In total, 13 mushers scratched from the original field of 52 off the starting line, a bit higher than both recent and historical averages.
I also have to report that there was a change in Rookie of the Year status. Race officials, and thus your Mad Blogger, had reported Richie Beattie as the musher earning this award. After opting to return a dog in Safety, he was indeed the first rookie under the arch. But most sadly, after being left in Safety, his dog developed serious health issues and, despite emergency transport to Anchorage, passed away. Per race rules, Richie was immediately withdrawn from the race and Ed Hopkins, who you read about earlier, was officially named this year's Rookie of the Year.
A full necropsy will be performed on the dog who passed, and Richie is reported to be cooperating with race officials in all ways. I can only imagine how devastated he is, and Seeing Double shares his loss.
I also regret the negative publicity this will once again bring to both the race and the sport, if not also the recreational pursuit, of sled dog racing. But before I get on my soap box, I'm going to remind myself that those loyal fans still reading my blog already know how much my sisters and the other mushers care for their dogs. You understand the lengths taken by race officials to ensure the dogs' well being, and how much the dogs themselves just want to run. No one is forcing them. The loss of a dog is in no way acceptable, and everyone involved needs to, and I believe will, continue to identify ways to make sure zero dogs are lost ~ as has been the case in Iditarod many, many years over the past. But since you can't please all of the people all of the time, please loyal fans ~ use what you're seen and heard to educate others and help folks understand why the Iditarod really is the Last Great Race.
On that slightly somber note, it's time for your Mad Blogger to close out this year's blog. Thank you so much both veteran and rookie fans for joining Kristy and Anna, and all their dogs, on this epic journey. There's already talk in the Seeing Double locker room on what to improve on next year, so don't forget about us. And there promise to be other Mad Adventures along the way.
Peace, Love, & Paw Prints ~
Your Mad Blogger