Tales From the Trail
|Here, I am strapping booties on Juliet before the start of the 2005 Iditarod. (Photo: Courtsey of Hannah Moderow)|
If you run a marathon, how many pairs of shoes do you need? Only one pair, usually. I suppose if you stepped in mud and lost a shoe, there’s a chance you could need an extra, but how many times has that ever happened?
Sled dogs need new shoes often. Called “booties,” these black corduroy shoes are used to protect a dog’s paws from cuts and scrapes on icy trails. Although booties are commonly worn by long-distance sled dogs, they are not always necessary. When the weather is warm and the snow is soft, the dogs run better barefoot. Once the temperatures fall below zero, however, the snow gets sharp and the dogs need booties to protect their feet. A well-seasoned musher can tell by feeling the snow whether the dogs need boots on a given day.
Do you remember when you were learning how to tie your shoes? At first, it probably took a long time to figure out how to make the right loops, and to pull the laces tight so they would hold. Dog booties are the same way. It takes over a minute to strap a set of booties on each dog. Booties look like a short sock with a Velcro strap on top. It is important to secure the Velcro tight, so that the booties do not fall off easily—but you have to be careful not to cut off the circulation around their paws. If you have a team of 12 dogs, you need to budget about 20 minutes just to get the team ‘booted’ before mushing down the trail.
Tonight is bootie-packaging night! Each day of the Serum Run, I will have 15 sets of booties: One set per dog, plus three extra sets in case a dog loses its boots, or they ice up. Fifteen sets of booties—with four booties in each set—equals 60 booties per day. If you figure 20 days on the trail, that means I must send 1,200 booties out to the checkpoints. Since we plan for additional needs, Mom and I will each send 1,500 booties on the trail. That means we’ll be packaging a grand total of 3,000 booties tonight!
Can booties be reused? Yes. Booties generally last 100 miles before they get worn with holes. However, after one run in a set of booties, they ice up, and need to be left in front of a warm stove to dry. During the Serum Run, this will not often be possible. We will use new sets of booties each day, but will send home the used ones. We can reuse the booties in training, after they are properly dried and re-bundled.
Hannah Moderow is a musher and writer for Scholastic News Online.