During the Iditarod XLI Trail Sled Dog Race, dropped dogs are flown to Anchorage and taken to the Highland Mountain Correctional Center.
Close to 40 incarcerated women take shifts to care for the four-legged athletes at all hours of the day. On Sunday, 65 dogs arrived from checkpoints up and down the Iditarod trail. Volunteer veterinarians check the animals for illness and injures, putting some on medication.
“We check the dogs. They come here every day to make sure that they continue to be doing fine. If we have a problem we take them to the hospital, today we're good,” veterinarian Betsy King told Channel Two News while holding a dog named Piper.
The inmates say they haven’t gotten much rest since the dogs arrived late Saturday night.
“I've had an hour's sleep since yesterday,” said Magi Wagner, who has been working with the dogs for 13 years during her time inside the facility.
Wagner says despite being on-call she wouldn’t trade the experience for anything. “It breaks up the monotony of everyday life here and gives you a glimpse of what's still going on in life you know and just keeps that hope alive."
Women at the correctional center have worked since early February preparing for the arrival of the dogs. Some even made the dogs blankets.
Jodi Bailey says she’s been at the prison for three years and likes doing something different from her normal schedule, “It's been a refreshing experience to even be able to come out here and to be part of giving back for the Iditarod.”