Thursday, February 23, 2017

Canadian Challenge: Aaron Peck for the Win AND Handler Help

Congratulations to Aaron Peck for a fantastic run to the finish.

We, and by we, I mean every musher I have spoken to, are amazed at the speeds by which his team traveled for most of the way in this race.
An incredible run, and now the big question of the day.   How much is he selling those dogs for?

Kidding aside, it was great to watch Aaron put his plan into place and see it all come together.  I had been following Eva on their Facebook page,  Elevation Dogs, and gained some invaluable insight as to what was going on along the trail.
Photo Credit: Jim Williams

Aaron with his lead dogs and Alex his handler
Photo Credit: Jim Williams

As you may have noticed by now each musher wears a white bib with their number on it, in Aarons case it is lucky 13.  Then there is the yellow bib that sports the corresponding number which is worn by the handler of the team.

A handlers job is pretty big at a race. They are the mushers right hand, and in lots of cases the left one too!   
Handlers help care for the dogs once a musher comes into a check point, massaging, feeding, picking up poop, massaging again and keeping an eye out for any stiff, warm, sore spots on the dogs.
This means that the handler has driven in the dog truck following along on (sometimes questionable) roads to get to each check stop before the musher.
Handlers are also the cheering squad, giving that little motivational push to get them out of the warm building and back on the sled.  AND if you happen to be a wife or husband of the musher then your job sometimes means standing back and not saying a word as the musher grumbles and speaks sleep deprived commands that they would only say to a spouse.

During the longer mandatory rests it is usually the handler that does most of the dog care as the musher drops into a bed to have a sleep themselves before then heading back out with the dogs.
When dogs are dropped they are left with the handler to be cared for, any injuries attended to and extra loving care given.

Every musher is different in how they would like to get the 'job' done and some use their handlers more than others.   Sometimes it feels like a handler is just a glorified poop scooper, but without their help that's an awful lot of poop to worry about.

A musher who is qualifying for the Quest or Iditarod cannot use their musher at any of the check points.  They are completely on their own for the care of their team, unless they drop a dog in which case the handler takes over the care of that dog.    
The same rules apply here as they do in the Quest, the handler cannot touch the dogs or the sled when the musher is into a check stop. 
Dogs are not put into the truck and are bedded down with straw until they cross the finish line, which means someone must clean up all that straw once the musehr is back out on the trail. 
Guess who takes over that massive sweat inducing job?  
You got it, the handler.


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