Rowlett Veterinarian Prepares for Alaska's Iditarod Race

Veterinarian preparing to treat race dogs in brutal cold, harsh conditions

Rowlett veterinarian Dr. Josh Cope is busy preparing for the trip of a lifetime.

He'll travel to Alaska for the historic Iditarod sled dog race, one of 40 veterinarians tasked with giving dogs check-ups during the 1,000-mile journey through the Alaskan wilderness.

Cope applied for the opportunity for the first time this year. He's never been to Alaska before, but enjoys tackling unique and new experiences. 

"I love this stuff," said Cope. "I know there will be parts of this that are not fun, but I'm looking forward to that, being in the middle of Alaska treating these animals. It will all be worth it."

For the last few weeks, Cope has been busy buying the right gear to brave the cold. Everything he takes must fit in one backpack. That includes multiple layers to keep him warm and a survival kit. He'll be staying in remote parts of Alaska and must prepare to sleep and work in temperatures that could reach negative 50 degrees.

A Rowlett veterinarian unpacks his bags to show NBC 5 what he's bringing with him to Alaska for the Iditarod sled dog race. The bag includes a sleeping bag certified for 40 degrees below zero, an outdoor survival kit and long underwear. Lots of long underwear.

He'll be stationed at different checkpoints along the route and once the mushers and dogs pass through, he will hop on a small plane and fly to another checkpoint.

The Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race runs from Anchorage to Nome in early March, with teams of 16 dogs on each team. Most teams complete the race within two weeks and travel through blizzards, rough terrain and remote villages. 

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