray agrees that the preparation of the food drop still remains the most stressful part of the Iditarod.  Racing the Iditarod is not as stressful as strategizing your food drop to support your race. The food drop is where mushers send out dog food, supplies, gear, and food for the musher to the various villages and checkpoints along the way to support their team for the approximately nine days that they will be on running across Alaska.

Having the right food and gear at the right time is critical to support the race strategy.  That race strategy may include a musher’s Plan A through Plan Z but hopefully Plan Z never has to come into play.

Some factors that could impact the food drop strategy:

Food drop prepRay figures out two locations that are his preference for 24-hour rests and plans his food drop bags accordingly.
Where is the team planning to take the mandatory 24-hour rest break?
What could change from that plan?  Possibilities may include: a broken sled, slower than expected travel times due to trail conditions where the team needs the rest earlier, or if the team catches a bug/gets sick (dogs are like people in that they can get sick and pass the bug around).
What’s the weather like?  What if it is a warm race?  Or a cold race?
The weather affects the type of diet specifically meat to feed the dogs.  One example is that Ray would not want to feed beaver or liver in warmer temperatures as the meat is so rich but in cold weather dogs will thrive on high octane fuel because they are burning so many calories.

Those are some of the factors for the pressure applied to the preparation and this year Ray just sent out around 2,650 pounds of dog food, people food, gear, and supplies to support his race.  So now you know the weight (and pressure) of an Iditarod food drop.