Most of the training is done, EKGs, bloodwork and chiropractic adjustments/checks (these are not mandatory, but something we have done each year prior to Iditarod) done - just our final vet check by Dr.Baetsle at the Big Lake Vet Clinic tomorrow and then I will need to sit down and sort out which 16 dogs are heading to Nome with me.
It hasn't been an easy call this year. Pretty much all 24 could go and almost all 24 'deserve' to go, but since race rules only allow for 16 (and I don't want to drive 24 down the trail anyway! YIKES) selections must be made.
So far I have narrowed things down to 20 dogs - and I know some of the choices will be a surprise to many - so let me talk about the surprises first.
First off, let me answer the most asked question first - Yes, 'HE' is in the final twenty. For those of you that don't know who 'he' is ... 'he' is ten and a half year old Crunchie.
Honestly, I've been looking for a reason to drop 'The Old Man' but neither he nor any of the testing we have done has given me an 'easy out'. Yes, I'd like to take him, more then anything actually, but it is important to me that I believe he can get to Nome if he starts the race. In his 8 1/2 years of racing he has never been injured or dropped in a race, I don't want his career to end on such a note....
Next a surprise cut - Billie. Yup, Billie is a key leader and was a big player in my recent 3rd place finish at the Don Bowers race - but she has 2 things working against her right now - she is in season and she is having a bit of foot issues. The foot issues aren't a big deal, but Billie is not fond of having booties put on and when she is hormonal and in season, she likes it even less. The thought of arguing with this tough, opinionated lady over 1000 miles is not pleasant - couple that with the havoc she will create with the boys and it just isn't going to be Billie's year, I'm afraid. She will be a very hard dog to leave behind though.
The final 'surprise' is a very pleasant one - it actually isn't a 'cut' - quite the opposite. Yes, I read the front page of the Anchorage Daily News this morning which read "Injury eliminates hard-luck Irving from team', but it seems Irving didn't.
As per Dr.Baetsle's instructions we ran Irving on a couple shorter runs this week. He has done great and when Dr. Whitton saw him for his exam today, she could see nothing remaining that would exclude him from running Iditarod.
The final go ahead will come from Dr. Baetsle, who saw the original injury and we will know that tomorrow.
Keep your fingers crossed for Irv - I know his paws are crossed!!
So the final 20 are -