Junior Iditarod is her passion and this year Jayne Hempstead, DVM has been honored for her dedication to the race and the young mushers. The Junior Iditarod Board of Directors chose Hempstead to wear Bib 1 for the start of the Junior race.
Hempstead could take her own team of sled dogs down the trail to the checkpoint she’ll be working but her duties for the Junior Iditarod are far to demanding for that. The Cantwell vet gives tirelessly to the Junior Iditarod working with the mushers and the dogs before, during and after the race. She’s been doing that for some twenty years.
Dr. Jayne moved to Alaska in 1992 and chose to settle in Palmer, practicing at the Palmer Vet Clinic. At that time, Hempstead says, “I was clueless about sled dogs.” A musher who used the clinic invited her to take a turn on the runners. It’s all history from that time on. Now she has her own recreational dog team and she’s been involved with the Junior Iditarod as a volunteer race veterinarian.
When Dr. Phil Meyer, the Junior Iditarod Race Vet since the beginning of the race, began looking for addition veterinarian help, Dr. Jayne agreed to help. Did she think the commitment would last for 20 years? Whether she did or not, Hempstead says, “Working with the Junior Iditarod has become a tradition. I intend to continue for as long as I can.”
Dr. Jayne meets with the rookie mushers on Thursday night before the Junior Race begins. Her main topic for the young mushers that evening is dog care. Friday finds both Dr. Jayne and Dr. Phil at Iditarod Headquarters doing pre-race vet checks. Later in the evening, the vets meet with all the mushers and focus on pertinent dog care for the conditions of the race.
It’s more than the dogs that brings Dr. Jayne to volunteer for the Junior Iditarod. She’s amazed by the young mushers and the skills they have. When they are on the trail, they are not only responsible for themselves, they’re responsible for their entire team of dogs. They have to have tremendous organizational skills. When it comes to mushing, taking care of their dogs and taking care of themselves, these young mushers are far above and beyond their peers in planning, preparing, practicing and persevering.
In a recent interview with Kris Capps of the Fairbanks Daily News, Dr. Hempstead said, “I think back to when I was 14 years old, I would not have even had the slightest concept, let alone the guts to do what these kids do. Just getting to the starting line is an impressive feat. They’re going to school, they’re training dogs, they’re doing all sorts of stuff. Those who participate in the sport of mushing have my full admiration and respect.”
When the Junior Iditarod begins, the two veterinarians are flown out to locations on the trail to supervise the mushers and the health and well-being of the sled dogs. Once the teams reach the turn around point, they take a ten hour break during which they care for their dogs, become gourmet cooks to prepare food for the canine athletes and only after the dogs are cared for will the mushers eat and rest for themselves. The vets are there to check the dogs and to answer questions the mushers might have about their dogs. On Sunday when the mushers turn and head to the finish line, the vets remain on the trail to address concerns the mushers might have. Both vets are available on the trail from start to finish.
Barb Redington, a member of the Junior Iditarod Board of Directors said, “It’s wonderful to recognize Jayne’s years of dedication to the race. She not only has a concern for the sled dog athletes but she supports the kids as well. Through Jayne, the Junior Iditarod has become a real learning experience for the junior mushers. She’s both a resource for the kids as well as a role model.”
The start of the Junior Iditarod has been moved to Cantwell for 2015 where Dr. Jayne conducts her practice. Iditarod staff member, Joanne Potts said, “Over the years Jayne’s service has been invaluable but especially this year. She has worked tirelessly to organize the new start location, securing all sorts of support from the community. We can’t thank her enough for all the work she’s done in the past and to make the 2015 race happen. She’s been so instrumental in getting this race put together in Cantwell. What a coincidence that she was chosen a few weeks ago as the honoree.”