- ‘Pocket drones’: U.S. Army developing tiny surveillance tools for the next big war
- Belgian cafe posts sign: Dogs allowed, but Jews stay out
- Gen. Dempsey: Pentagon studying Russian readiness plans not viewed ‘for 20 years’
- John McCain: Botched, two-hour execution of murderer is ‘torture’
- House GOP ready to move border bill
- Bomb squad called after live WWII artillery washes on Cape Cod beach
- HAYDEN: Intelligence, evidence and the case against Russia
- Ohio university quiz implies atheists are naturally smarter than Christians
- Rep. Henry Cuellar on border crisis: ‘Playing defense on the one-yard line’
- Activists vow to occupy fast-food restaurants to get higher pay
5 things to know about Iditarod’s furry athletes
Question of the Day
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) - One human wins the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race each year, but it’s the smaller, furry athletes that do the heroes’ share of the work crossing nearly 1,000 miles of merciless terrain to reach the finish line on Alaska’s wind-battered coast.
The 2014 race, which began Sunday, is still in the early stages, with jockeying for the lead remaining fluid until all the mushers begin taking a mandatory, 24-hour layover and two eight-hour rests. Sixty-nine mushers began the race, though several already have dropped out.
On Tuesday, Iditarod veteran Sonny Lindner was the first to leave the Nikolai checkpoint, more than 700 miles from the finish line in the old gold rush town of Nome. Participants say this year’s trail conditions are grueling, including stretches of bare ground. Throughout the race, mushers will keep a close eye on their dogs.
Here are some other key things to know about the four-legged competitors:
IT TAKES A TEAM
Mushers must have 12 to 16 dogs at the starting line. They must have at least six of those dogs to finish the race. If they don’t have enough dogs at the end, too bad. Race rules say no new dogs can be added on the trail.
YOUTH VS. WISDOM
Most Iditarod dogs range in age from 2 to 7, but some dogs as young as 1 ½ and older than 9 have participated. With a good mix of ages, mushers get frisky youngsters and seasoned veterans. It’s the older dogs that have come to memorize the trail. “Like, once a guy’s been in the NBA finals, he knows it,” race marshal Mark Nordman said.
SUPER CALORIE BURNERS
Oh, to have the metabolism of an Iditarod dog. These are not huge animals, generally ranging from 35 to 55 pounds. Yet each sled dog burns through at least 10,000 calories on the trail, continually snacking besides the three squares a day.
CANINE TRAIL MIX
The Iditarod diet used to be heavy on meat and fish, with some kibble thrown in. But the past decade has seen a reversal. Where it was once a combination of about 30 percent commercial dog food and 70 percent meat and fish, it’s now the opposite for many teams, thanks to the development of increasingly high-quality commercial dog food. “It’s why the pet industry has enjoyed the race so much, because they learn so much from the dogs that they can pass it on to the general community of pets,” Nordman said.
DOG TEAM VITALS
Some dogs still die during the race, including a dropped dog that died of asphyxiation at a checkpoint last year after it was covered by snow from a severe storm. But dog deaths - slammed by animal rights activists over the years - have dramatically declined. Last year’s death was the first since 2009. Dog care is a huge focus, with an average of six veterinarians assigned to each checkpoint to assess the animals’ health through such indicators as heart rate, hydration and appetite. Warning signs vets look for include off-kilter gaits and attitudes.
Second- and third-stringers eye 2016 if front-runner stumbles
- 'We're coming for you, Barack Obama': Top U.S. official discloses threat from ISIL terrorists
- Russia shipping sophisticated weapons systems to Ukraine separatists
- NAPOLITANO: What if our democracy is a fraud?
- John McCain: Botched, two-hour execution of murderer is 'torture'
- Michelle Obama says money in politics is bad, asks donors for 'big, fat check'
- EDITORIAL: Detroit's water 'spigot bigots'
- Brian Kelly, Notre Dame ready for different route to title
- Ted Nugent loses second casino gig for 'racist remarks'
- Obama orders Pentagon advisers to Ukraine
- White House readies for House GOP impeachment push: 'Foolish' to ignore
Obama's biggest White House 'fails'
Celebrities turned politicians
Athletes turned actors
20 gadgets that changed the world
Fighting in Iraq