My Latest Foster

If you’ve read the previous posting you know I’m entering a new facet in my life and it revolves around fostering large canine rescues for ‘AK Cat & Dog Rescue’.  I wrote about an adorable emaciated Black Lab I nursed back to health – actually he did virtually all the work by himself, I just provided some shelter, food, love and vet care – named ‘Shadow’ who was my first foster.  Shadow is now fully healed from his ordeal as well as some follow up medical treatments and will soon be seeking his ‘forever home’.  I will be sad to see him go but just knowing he’ll be going to a lifestyle and number of people which will be a better ‘fit’ will help me over my sense of loss.

Fifteen days ago I agreed to take in a second foster; she was a ‘hurry up’ situation as she was flown into Anchorage from King Cove at almost a moment’s notice and then driven to my place.  Her name is ‘Izzy’ and she is supposedly a Pyrenees/Lab mix ; although I can see the Lab in her head and general body build the Pyrenees portion still escapes me.  She is around two years of age and was returned to ‘AK Cat & Dog Rescue’ when her family went through some ‘personal issues’.  Izzy was staked out on a long rope for quite a while; add this to being separated from her humans, loaded in a crate, flown in a plane and then driven in a car to someplace she’s never before known it was no surprise she was terribly traumatized.  For days she wouldn’t let me touch her and she wanted to spend all her time outside.  At least she was willing to stay on the front porch so I didn’t have to keep her on a line or similar.  She was very anxious when inside the house and it took three days before she came into the place on her own.

She immediately felt comfortable around my male GSD (Qanuk) but she had issues with Shadow; this surprised me as Shadow is such a sweet boy but then his gregarious Black Lab personality can be a bit much at times.  I allowed Izzy to set the pace at which we developed a relationship; it was slow but steady.  She really is sweetheart and I feel for her lack of stability and her apparent lack of socialization at a younger age.  She also seemed to have had a bad experience with an adult male which caused further difficulties in establishing a relationship with her.  As with so many of these poor animals all she really needed was time to adjust to her sweeping changes, shelter, food, love and a sense she belongs here.

She now spends most of time inside with none of the anxiety indications she initially displayed; she competes with Shadow for a spot on my bed when we call it a day.  She plays with both Qanuk and Shadow inside and outdoors.  And she can rings around both of them which is saying something!  Due to a lack of sufficient socialization when young she can initially show trepidation around ‘new’ people but this also makes her an extraordinary watch dog.  And within a few minutes she’ll warm up to people who like dogs.  A couple days back I learned she has a ‘thing’ for moose; when I let all three out first thing in the early morning I saw her run into the driveway, scent something and then take off down the driveway like she was shot from a canon with Qanuk and Shadow eating her dust.  She was also really barking; at 06:30 it is dead quiet here and while I have no really ‘close by’ neighbors – at least compared to most situations in the lower 48 – there are folks living plenty close enough to hear her barking especially as it sounded loud enough to awaken the dead!  I called and called; I finally managed to get Qanuk and Shadow back into the house but Izzy just wasn’t gonna give up on that cow moose and her two spring calves.  I finally reigned her in but I also now know she will chase moose and they are almost ubiquitous to this area.  I’m thinking I’ll need to pay close attention to her just before I let her outside especially in the mornings.  If she, or the other two canines, display any signs they believe wildlife is around I’ll have to take her out on a lead.

Izzy is a truly special canine and I have a feeling she could become my first ‘foster fail’ especially as she and Qanuk are such good buddies.  I’ll need a bit more time with her before I make that decision and I’ll continue to work with her.  She was a much more challenging foster as compared to Shadow – I knew he had spoiled me – but she has progressed wonderfully and she also taught me I could handle a more demanding foster and be successful.  Regardless, I have found my calling and will continue to foster large canines for the foreseeable future!  Here are some images of my latest foster: 

Izzy In Escape

Izzy discovering she likes to ride in my Escape

Qanuk & Izzy Tug of War 2

Izzy and her buddy Qanuk in a tug of war with Shadow looking on

Affectionate Izzy

Izzy looking for attention by resting her head on my leg

Izzy Gettin' Comfy

Izzy discovers she likes that foam doggie pillow!

An Unlady-like Pose

Izzy in her ‘no shame here’ pose… Shadow had a ‘flower pot’ on his head for a week after his medical procedures

 

Foster or ‘Foster Fail’..?

It has been quite a while since I last posted anything to my blog but I haven’t been just sitting around idle.  Summer is typically the time when my blog production drops off in favor of more outdoor activities and social engagements.  Only the darned mosquitoes can put a dent in such activities and this year they truly did so.  But I’m also experiencing a brand new situation for me, one which is proving to be extremely rewarding albeit often time consuming.  But first, a bit of background…

In March of 2018 I was sure my beloved 8.5 year old female Alaskan Malamute (Anana) didn’t have long to live; she was slowing down dramatically and spending so much time just sleeping.  Sadly, I was correct as my ‘little’ angel passed away in the wee hours of May 4th.  I had been concerned about my male GSD (Qanuk) and his reaction to the loss of his life-long pal and mentor.  As such I had thought about a companion for Qanuk when Anana passed on; thankfully, I discovered one of the staff at the Sunshine Community Health Clinic (Crickett) – I sit on their board – was very active in ‘AK Cat & Dog Rescue’.  As an aside, this is another example of the rewards from volunteering!  I spoke with Crickett a number of times about getting a rescue dog as a companion for Qanuk.  She was very knowledgeable, helpful and understanding.  During our discussions she suggested I might look at fostering canines for the organization.  At first, I couldn’t see myself doing so as my four legged companions are family members and one doesn’t just give them away at some point.  But the more we spoke and the more I reflected upon the idea the more I thought I might like to give it a try.  AK Cat & Dog Rescue did a thorough background check and decided I was acceptable as a foster; this thrilled me but also generated a bit of concern as both rescue canines and fostering were brand new situations for me.  I’d always had purebred canines but now felt I needed to give something back to the canine world which had given me so much in previous years.

Early in the week of June 10th Crickett notified me of a brand new rescue needing a foster.  I am listed as preferring larger canines at least a year old with no preference regarding gender or color.  An emaciated Black Lab had been rescued while wandering aimlessly and was close to starving to death; he appeared to be a senior dog and was in dire need of food, shelter and love.  I agreed to meet Crickett and Lisa (the head of the rescue) at the Trapper Creek Trading post the afternoon of Saturday, June 16th.  I brought Qanuk with me to insure he was ‘okay’ with the potential foster.  I met a rail thin, energetic, curious and playful male Black Lab without a name.  He wasn’t neutered and had an inactive micro-chip.  The poor guy had been found wandering south of this area and was in sad shape.  As Qanuk appeared okay with this dog I agreed to foster him and we went through what was required; we knew he needed dental surgery for an abscessed tooth, had to be neutered and needed an active micro-chip.  All these procedures were arranged to be handled by Dr. Hagee in Trapper Creek.  But first I needed to get some weight on this boy to the tune of fifteen to twenty pounds.

Shadow's 1st Day

Shadow’s first afternoon at our place

I brought him back to our house and immediately took him around the property encouraging him to mark his territory.  I wanted to insure if he every wandered off he could find his way ‘home’.  As soon as I let him in the house it was obvious he had been a house dog as he was completely comfortable with lounging/playing inside.  That night he climbed into my bed and spent almost the entire night sleeping next to me.  He was potty trained but as his age was originally estimated at 10 to 12 years I treated him as a senior canine and made sure he went outside around 01:00 in the morning.  He is a voracious eater and literally attacks his food bowl.  I’d been warned to feed him small amounts many times a day as he literally inhaled his food and often this would make him sick and he’d lose the meal.  Dr. Hagee told me of a trick which has worked wonderfully; I place two fist sized rocks in his food dish and then add his food.  This forces him to ‘eat around’ the rocks and really slows down his intake.  What a great idea, so simple yet effective!

Shadow Attacking Food Dish

Shadow Attacking His Food Dish

In the five weeks Shadow has been with us he’s become a true ‘wonder dog’ in so many respects.  He really helped Qanuk who was obviously much more impacted by the loss of Anana than I realized.  Although a bit standoffish at first, Qanuk had almost no choice but to succumb to Shadow’s playful nature; ever so slowly Shadow drew him out of his shell.  As he had no name I was allowed to name him; the name ‘Shadow’ actually works on a couple of levels.  He is always under my feet or within a few feet of me so he really is like my shadow.  And his shiny black coat makes him look like a shadow.  He has a marvelous sense of humor and a deep mischievous streak which I find so adorable.  Every morning when I arise I go on a ‘scavenger hunt’ to locate my socks; Shadow carries them all over the house during the night.  He and Qanuk really play indoors; the scrappy now 65 pound Black Lab more than holds his own against Qanuk’s 96 pounds.  Shadow has also helped my own grieving/healing process; the loss of my beloved Anana hit me very hard and initially I couldn’t see getting another canine.  But Qanuk needed a pal so I waited a month and then pursued the idea.  A friend told me she suspected Anana had something to do with Shadow coming into my life; I can believe it.  Actually, Shadow is much like Anana in his innate love of anything on two legs, his friendly outgoing personality and that previously mentioned deep mischievous streak.  Although it has hardly been five weeks since Shadow came into our lives the magic he has worked for both Qanuk and I is amazing!

Shadow & Qanuk at Play

Shadow encouraging Qanuk to play

But, as a foster, I have to be ready to surrender my charge to an approved adopter when one is found.  Of course, I could keep Shadow myself and become what is referred to as a ‘foster fail’.  To be honest, if no one steps up once Shadow is ready to find his ‘forever home’ I will gladly keep him.  But I also believe Shadow would do best with a younger family with at least a couple of kids and maybe another ‘canine friendly’ dog.  Shadow craves attention and lives to run and play; as such I feel a family would offer him all the affection and activity he might desire.  I try to give him what he wants but it is beyond my available time and energy.  He is so sweet and affectionate!  It breaks my heart when I have to ask him to ‘back off’ when I have other chores to handle.  He is the perfect companion in that he’s always ready to go, full of energy, wants only to be loved and shown affection and – of course – needs lots of play.  Dr. Hagee believes he is actually around seven years of age and I can believe this is the case.  Qanuk lives to run yet Shadow keeps up with him on our two plus mile walks with no problem.  Given all this and most importantly the fact I want the best for Shadow I would surrender him when that time comes although not without remorse!  He deserves the very best!!

Shadow Looking Soulful

Shadow looking soulful

I’m sure when I have to surrender him I will be hurting for a while but as long as he’s going to a better situation I believe I’ll be okay with giving him up.  As with so many things of this nature, I won’t really know until it occurs.  On an intellectual level I’ve gone over the possibilities ‘ad nauseum’ but there’s such a huge emotional component to such situations one cannot really know how they will react until they are actually involved.  Regardless, I’ve learned that rescue animals can be truly amazing and often their only ‘crime’ was being born.  I love the warm feeling I get when I realize I’m helping a wonderful canine find a bit of stability and love in an otherwise cold and unfriendly world.  And the desire to continue to do so burns very brightly within my essence!  It is truly amazing to see these poor abandoned and/or mistreated animals blossom with just a modicum of care and love; the unconditional love they return is boundless!!  They really seem to want what all of us desire at our most basic level; shelter, food and a bit of love and affection.  I’d often read or heard that taking in a rescue animal is a most rewarding activity; I can now confirm this is spot on and I suspect acting as a foster will increase the rewards by orders of magnitude… 

Here They Come!

Shadow with Qanuk in trail

Five School Kid Rules the World DESPERATELY Needs to Start Following

I just had to reblog this piece; it is simple yet remarkably insightful!

CrapPile

Let’s face it. Our society is a real mess right now. People are doing things and saying things that even fifteen, twenty years ago would have been unthinkable, and in our parents’ and grandparents’ times would have been outrageous or even scandalous. There’s a major case of hostility affecting the world today, especially when it comes to news and social media. Most days, if you read through Facebook comments you will find more death threats and arguing going on that intelligent conversation. There are more broken homes, false accusations, and embarrassments happening than ever before. It is truly a Dark Age, not only for this country but for the world at large.

So how do we solve this problem? I propose that not only do we do a better job of raising our kids—those of you that have kids—and that we go back and try to raise ourselves, as well…

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Spring Has Sprung…With A Vengeance!

Since mid-winter our somewhat unusual weather in south central Alaska has continued with what was a somewhat late arrival of spring and break up followed by an ‘explosion’ of spring-like conditions.  It was almost as though spring was trying to ‘catch up’ after her somewhat slow start.  I was still seeing snow piles in shaded areas come early June which were remnants from the very heavy snows of mid-February into early March.  These same snows left a measurable snow pack well into May.  In years past by the end of April there might be snow piles remaining but an actual snow pack was generally just a memory.  Not so this year…

Apparently I wasn’t the only one to notice the slow start to spring conditions; I didn’t see my first robin until the week of May 13th.  In previous years one could always hear the robin’s arrivals in middle to later April.  And in keeping with these observations of our avian friends I didn’t see my pair of nesting Tree Swallows return until early June.  Last year I’d seen the swallow box occupied by middle May.  I was thrilled to see a second nesting pair of these gorgeous mosquito eaters take up residence in another swallow box at the front of my house.  I’m hoping to see both pairs return annually to raise broods and devour the local mosquitoes.

Speaking of which it seemed to me the mosquito season was also slow in getting started although in the last week or so it has come on…in spades!  The only mosquitoes I saw through almost all of April and May were the large, slow and noisy ‘over winter’ mosquitoes that managed to survive the ‘frigid season’.  Normally, I begin to battle the new generation of smaller, faster and much quieter bloodsuckers by the middle of May.  But this year I didn’t really see many until early June.  As of this writing it appears the late spring/early summer of 2018 is going to be a banner year for the lousy little bloodsuckers.  And this is happening despite some very dry conditions to this point in June.

One indicator of spring which wasn’t at all slow in developing was the arrival of the tourists.  When I first relocated up here in August of 2013 the tourist season was running from late May through early September.  Last year there were still huge tour buses disgorging swarms of tourists in the village right through middle to late September.  This spring I started seeing the tour buses crowding the Spur in early May and by Memorial Day the village was being inundated by apparently endless crowds.  Of the many facets of the transition from spring to summer in the Talkeetna area my least favorites are the arrival of the tourists followed closely, in terms of dislike, by the rise in the mosquito density.  Both signal the onset of summer which, for me, produces true ambivalence.  While I do enjoy the seasonal shift and with the warmer temps I can get out and do more, at least until the peak mosquito periods, I am no fan of tourists or mosquitoes.  And although I am slowly getting used to the almost continuous daylight I already miss the dark night sky.  But these are all facets of life at higher latitudes and if one is to live as such one must come to terms with these conditions.

I remain hopeful the mosquito season will peak within a week and by late July the little bloodsuckers will be present in much smaller numbers; they’re around this area until the first few hard freezes which normally occur in middle to late September.  The tourists are…well, the tourists and as long as the village is okay with encouraging ever-increasing numbers I suppose I’ll just have to deal with the situation.  I’ve already slipped into the now familiar ‘avoid the village at all costs’ mode and make just two trips a week into Talkeetna to pick up mail.  The salt on this wound comes with the inevitable road construction; after not seeing much work on the Parks Highway (AK 3) last year it sure appears as if the state is trying to make up for lost time!  Currently the Parks is under construction from Mile 99 – where the Spur intersects with the Parks (aka ‘the Y’) – all the way south to Mile 89.  Within this work zone are two portions which require the use of ‘pilot cars’.  This really slows traffic progress and has forced me to make any trips south during the early morning hours on Sundays when the construction is not operating and tourist traffic is light.  The Parks needed work so I really cannot complain but I sure hope the work doesn’t take all summer!

And so the seasonal dance continues here in semi-rural south central Alaska.  I’ll miss my dark night skies, cooler temps and ‘immense silence’ while welcoming more sunshine and better conditions for outdoor activities.  As with all things in life it’s a ‘yin yang’ situation; the best advice I can give myself is simply to accept all that it is and look for the positives!

Life without Anana

With the recent passing of my beloved Anana I’ve once again learned the grieving process is not the same for everyone and the pain of loss can be extended far longer than one might assume to be ‘normal’.  Another facet of my grieving involves doing routines or rituals which were associated with the recently departed; I think I get some catharsis by doing so.  It was this inclination which encouraged me to take a walk up the unmaintained portion of East Barge Drive to the crest of Bonanza Ridge which the locals also call ‘Exercise Hill’.  I’d made the hike many times in my first few years living up here as this ridge is maybe six tenths of a mile (0.97 km) east of my house.  It appears to involve an elevation change of around 300 feet (91.44 meters) and this happens in a fairly short horizontal distance hence its local moniker.

Icy Road Up Bonanza Hill

Qanuk & Anana at the start of the unmaintained portion of East Barge Drive heading up Bonanza Ridge

Anana, Qanuk and I had made the crest many times and sometimes walked further east to some of the small clumps of houses; we did so in muddy spring conditions, hot mosquito ridden summer afternoons and cool overcast autumn days.  Last Thursday saw a partly cloudy early morning with gentle (8-12 mph or 12.87-19.31 kph) breezes and an air temp of 42° F (5.56° C); as such it was a perfect morning for a walk.  I was missing Anana and wanted something to occupy my attention so a trip up Exercise Hill seemed like a good choice; it would be the first time I’d made the trek without my ‘little’ angel so doing it would mark a ‘first’ since her passing.  I put on my walking gear, grabbed my walking staff and Qanuk and I headed out.

Hot Anana at Riven-EBD

A very warm Anana at the start of ‘Exercise Hill’ road

The walk to the swamp at the base of Bonanza Ridge was familiar territory and we covered that in no time even with its rolling terrain.  I was pleased to discover there were no mosquitoes or similar in the swampy area; this bode well for our climb!  Qanuk ranged far out in front of me and crossed back and forth as I continued up the ever-steepening incline.  As mentioned this portion of the road is unmaintained and the surface is often composed of loose rocks which can make footing a bit tenuous.  I carefully picked my way through some of the rougher sections while Qanuk continued to range further and further out in front of me.  I could tell he was impatient with ‘his’ fat old human who just couldn’t make the climb with any speed!  Thanks to my fifteen months of daily stepping – I now target 12,000+ daily steps – my legs didn’t have issues with the climb but my aerobic conditioning just wasn’t up to the same standard.  I was forced to briefly stop twice to catch my breath; this further frustrated Qanuk whom now was running down to me and then back up the ridge (Oh, the strength and energy of the young..!).  But I persevered and finally made the crest of the ridge.  Even with the cool air I was sweating profusely and made a note to myself I needed to start adding some real aerobic conditioning.  I paused for a time to take in the views and throw a stick for Qanuk.  We then walked a bit further east onto the Borough maintained portion of East Barge Drive; the walking was much easier on this segment.

Qanuk on Exercise Hill Crest

Qanuk at the crest of ‘Exercise Hill’

I took some time to reflect upon the beauty of the suddenly green boreal forest against the blue sky, the snowy ramparts of the Talkeetna Mountain foothills to the east and listen to the songs of numerous birds.  I watched Qanuk spending so much time investigating all sorts of odors and noises; while doing so it occurred to me without Anana he was exhibiting many more of his German Shepherd Dog traits.  When Anana was with us he could rely on her nose and ears to share in checking out the ‘wilds’ but now it was completely up to him.  As we started back down the road towards home I watched Qanuk more closely; he was much more alert than ‘normal’ and was continually leaving the road to investigate all kinds of signals.  I came to realize just how much influence Anana had upon his behavior; her Mal characteristics really ‘smoothed out’ a lot of his GSD traits like being hyper-alert, protective and barking to alert unknowns.  I remembered back to the first six months after I brought Anana home; that awkward puppy had so much to teach me and I needed to understand her motives and drives.  I had raised a number of GSDs before work related travel forced me to forgo such companions for over three decades so I did know a bit about canines but the breeder was so spot on when she warned me Mals were not like ‘other’ dogs!  I had to re-learn a lot of what I thought I knew regarding canines in order to do justice to Anana’s upbringing.  This was a slow and often frustrating process but probably more so from Anana’s perspective than my own.  However, we slowly learned from each other and eventually came to understand what battles we could fight and which were best left unchallenged.

As I headed west on East Barge Drive towards home I realized I was going to have to go through another ‘realignment’ process with Qanuk but at least this time it would mainly be just remembering so many of those former learnings.  As I considered this concept I remembered all those wonderful times with Anana along with all the hilarity and love she brought into my life.  My ‘little’ angel has been removed from our lives for just three and a half weeks yet in some ways it feels like forever.  I will never forget ‘my girl’ but I also owe Qanuk the best life I can give him and that means once again becoming aware of ‘my boy’s’ wants, needs, desires and requirements.  It is a task I take seriously as well as a labor of love.

Bonanza Ridge Looking East

Looking east from the crest of Bonanza Ridge; the foothills of the Talkeetna Mountains are just visible wreathed in snow

 

Bonanza Ridge Looking West

Looking west from the crest of Bonanza Ridge

  

Remembering Anana

This past Friday (May 4, 2018) I said ‘Goodbye’ to my ‘little’ angel Anana who quietly passed sometime in the wee hours of May 4th.  Anana, my 125 pound female Alaskan malamute, gave me eight and a half years of joy, love, humor and amazement.  I was privileged to raise her from an awkward, ten week old puppy to a beautiful, regal but always mischievous adult Mal.  She was my first canine after decades of no pets due to employment based travel requirements and also the first Mal I’d ever known.  The breeder warned me Mals were far different from other breeds with respect to training and developing a relationship; as such we each had a lot to learn and to teach the other.  Anana did so in classic Mal style and while I suspect I was often a source of frustration to her because I was so slow to understand her ways she was always patient and loving.  As the breeder had warned me I quickly learned to pick my battles with my growing girl as I just was not going to win every one.  As such I came to realize I developed a series of ‘understandings’ with my baby; some favored her needs while others satisfied my own.  In the end our relationship was based on trust, mutual respect and a whole lotta love.

Anana Chewing Bed 2

Anana at eleven weeks of age lounging in her new bed

I'm TOO Cute

Anana in her ‘aren’t I just too cute’ mode at three and a half months of age

Anana came to me at a dark time in my life yet she brought with her a spirit which exuded a love of life, a need for much exercise, a deep mischievous streak and unconditional love.  Just caring for her puppy needs and attempting to reach some of those ‘understandings’ really helped me to come to grips with my situation as caretaker of the family home after my father passed and Mom was living in an assisted living facility.  Anana quickly showed a love of anything on two legs and she never met a person she didn’t love.  So many folks who were initially concerned about her size quickly fell under her spell and found themselves drawn to this gentle Teddy Bear.  While living at the family home Anana became a real rock star within the neighborhood as people out walking would stop by our yard to see her and young children would come to the door asking if “Anana can play”.  When I decided to begin volunteering at the Northville (MI) Sunrise facility where Mom was staying I started bringing Anana with me.  At first I was worried because she was such an energetic and exuberant puppy but my concerns were ill-founded; Anana was instinctively slow and gentle when interacting with the residents.  She delighted everyone with her repertoire of howls and other vocalizations.  She quickly achieved the informal title of ‘Visiting Therapy Dog’ and spent the next three plus years as a fixture at the facility.  On the odd days when I couldn’t bring her with me when volunteering the first thing I’d hear as I entered the facility was; “Where’s Anana?”

Anana with Nina & Luba

Anana with Luba – a Nazi death camp survivor – and Luba’s daughter Nina in the Sunrise of Northville (MI) assisted living facility

I’m not sure Anana ever completely forgave me from removing her from her extended ‘Sunrise home’ to relocate to semi-rural south central Alaska in July of 2013.  She did love living up here and irritating the local moose population but I also could tell she missed seeing scores of people on a regular basis.  People naturally gravitated to her and whenever she accompanied me and Qanuk into the village during tourist season my Escape would be quickly surrounded by doting tourists lining up to pet her and take her picture.  Often I spent tens of minutes answering queries about my girl and waiting until everyone had finished petting Anana and taking her picture so we could pull out.  My neighbors knew her well and enjoyed her larger than life presence in this immediate area.  Anana accompanied me almost everywhere I went and she was an amazing passenger this past September when she and Qanuk made the 5,200+ mile round trip to Three Forks (MT) to pick up an R-pod travel trailer and haul it back here.  She made new friends at every motel where we’d overnight and sometimes the staff would stop by the room with treats for her and Qanuk.  She was truly a ‘people dog’!

Maybe Anana Hasn't Learned Her Lesson

My Alaskan malamute companion (Anana) was a bit too close to this moose just outside my driveway; it let her know it was time to ‘back off!’

She was Qanuk’s adult canine figure and mentor; as such she really smoothed out some of the traditional German Shepherd Dog traits like suspicion of any unknown human and excessive barking.  But, being true to her breed, she did teach Qanuk to be very vocal and even howl from time to time.  To this day Qanuk remains one of the most vocal GSDs I’ve ever known and regularly expresses his feelings through grunts, groans, whines and other indescribable sounds.  He remains a very effective watchdog but he doesn’t exhibit excessive barking which is fine by me.  He seems to be handling Anana’s absence in stride although I do see him sometimes sniffing some of Anana’s favorite lounging areas and while outside walking I can sense he sometimes looks for his friend.  Anana was the only steady canine influence in Qanuk’s life from the time I brought him home at seven weeks of age (he is now about six and a half years old).

Buddies

Anana sheltering Qanuk on the back porch of the dump we lived in just outside Northville (MI)

I wish Qanuk could’ve learned more patience and acceptance of young children and adult males from Anana; he remains very skittish around both types of people but never aggressive or threatening.  Anana was a natural with children which is all the more exceptional as she had almost no experience with kids growing up.  While volunteering at Sunrise I would assist in taking a number of the ‘Reminiscence’ residents – those struggling with dementias – to a summer music concert in a local town; I drove the bus and served as one of the ‘wranglers’.  We brought the residents so they could enjoy some time outside observing the kids and we provided a picnic lunch.  The first time I brought Anana along I was a bit concerned about what her reaction would be to so many youngsters just being kids.  In hindsight I should’ve known better; early on a young girl walked up to us and asked if she could pet Anana who was off her lead but lying a few feet from me.  I said; “Sure” and the youngster cautiously approached Anana and petted her head.  Anana, of course, loved the attention and moved a bit closer to the girl.  I looked away just briefly to count the residents; something one learns to do on a regular basis when on such outings.  After assuring myself everyone was accounted for I looked back to where Anana had been and saw no less than fourteen children surrounding her!  Anana was lying on her side and just loving all the attention.  Many of the kids had close by parents; it was heartwarming to see their initial concern melt away to smiles as their kids petted the big black and white Teddy Bear.

Gene&Anana CU

Anana reveling in Gene’s attention; she was around ten months of age

Anana was an exceptional canine and I could go on and on about her amazing character and adventures; she was the epitome of unconditional love and probably one of the most wonderful ambassadors for the Alaskan malamute breed ever to walk this earth.  Learning to live without my ‘little’ angel is going to be a very difficult proposition but one I will embrace with time.  Mostly, I want to remember all the wonderful times we shared and celebrate the eight and a half wonderful years I was privileged to share with my ‘Anana Dog’.  It truly was mostly sweet and she was the sweetest of it all..!

Anana in Fall Leaves

My beautiful ‘little’ angel in Alaskan fall leaves…

 

It’s That Time Of Year…

Warm and dry weather has settled over south central Alaska promising the return of mosquitoes and tourists.  Late last week I killed the first mosquito of the season; it was one of the big, slow and noisy ‘over-winter’ variety but its appearance heralds the first batch of this season’s blood suckers which will be small, quiet and very hungry.  I’ve refilled the propane tank and will most likely setup the ‘Mosquito Magnet’ once the snow disappears.  For the time being it is providing me the fuel to grill on the front porch.  The kidz are reveling in getting out for daily walks with me; previously the roads were too icy and snow covered to safely walk.  I love being able to do at least half my daily 12k+ steps outside in the sunshine and fresh air!  Without question, we are into the winter to spring changeover.

Break up is my least favorite season up here as is true for many Alaskans mainly because water and the associated mud seems to be everywhere!  In this area our mud is composed mainly of gray/brown glacial silt which is extremely fine grained; it clings to the coats of my canine companions until it dries – normally, inside the house – and falls off.  I can tell their favorite resting areas by the accumulation of the floury, gray silt; while it cleans up easily there seems no end to the stuff during this season.  Not all that long ago this area was buried beneath glaciers which slowly retreated towards the Alaska Range to the north and the Talkeetna Mountains to the east grinding up rock as they moved; this explains the abundance of the material.  This glacial flour is also responsible for the clouds of dust lifted by vehicles driving on the unpaved roads; if it is windless this dust can hang in the air for minutes confirming its fine nature.  This also explains why auto manufacturers consider this to be an ‘extreme’ area in terms of vehicle wear and tear; coupled with the snow and cold the dust makes it really hard on mechanical objects.

As the spring intensifies so does the solar radiation; this, in turn, begins to heat the interior of the house with time.  Already it is unusual to awaken to an air temp in the master bedroom below 62.0° F (16.7° C); just a month back I would often arise to a brisk 58.0° F (14.4° C) or cooler.  The slow rise of the internal ambient air temperature is something I encourage in early spring but by late spring I’m already using fans to draw in the cooler early morning air, despite the high humidity, such that the afternoon temps on the second floor aren’t getting too warm.  Almost all my screens are back in place and I’ve even put up some light blocking shields in the master bedroom windows as it is remaining light until 22:45 and we will not see ‘Astronomical Twilight’ again until August 10th.  I would like to learn to sleep with the sun streaming in the windows but to this point I’ve not yet been able to make this happen.  Maybe with the passage of a few more summers..?

This will be the first year I’ll be added routines involving my 2017 R-pod travel trailer; I hauled it back here in September of 2017.  The winterization process was very straightforward and fairly simple; I expect the efforts required to get it ready for use this spring through fall will be equally easy.  With a bit of luck I’ll be able to load up the trailer, pack the kidz in the back seat of the Escape and do some camping in the Kenai Peninsula late April to early May.  With luck this should allow me to avoid the first of the real tourist crush but there’s still a lot of snow in portions of the Kenai so I’ll have to wait and see.  If I cannot get down into that area this spring I will do so come fall.  After all, I didn’t go through the epic journey of hauling the unit from central Montana to Talkeetna just to let it sit!

The moose which were almost ubiquitous just a few weeks back have largely disappeared.  I suspect this is a combination of a much decreased snow pack and the cows heading into the forest to birth spring calves.  This winter was hard on the local moose population as I’ve seen more reports of moose carcasses since February than during any other similar time frame since relocating up here.  There are the remains of a bull just about a half mile east of my place; a neighbor told me of the carcass last week.  It is common to share such knowledge amongst the locals as such situations can and do draw bears as they come out of hibernation.  Learning of the bull’s remains will cause me to alter my early morning walks with the kidz for the next few months; we’ll be walking primarily to the west.  Once the local scavengers have had time to degrade the remains it will again be fine to walk that area with the dogs.

And so the seasonal cycle is once again on display in ‘The Great Land’.  As with all things in life there are positive and negative aspects to this dance but in the long run I still enjoy the season’s shift and am looking forward to leaves again populating the branches of the birch trees and warm summer breezes.  Of course, there will always be the mosquitoes and tourists but that’s all part of life in magnificent south central Alaska… 

Almost Clear Back Roads

A look to the north on Riven showing mainly bare earth with the ubiquitous puddles.

Water Bound EBD

Qanuk contemplates a section of East Barge Drive inundated by snow melt; he is less sure on ice than Anana (my Alaskan malamute)