This is Mickey, Aliy's mom, reporting from Anchorage. I returned from the remote Alaska bush yesterday evening to be immediately thrown into the intensity of Iditarod Dog Drop activities here in town.
The Iditarod Dog Drop coordinator, and several of her volunteers, asked Doug to help pick up a load of dogs that were being flown to Anchorage from McGrath. The SP Kennel Ford F-350, 20 box, diesel dog truck was the main reason Doug was so popular. Nevertheless, he was eager to help with these race logistics.
At about 7:30 PM, Doug and I jumped in the SP truck and met 2 other dog trucks and a gaggle of volunteers at the cargo facility of Penair. It was pretty much dark by the time a Cessna 208 Caravan aircraft taxied to the ramp behind a security gate. This airplane is a single engine turboprop built for short hauls of both cargo and passengers. It typically operates with a single crew and can be configured to seat 9 to 12 passengers. Tonight the aircraft interior was a single cargo hold, probably about 9' by 15', lined with tarps, kraft paper and old carpeting.
As the pilot secured the aircraft we gathered the 3 dog trucks near the aft, starboard door. All volunteers gathered tightly around the plane exit. We were there to grab any bolting dropped dogs.
The pilot opened the door from inside the aircraft. The sight was amazing!! Forty-two dogs filled the cargo hold, like a heard of fuzzy headed cattle. They stared out at us perked up their ears and wagged their tails. Some started to whine or talk. They were anticipating ear scratches and belly rubs.
The dogs on this flight were each secured to some portion of the plane interior by a 12" to 16" wire neckline. They had flown in close quarters for about 45 minutes to get here from McGrath. The pilot methodically unclipped each dog and passed him/her out the door to a waiting volunteer who deposited the animal into a private dog box in one of the trucks. The dogs were calm and cooperative but pretty eager to disembark. It took us about 20 minutes to get them all settled in the vehicles. I was amazed to notice only 2 piles of poop or vomit on the plane floor. The pilot simply rolled up the paper, disposed of the trash and was ready for the next run today.
Thirteen of the dogs on the plane were Mitch Seavey's withdrawn team. They went right back to their kennel. The other 29 were transported back to the Millenium Hotel where they were fed, walked and examined by veterinarians before they were released to go home. Two SP dogs, Rose and Tug, traveled on that plane. Tug still has a bit of a sore shoulder and Rose's foot is tender. They are eating, drinking and sleeping. In general they tolerated the plane ride well.
And guess what??? Doug has been recruited again tonight. He and that F-350 did a good job. Seventy dogs are expected in from McGrath. I'll probably have another story tomorrow.
Tug and Doug at Clarion
Years ago I asked a pilot what he did if the dogs started fighting on a flight. He said, "Dogs don't fight at Zero G's." That say's it all! - Kaz