Yukon Quest 2020 - Liquid Gold

Veterinary technicians Wendy Kane and Chantelle Irizarry hold up their favorite "pee sticks" in front of the dog yard in Eagle. Kane says that most techs prefer to use their carefully selected sticks, but some up to cover their hands in a plastic bag and reach under a dog to collect a urine sample. Lex Treinen/KUAC-FM

Like any major sled dog race, the Yukon Quest has a strict testing policy for performance-enhancing drugs in dogs. But how are urine tests conducted and fairness ensured when the dogs are traveling hundreds of miles from checkpoint to checkpoint off the road system? Meet Team Liquid Gold.

“We're two technicians and one of the vet students and we are collecting urine from all the dog teams multiple times throughout the race. Liquid Gold is just our team name,” says Wendy Kane, one of the technicians, while waiting at the Eagle checkpoint for her next flight.

With a wry sense of humor and an easy smile that never leaves her face — even through the four days of sleep deprivation — there are few people on the Yukon Quest that seem to be having a better time than Kane and her team.

The technicians and students have to get samples from every team at least a couple of times during the race and at multiple checkpoints. Instead of keeping track of each dog’s urine, it is mixed up as a team, and then carefully schlepped from the various trucks and aircraft the vet team travels in throughout the race.

At each stop Team Liquid Gold is having fun, giggling with an easy camaraderie — and perhaps a bit of delirious exhaustion. Over the years, they’ve even made a bit of a competition: who can find the best “pee stick.” They’re looking for a two- to three-foot forked stick that is the right size to hold one of the plastic cups they use to take urine samples.

They’ve learned some things over the years about how to win.

“You have to find a branch with a nice fork in it that will help to hold the pee cup and then you gotta make sure it's bendable enough. We just had a pee stick kinda break because it wasn't a flexible enough stick. (Mile) 101 seems to be the best place to get our pee sticks from,” she says.

Mile 101, she says, has more flexible willows, making them less susceptible to breakage.

They even take the stick from checkpoint to checkpoint, stuffing it in their bags (with the contaminated end sticking out, of course).

“You're very possessive of your pee stick if you get one,” she says.

Lex Treinen of KUAC-FM is covering the 2020 Yukon Quest through its finish in Whitehorse, Yukon.