What A Difference..!

After a very slow and mild start to the winter season in south central Alaska the last couple of weeks have done wonders in catching up with more ‘normal’ conditions.  We went from no snow pack on Thanksgiving Day – the first time in six such holidays I saw no snow on the ground – to a 21.5 inch (54.6 cm) snow pack as of this morning with more light snow coming down.  As is typical for the this area – for those wondering I live around 7 miles (11.3 km) south of the village of Talkeetna and maybe 0.5 miles (0.8 km) east of the Spur Road – our recent snow events have seen calm conditions which allows the new snow to really accumulate on any almost horizontal surface.  This makes the trees and brush look gorgeous sporting a thick layer of pristine, white snow.

Our weather conditions are much closer to what we should be seeing in early to middle December although there remains a rock hard 0.5 inch (1.27 cm) layer of ice atop the ground from earlier bouts of freezing rain and rain.  I’m pleased no end as I feared with the existing El Nino and that warm pool of water remaining in the north Pacific we might well see yet another ‘winter that wasn’t’.  Even so we have yet to see a real Alaskan snow event; one in which over 12 inches (30.5 cm) is dumped within a 24 hour period.  To this point the most snow I’ve measured in a 24 hour period was 8.8 inches (22.4 cm) on December 3rd.  I miss the truly heavy snowfalls I did experience the first few winters up here; they are truly a beautiful event at least as long as one doesn’t have any commitments requiring driving until the roads are plowed.

However, I’m not complaining as I have also seen a couple of winters when we struggled to even reach a 21 inch (53.3 cm) snow pack.  As the snow continues to fall as I write this I suspect we’re probably closer to seeing a 22 inch (55.8 cm) snow pack and our forecast is calling for on again/off again snow across the next week along with some more seasonal (i.e. ‘colder’) air temps.  The dogs are loving the weather as well; Delilah, my mostly ‘Russian Bear Dog’ – more properly known as a ‘Caucasian Shepherd Dog’ – truly loves the snow and I often see her both rolling in it and hunkering down next to snow drifts.  Qanuk, my German Shepherd Dog, has always loved snow and he really enjoyed running through the couple inches of new snow during this morning’s walk.  Even little Skye, the mix I’m currently fostering, was having great fun running through the snow and attacking Delilah and Qanuk from hiding places created by snow piles.  We’re all snow and cold lovers so this season is made for us!

I’ve included some images showing the difference in the outside conditions between Thanksgiving Day and this morning as well as some shots of the ‘winter wonderland’ that’s the Talkeetna area when it snows.  Here’s wishing everyone a wonderful holiday and, as I know Qanuk, Delilah and Skye would agree, ‘let it snow, let it snow, let it snow..!!’

Icy Thanksgiving Day

Thanksgiving Day 2018…plenty of ice but where’s the snow..?!?

21 Days Later..

The same view but around 21 days, and 21+ inches of snow, later…

Windless Back 40 Snow

Deep accumulated snow underscores the lack of wind!

Delilah, Skye & Qanuk at Play

Delilah, Skye & Qanuk at play!

Early AM Snow with Skye

Early AM Snow with Skye’s butt visible in lower left corner…

 

I’m Back..!!

It has been quite a while since my last posting to this blog and while I’ve been meaning to get back into writing the fates, and my own poor time management skills, have conspired to keep me from satisfying this urge.  But now I finally have some time so I’m going to use it.  October is usually a pretty full month for me as I often have my college buddy (Sarge) visit me for two to three weeks of project work ‘round the ole homestead.  This month was no different as he spent 20 days here and we accomplished a lot of planned projects and tackled a few which were unplanned.  But this covers just October so where was I during much of August and all of September..?

The answer is contained in my last entry which was around August 8th; at that time I was really getting involved in fostering large, older rescue canines.  I found I love the work but I’m also discovering it can truly be a handful and there are times I wonder just what was I thinking when I started this process.  But the efforts are so rewarding and ‘AK Cat & Dog Rescue’ has some of the most caring, loving and willing members; I always find myself amazed at how much they give of themselves!  Across August and into September I fostered a number of rescues and seriously thought about ‘foster failing’ with some of them but I stayed the course and helped them find their new ‘forever homes’.  I found it difficult to give up most of them but also found the knowledge they were going to situations which were much better for them to be of some comfort.

Everybody's Chillin'

From left to right Qanuk, Izzy and Delilah just chillin’..!

Then, on September 21st, I agreed to foster a roughly two year old, 80+ pound female who is mostly ‘Russian Bear Dog’ more properly known as ‘Caucasian Shepherd Dogs’.  Her name is Delilah and I met with her current foster who had to give her up because Delilah wouldn’t leave her daughter’s ferrets alone.  I knew nothing of the breed but some quick research suggested this breed has a bad reputation and makes a poor ‘pet’.  Although I was a bit concerned I also knew Delilah wasn’t a purebred and I know of many breeds which have been unfairly stigmatized so I went ahead with the ‘meet and greet’.  Delilah is a large fur ball full of energy, playfulness, mischievousness and love.  Her original owners must’ve really traumatized her with a lead as she refuses to wear one; if I can even get one on her she just sits down, refuses to budge and howls mournfully.  Usually, if she sees me even pick up a lead she runs away and will not come to me as long as I’m holding it.  This is something I’ve begun working on as she has to be able to work with a lead when we visit the vet and similar activities.  She also had no understanding of boundaries; she crowds the exterior door when she thinks we’re going outside, she will just suddenly stop in front of me when we’re walking, she has no issue walking on my feet and she puts her front paws on counters and tables to see what is on them.  I know I have my work cut out for me but I also know she’s a very smart girl and already we’re making progress on these undesirable habits.

Wet & Tired Delilah

One wet and tired dog!

As I’ve come to know Delilah I am seeing so much of my beloved Alaskan malamute (Anana) in her; sometimes it feels like Anana’s ghost is wandering the house.  Delilah loves anything on two legs just as Anana did; she also will howl which is something I’ve so missed since Anana’s passing.  Delilah has a HUGE stubborn streak which, again, reminds me of my Anana.  Thankfully, my ‘little’ angel was a patient teacher even when she was young and she taught me all about picking my battles and coming to ‘agreements’ regarding behaviors and training.  These are all learning’s which have served me well thus far with Delilah and allowed me to work with her.  If someone didn’t have these skills and experience they would be for a very tough time; I well remember my frustrations with these traits when raising Anana!  Typical training techniques like using a stern, loud voice and chastising when the dog has done something wrong will not work with either breed.  One can sometimes verbally impress upon them that a behavior is unacceptable but the best way to reinforce this is to remove the dog from the rest of the pack for a time.  And just like Anana, when Delilah gets fixated on something or someone no amount of screaming will get through their thick skulls.  We’re going to work on this in a bit using a just purchased e collar but I also know this is a breed characteristic and hence can only be ‘modified’ under the best of circumstances.

Delilah Looking Cute

Delilah doing her “aren’t I just too cute” routine.

By the middle of October I decided I would ‘foster fail’ with Delilah and started the paperwork to formally adopt her.  I find just having her around provides me with a challenge but she is also a very loving canine worthy of another chance.  Sure, she has some very rough edges – don’t we all – but I can see a very special canine in her.  She is a wonderful watch dog yet she has already visited most of my neighbors; all of them have told me what a marvelous girl she is and how much personality she exudes.  She plays well with other canines and barks at moose but doesn’t chase them.  All told, having Delilah as part of the ‘WasAK’ pack has been a very positive experience for Qanuk and me.  Yet another example of just how rewarding fostering rescue canines can be!  I’m watching the rescue site for yet another older, large canine in need of a foster; while two large dogs are really enough I still want to give a little something back to the canine world and I believe fostering rescues is such an activity for me.

Delilah - Qanuk Tug of War

Delilah and Qanuk in a tug of war match…

 

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

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…

 

“Walking In A Winter Wonderland…”

I’m seated in front of my system but staring out my second floor office window at the slow but steady snowfall; I’m reminded just how much I adore this area during the winter.  Granted, we hadn’t seen much in the way of the ‘typical’ winter across my first three years but the winter of 2016-2017 did produce some solid snow and cold and this year’s winter has finally come on strong.  We saw pretty seasonable temps across most of the winter but couldn’t buy precipitation across December, January and the first half of February.  That all changed during the last half of February as we received 36.5” of snow which is 31.7% of Talkeetna’s average annual snowfall.  And this latest snow event has produced 4.25” to this point (14:27) with light snow continuing to fall.  Our snow pack is 55.5” and looks to build a bit more before this latest event winds down this afternoon.

This winter has seen the birth of a new tradition; when I arise and see it is snowing I get ‘the kidz’ out first thing, prep their breakfasts, pull on my walking clothes, don my watch cap and headlamp, grab a walking staff and head out with the kidz to enjoy an early AM walk in the snow.  This generally takes place between 05:30 and 07:00 and my walks of late have been between 2.4 and 2.6 miles requiring fifty to fifty five minutes based on the accumulated snow.  I’ve walked in as much as 6.3” of snow – even though it was light and fluffy it was still a lot of work – and as little as 1.0” of new snow.  In so doing I’ve had a chance to enjoy the semi-rural south central Alaskan early mornings with my canine companions.  Even with the headlamp I still trust my dogs to scent out moose before I blunder into one.  With this said they are not infallible so I constantly sweep the beam from my headlamp back and forth along the roadside looking for the tell-tale glimmer of a set of eyes reflecting its light.  As it is winter the only large animal I’m likely to see is a moose so it isn’t necessary to actually see these large mammals; just the glowing eyes alerts me to the need to change our course to avoid the creature.

With all the snow of late the moose are being driven onto the plowed back roads as they are so much easier to walk although the road side berms of snow created by the plows makes it more difficult for moose on the roads to get back into the boreal forest to hide or to forage.  During our walks I regularly see their scat and hoof prints along with the ‘creases’ in the aforementioned snow berms created when these large mammals depart the road.  The kidz are fascinated by the scent the moose leave behind and frequently will attempt to follow the spoor into the boreal forest which is often hilarious as the berms are deep and the dogs will sink into them sometimes almost disappearing in the snow.  To this point I haven’t had to dig either out but I could see this happening at some point.

This morning’s walk was fun in that there was only 1.5” of new snow at 05:25 so the striding was easy.  As we walked I noticed I could tell which dog made which set of tracks.  My ‘little’ angel – Anana – is an eight and a half year old one hundred twelve pound Alaskan malamute struggling with advancing age and arthritis.  Qanuk (Ka-nuk) is an 88 pound six and a half year old male German Shepherd Dog who is still a puppy at heart and lives to run.  When I first exit the front door in my walking garb both dogs are excited and joyful; Qanuk will do his version of a ‘happy dance’ supplemented by sharp, excited barking.  Anana is much statelier but I can tell she is also happy and looking to go.  During our walks I’ve come to observe that Qanuk’s tracks are well defined and are composed of just his paw prints.  Anana’s tracks also show her paw prints but as she is older and lacking mobility her paws do not rise as high during her stride and hence leave ‘drag marks’ in the snow between her paw imprints.  It is also funny to note that once we’re a mile and a half to two miles into our walk I begin to see those same ‘drag marks’ in Qanuk’s strides.  This is an indication he is getting a bit more tired which is important as he needs lots of exercise.  If the snow is much above three inches in depth Anana will only do the first half to three quarters of a mile before returning to the house and collapsing just off the SE corner of the front porch.  By the time we return she is often mostly covered in snow but in her element.  Qanuk always makes the full walk with me and would gladly do more if I was game.

Without question I’m enjoying this wonderful winter weather as are my canine companions.  I relocated to this area because of its history of cold, snowy winters so it is great to finally see them materialize.  Our early AM walks in falling snow is something we all cherish; I just wish my little angel could accompany us the entire distance!  But as someone already seeing the limitations age places upon one’s body I can relate to Anana’s situation and I go out of my way to ‘baby’ her.  With my boy Qanuk, the sky’s the limit regarding vigorous exercise..!

Moderate AM Snow 022218

Wonderful walking weather; my back porch as seen during a recent snow event

March Moose CU

This youngster wasn’t bothered by me and the kidz one whit!

Qanuk Busting A Berm

My boy Qanuk busting a berm!

Qanuk Sinking In Snow

Qanuk almost disappearing into a snow berm

Snowy Office View

The snowy vista outside my office window…

Anana Loving Her Weather

My ‘little’ angel – Anana – in her element. She loves the cold and snow of her breed’s home!