Local Vet To Give Program On Iditarod

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For the second time in less than a year, Shoot for the Heart attendees will have the opportunity to hear a Star Valley man tell of his adventures as one of the lead veterinarians on the two most prestigious sled dog races in the world.

At 6 p.m. on Jan. 15, at Mountain Bible Church, Dr. Alan Hallman will host a presentation on the Iditarod — a race that begins March 2 in Anchorage, Alaska.

On Feb. 16, 2012 Hallman repeated “The Yukon Quest” presentation he had given just three months earlier in the Massachusetts Room of the Harvard Club located in historic downtown Boston.

Hallman’s two appearances in Payson are part of the highly popular Shoot for the Heart series that the church has hosted for the past three years.

In Hallman’s presentation on Tuesday, he will speak on the Iditarod, which after beginning in Anchorage continues to the finish line in Nome. Most mushers and their dogs complete the race in 9 to 15 days.

Teams frequently race through blizzard and whiteout conditions, sub-zero temperatures and gale force winds.

For the race, Hallman will be a part of a staff comprised of volunteer veterinarians from around the world. Vets must have at least five years of experience in small animal medicine and surgery and good enough health to withstand working in arctic conditions.

Iditarod dogs and Yukon Quest dogs have some of the most intensive health checkups in the animal athletic field. Mandatory pre-race evaluations begin in the early part of February and include blood testing and ECG recordings.

As a lead veterinarian, Hall will conduct the pre-race health screenings and systematic evaluations of the dogs during the race.

Hallman is sure to focus during his upcoming appearance, as he did during his last one, 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.

Iditarod mushers may begin the journey with a maximum of 12 to 16 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 both Alaskan races, 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.

The public is invited to Shoot for the Heart free of charge. There will be refreshments and door prizes.

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