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· Bootie Call · Drop Bag Delivery Day · Vet Check · Jr.
2/28/2004 - "Bootie Call"
"The best laid plans of mice and...mushers", not exactly the way the old quote goes, but definitely the way life happens.
It's Wednesday night, February 18th, the night before the Iditarod food drop bags are due to be delivered in Anchorage. The long awaited box containing 1,450 dog booties has finally arrived and the 911 call goes out and we respond.
Ellie, Maegan, family, and a few true-blue friends are gathered in the Claus's winter home living room. We sit fumbling with the mass of booties turning them right side out. The black synthetic fabric is supposedly good for 100 miles of trail and cost about .90 cents each. Each bootie has an elastic and Velcro wrist closure and is turned to maximize the space and minimize the irritation to the dog's foot.
The booties are color coded according to size. Not only does Ellie know each dogs foot size, she also knows the ones that need a larger size on front feet and a smaller size on the hind feet.
While we attack the mountain of fabric, Grandma Eleanor bustles around in the kitchen cooking huge pots of rice and hard boiling eggs for a last addition to the drop bags. The eggs are a special trail treat to tempt the team and the rice is in case the dogs need something milder for upset systems. Eleanor is also heating pizza for us and baking chocolate chip cookies.
While we continue turning booties, Ellie starts filling some with Gold Bond medicated powder to save time on the trail.
We start grouping booties in sets of 4 booties, while Ellie sends up "smoke signals" that have us all coughing and laughing. Next we package 16 sets (1 per dog in her team). Ellie has calculated how many bags of booties are needed per checkpoint and we distribute them per drop bag for each of the 22 checkpoints along the way.
All the rest of the supplies have been packed and now, late at night, an army of filled drop bags stand at attention outside in the driveway.
There are about 3 bags per checkpoint. Some checkpoint bags are marked FREEZE and are kept cold to protect meat and fish dog foods or human food. The other bags hold clothing and an assortment for non perishable items for Ellie and the dogs.
Ellie's largest drop bags are planned for the TAKOTNA checkpoint where she plans to take her mandatory 24 hour stop. She's even planning a shower and shampoo and hopefully long sleep.
Her team will have clean new blankets at each checkpoint. Each dog blanket is two layers of fleece with a thin layer of foil space blanket sandwiched in between. Ellie says they really keep her dogs warm and the dogs love them. She tested them on some -50 degrees training campouts earlier this year.
Family, friends and even women form Ellie's church pitched in on the sewing to complete the 250 blankets and the scraps were turned into Ellie's stylish and colorful neck warmers.
The reasoning behind so many blankets was to save space and weight in the sled. Most importantly, to prevent contamination by viruses and parasites along the way, hopefully keeping the team better protected and always warm and comfortable.
For more information about Ellie and her home at Ultima Thule Lodge you can visit their website at www.ultimathulelodge.com
More information about Ellie Claus can be found on the Iditarod website www.iditarod.com
©2004 Jon & Jona Van Zyle
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