It’s not often Rim Country residents have a golden opportunity on their home turf of hearing a presentation that just two months ago was given to members of the exclusive Harvard Travellers Club.
But at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 16 at Mountain Bible Church, locals will have the chance to hear Rim Country veterinarian Alan Hallman repeat “The Yukon Quest” presentation he gave on Dec. 13 in the Massachusetts Room of the Harvard Club located in historic downtown Boston.
Hallman’s appearance in Payson is part of the highly popular Shoot for the Heart series that the church has hosted for the past two years.
Hallman will speak on long-distance dog racing, focusing on the Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race, which he has been a part of since 1994.
“The presentation focuses on the historic route the race follows, the special love that exists between the mushers and their dogs and the tremendous terrain and weather conditions that they face on the trail,” Hallman said.
In the 2011 race held in February, temperatures dropped to 60 degrees below zero prompting Hallman to declare, “No musher finishes this grueling race without world class dog care.”
Which is one of the reasons Hallman and a band of 12 veterinarians were on hand at the 1,000-mile race that begins in Whitehorse, Yukon and follows the Yukon River to the finish line at Fairbanks, Alaska.
“The trail runs across frozen rivers, climbs four mountain ranges and passes through isolated northern villages, “Hallman said. “The Yukon Quest is a true test of the capacity of humans and canines, and a tribute to the strength of the ancient bond that unites them.”
He calls the Yukon Quest the toughest sled dog race in the world; even tougher than the Iditarod because it has 28 checkpoints and the Quest has just nine.
Also the Quest is held earlier in the winter months when temperatures are much colder.
Hallman is sure to focus during his appearance on the admiration and respect he has for the sled dogs, which he glowingly calls, “Elite marathon athletes bred from stock that survived and thrived during the Klondike Gold Rush.”
The Rim veterinarian says he is convinced by his years of working the race there is no other animal species that can equal the sled dog’s endurance, dedication and ability to perform under extreme conditions.
In the days of the race, dogs run for four hours and then mushers allow them to rest for fours hours before resuming.
The dogs receive snacks every few hours and during the four-hour stop, the mushers prepare hot broth for them.
Also, the mushers — who are a diverse bunch usually made up of fishermen, hunters, trappers and even teachers and lawyers — must carry with them a veterinary journal to document the dogs’ health during the demanding trip.
Mushers may begin the journey with a maximum of 14 dogs and must have at least six at the finish line.
If a dog should be injured or turn up ill, the musher can leave him or her at pre-designated stops along the route to receive advanced medical treatment from the veterinarians.
Frostbite on the feet is among the most common ailments the dogs suffer — so some competitors put booties on the dogs — but there are some rare cases of dog deaths.
In Hallman’s tenure, however, he has never seen a death be attributed to a lack of care.
During the race, Hallman and his fellow veterinarians follow the mushers and their dogs from checkpoint to checkpoint in snowmobiles and sometimes by airplane.
They often reside overnight in tents, shacks, out-of-the-way boarding houses or just about any place they can find warmth and some type of bed or sleeping bag.
In addition to Hallman’s presentation at Shoot for the Heart, there will be refreshments and door prizes.
The public is invited free of charge.