Nature Column #9906 - St. John Valley Times - Week of March 17, 1999



It was a slippery drive into Maibec this year on an ice-covered Michaud Tote Road. On the trip in and the trip out, our slow vehicle speeds allowed us to see the many colorful White-winged Crossbills flying up from the road. There were also some Dark-eyed Juncos, Goldfinches, Purple Finches, and Pine Siskins.

The icy conditions slowed our vehicles, but helped to make the Can Am 250 the fastest race yet. Don Hibbs (Maine) averaged 9.5 mph during his victorious run. His highest average speed of 10.4 mph was from Maibec to Allagash. The five legs of the race vary in distance, and during the longer ones the teams have to be rested more on the trail. Since we cannot time these rests, actual running speeds were undoubtedly much higher at times. In the shorter races, the 30 and 60, one team's average speed was over 17 mph. The other factor in making these races the fastest yet was the cold air temperatures. At Maibec it was close to zero the whole time, and the wind chill from strong northwest winds pulled effective temperatures to well below zero. The dogs love to run in the cold!

Don Hibbs breezed into Maibec at 04:20:41 Sunday morning. He took the straw we provided and spread it around each dog. Judges must count the number of dogs that come in with the musher. The dogs burrowed into the loose straw so quickly, I had to look very carefully to see if one or two dogs were in each straw pile. Don immediately set about feeding his dogs. He put some frozen beaver meat into a pail of hot water and covered it. Then he put some kibbled food into a couple of plastic bowls. He poured corn oil over the kibble, and sprinkled the contents of several herbal capsules into each bowl. To "keep their stomachs happy", he said, "an anti-diarrheal". Don fixed two more bowls. Then he ladled some beaver meat into each and fed the first four dogs. Three ate eagerly, the fourth took a little coaxing. Don continued the process until all were fed. Only then did he take advantage of the food we offered him. After a vet check of his dogs, Don left two dogs with us, and continued on after a stop of two hours and six minutes.

When Terry Adkins from Montana was getting ready to leave Maibec after a three-hour stop, he threw what looked like a big sausage link to each dog. "Makes 'em happy", he said.

Dan Bergerson, from Minnesota, came in right after Terry Adkins. He decided to pull out of the race at Maibec. The ice had taken a toll on his dogs and he didn't want to push them any further. He covered each dog with a 3' x4' quilt of "polar fleece ". The quilts were pink on one side, black on the other. What could be seen was a pile of straw covered with a quilt and in some cases a dog head was visible under the quilt. It looked like cozy protection from the cold winds.

All the mushers experienced problems when they hit icy patches on some roads and ponds. Gratien Gendron's (Quebec) sled whipped around and ran into his dogs. The dogs went tumbling, and in the confusion a dog fight started. Ti-Loup, one of the lead dogs, was suffering from an injury. Gratien wrapped the dog in a blanket and put it in his sled. The trail sweep, Pete Morin, came into Maibec to ask the radio crew to call Gratien's handlers to come. The team was about 6 miles from Maibec. We sent the four vets, hot water, dog food, musher food and drink to the team. The vets came back with Ti-Loup (Little Wolf), who had been given a shot of Dexamethazone to control shock. Ti-Loup was placed on a big quilt near the camp door. A warmed Lactate Ringer's injection was started as an IV into his leg. This solution contains different forms of sodium, calcium, and potassium. The puncture wound from the fight was shaved, cleaned with hydrogen peroxide, and an antibiotic ointment was applied. Then Dr. Keith Gunby gave Ti-Loup a shot of Amoxicillin, (antibiotic). In less than an hour the dog was on his feet and eating! It was wonderful to see Dr. Gunby, Dr. Kathy Jackson, and assistants Andy Jackson and Dave Edgecomb working over Ti-Loup.

In the meantime, ham radio operator Dick Higgins took straw for Gratien's dogs and gave Gratien a warm place to wait for his handlers by inviting him into his truck.

In this year's Can Am 250 we certainly saw the concern of the mushers for their fine dogs, and the excellent care the volunteer vets give to the dogs.

Gale L. Flagg

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