In reviewing my recent posts, I realized that I've given you bits and pieces about the selection of dogs for SP Kennel's Iditarod teams. It's a complex process, so I though I'd give you a fuller explanation all in one place.
Iditarod rules require that every dog who will run the race receives a series of medical exams. Since these exams must take place well before the start -- and you never know what will happen to a dog during training -- you have to plan ahead and "qualify" more than the 32 dogs you will eventually start in the Iditarod. This is why we took 40 dogs into Fairbanks for blood tests and EKGs and why Dr. Jean Battig examined the same 40 dogs at the Kennel.
Next, having only 30 dog boxes on the trucks limits the number of dogs you can transport to the race. So, the day before leaving the Kennel, Aliy and Allen thinned the list down to 34 -- "Two spares" as Allen put it -- and we squeezed them into the trucks by doubling up a few "best friends" -- like JJ and Stormy -- and by letting Petunia "the couch dog" ride in the cab. So, 34 dogs were "available" in Anchorage and it was just a matter of Aliy and Allen choosing their final line-ups.
Iditarod rules require that mushers run 12 dogs for the Ceremonial Start, and that only the musher who runs those dogs in the Ceremonial Start can run them at the Official Start. So, Aliy had to choose 12 dogs that would "for sure" be on her team, and Allen had to choose 12 "for sure" dogs from the remaining 22. That left 10 dogs "in the middle" who could ultimately go on either team.
They got through that selection process and ran the Ceremonial Start okay, but it wasn't until breakfast on Sunday morning -- just a couple of hours before the actual Official Start -- that Allen said to Aliy, "I can't choose my team until you choose yours!" So, Bridgett handed her a pen and the team's "vet book" and Aliy finally chose the 4 dogs that would fill her squad out from 12 to 16. With that done, Allen looked over the 6 dogs that were left -- 34 minus Aliy's 16 minus his 12 already -- and picked his final 4 as well.
As you can see, though, Allen still wanted to hedge his bets! He was still wavering over the last two slots when we left breakfast and didn't write them in ink until he was getting ready at the starting line and the officials came by to identify his dogs!
I don't know if this post has helped clarify the process or not, but I've given it my best shot. Bottom line: Considering how important the selection of dogs for the Iditarod is, the process is quite an ordeal... and rightfully so!