An Iditarod dog dies of suffocation after having been buried by snow in severe wind conditions and the Iditarod family is mourning the loss of 5-year-old Dorado from the Paige Drobny team. Dorado was found buried in snow and dead on Friday morning, reported the Alaska Dispatch on March 16, 2013.
According to a statement made by Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race officials on Saturday, Dorado and all other dropped dogs at the checkpoint in the village of Unalakleet had been last checked on Friday morning at 3 a.m. after a ground blizzard had been blowing hard Thursday and early Friday.
Within only a few hours, between 3 a.m. and daylight, drifting snow covered several dogs. Dorado was so severely covered in snow that he died as a result of asphyxiation, as determined in a necropsy by a board certified veterinary pathologist.
Dorado’s death is the first death of an Iditarod dog in four years.
The about five-year-old Iditarod dog who was characterized as “shy but a happy guy” had helped his team two-thirds of the way from the start of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race to the village of Unalakleet, a Bering Sea coast community.
On March 13, Dorado was described as arriving at the checkpoint in Unalakleet as stiff and not running as smooth as the other dogs. Because Dorado “wasn't performing as well as the rest of the team,” the Iditarod dog was left behind in Unalakleet while the rest of the Paige Drobny team continued to Nome.
According to Iditarod spokesperson Erin McLarnon, the personnel monitoring the dropped dog lot at the checkpoint in the village of Unalakleet “noticed a drift of snow, a missing dog, and then started ‘digging furiously’."
In the past, the dropped dog lot in the village of Unalakleet was at the side of a building at Unalakleet’s airport. There, dogs waited until flights to Anchorage could take them back home. Because of the ground blizzard that had been blowing hard Thursday and early Friday, the shuttling of dogs back home had not been as efficient as usual, according to the Iditarod Race press release which announced Dorado’s death.
High winds, wind-blown snow, sub-zero overnight temperatures with gusting winds to 45 miles per hour, and a wind chill of 30 degrees below zero do not only make flying a challenge but also survival; especially for a dog.
When an Iditarod dog dies by suffocation after having been covered with snow at a checkpoint, Iditarod Dog Sled Race and animal fans need more answers in regard to Dorado’s death than have been provided so far by Iditarod Race officials.