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2016 UAA grad enlists students' help preparing for Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race

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  • Updated: September 17, 2016
  • Published September 17, 2016

UAA student Emily Pratt, in black, helps 2016 theater grad Meredith Mapes, left, make dog booties in an intro to theater production class at UAA on Friday. Mapes, a dog musher, is getting help from the class in making dog booties, which she will use in Iditarod qualifying races this winter. (Loren Holmes / Alaska Dispatch News)

The theater might be a strange place to look for a dog musher, but for 2016 UAA grad Meredith Mapes, it's an easy fit.

"As a student, I spent several years here in the costume shop. Sewing dog booties is normally a lonely endeavor, but this is awesome," she said as she looked around at the dozen or so students cutting and sewing the 1,000 booties that her dog team will go through in the next year.

Mapes has been mushing since she was 6 years old and plans on racing in the 2018 Iditarod. (Loren Holmes / Alaska Dispatch News)

"I got into mushing when I was 6, as a Girl Scout," she said. "I wanted my dog mushing badge."

Since then, she's mushed the Junior Iditarod and the Northern Lights 300, and is planning on racing the Copper Basin 300 this year, the last qualifier she needs in order to compete in the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.

Mapes looks at a dog bootie with professor Dan Anteau during Anteau’s intro to theater production class on Friday at UAA. (Loren Holmes / Alaska Dispatch News)

With her in the costume shop was her dog McKinley, who was wagging her tail and hopping around on her three legs.

"She lost one of her legs last year after it got infected during a run with a poor-fitting dog bootie," she said. "The company I was buying the booties from had bad quality control and it was too tight. McKinley's a good reminder for everyone here to pay attention to the way they are making the booties."

A UAA student in professor Dan Anteau’s intro to theater production class sews a dog bootie on Friday. (Loren Holmes / Alaska Dispatch News)

For professor Dan Anteau, who teaches the intro to theater production class, the bootie-making project is a great way to teach skills that the students will use in the costume shop.

"A third of the class is costume class, and this is a great introduction to sewing and costume making," he said.

UAA theater teaching assistant Michael Noble, left, and student Andrew Miller mark fabric for cutting during an intro to theater production class at UAA on Friday. (Loren Holmes / Alaska Dispatch News)

"Running the Iditarod has been a dream of mine since I was a little kid," said Mapes. "To be this close to the starting line is starting to freak me out. But every bit of support helps. Whether it's helping make booties, or a friend coming to ride on the four-wheeler with me during a training run, it's always a good feeling to know people are there for me."

2016 UAA grad Meredith Mapes has been mushing since she was 6 years old and plans on racing in the 2018 Iditarod. (Loren Holmes / Alaska Dispatch News)

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