Nature Column #9606--St. John Valley Times--Week of March 6,1996



Andre Nadeau drove his dog team into the Maibec checkpoint about 3 hours after Paul Boudreau arrived. However, Paul chose Maibec for his mandatory 8-hour layover, while Andre had elected to take his layover at Rocky Brook, the previous checkpoint. Paul had rested at Rocky Brook almost 4 1/2 hours and possibly believed that Andre would take his 8 hours at Maibec. Andre stayed at Maibec only slightly more than 1 hour, and was able to leave about 3 hours earlier than Paul. Boudreau's running time was actually shorter than Nadeau's, but the extra rest time could not be made up.

When Andre came in to Maibec, he quickly fired up his cooker, then mixed water, a half pound of butter, and some chopped frozen meat to make feed for his team. After the feeding, we were still waiting for a veterinarian to arrive and check Nadeau's team. Since Andre did not want to stay long, Ruth, Sara, Jean-luc, and I were pressed into service by the race Marshall, George Theriault. One dog was wearing a blue coat because, at -16F, it was a cold stop. I was directed to massage the dog's right hip with Mineral Ice. Her hip had been bruised before the start by the door of the truck cage. The dog stood and leaned into my hand as I rubbed the area for about 10 minutes. The other helpers were massaging the carpels or wrist joints on the front legs of several dogs. Then we were given some zinc oxide to rub between the pads of the feet on all the dogs. This protects the feet from the effects of cold snow and ice. My hands were nearly frozen when I got done. Later a musher told me they wear thin gloves to protect their hands when they grease pads. The dogs seemed to enjoy this attention, except for one that we left for Andre to care for. When Andre's team was led across the road about 8:30 P.M., the dogs yipped all the way to the trail -- seeming eager to run.

Martin Massicotti came in soon after Andre left. We put his team out of the cold wind and gave the dogs lots of straw. Besides checking the equipment on the sled, we judges are required to count the dogs that come in and then count them before they leave. When I went to count Martin's dogs about 1:30 A.M., they were so tightly curled up and nestled deep in the straw that I had a hard time distinguishing them. His first three dogs had managed to curl up around each other.

The most unusual entry in the race was Barry Dana, who had five dogs pulling him on skis . The front end of a canoe held his gear, and he had an "85% effective" brake that he could push down by a pole that extended back toward him from the canoe. This wonderful athlete finished the race almost 4 fours ahead of Al Moorcroft's team. What a feat!

Al and Ben Thomas, newcomers to the 250 along with Martin, told me that they watch the ears and the tails of the dogs as they travel on the trail. Ears pointed front or back signal all is well. If the dog's ears lop out sideways it means "I've got a problem" -- maybe an ice ball in the foot pads. If the tail goes way up or way down, that signals trouble, too. Al says his dogs have distinct barks that he can decipher as meaning: cat, dog, wolf, big animal (cow or horse), deer, and a flirtatious bark (from a female in heat).

Gale L. Flagg

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