Former Slayton graduate part of Iditarod dog health team and is credited for saving dog’s life

By: Sheila Crowley

Murray County News Staffwriter

Dr. Jason Heezen, son of Larry and Darlene Mechtenberg, Slayton, Minnesota was elated when he received word he had been chosen to be part of this year’s 48th Iditarod dog health care team.

For the past 15 years, it was a hope for veterinarian Dr. Jason Heezen of Plankinton, South Dakota, to be chosen after submitting his name to participate as a dog health team member for the 1,000 mile race from Anchorage to Nome, Alaska.

He received word of the selection while on vacation in Hawaii. With little time to spare, Heezen quickly put things into action and went to the nearby credit union for notarizing and a temporary Alaskan veterinary license was obtained.

After returning to Plankinton, preparations for the iditarod fell in place for Dr. Jason, who was limited to only 40 lbs. of trail gear. Judicious decisions had to be made to include enough veterinary instruments, personal items, and outdoor clothing allowing for a week living in the Arctic wilderness. He commented that even though the temperatures dipped to -38 degrees, the clothing trapped the warm layer of air and was actually very comfortable.

Dr. Jason flew from Sioux Falls to Anchorage, Alaska where he attended a week’s worth of training with 12 rookie veterinarians. Their time was spent in a classroom where they where expectations on the trail were shared, how exams should be done, and consistency at every race check point – which can be anywhere from 20 to 100 miles apart.

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