The Value of CERT

Anyone having read much of this blog will recognize I’ve become a champion of volunteering since I retired in the 2000’s and my joy in volunteering has paid many dividends across the years.  From the satisfaction of working with elderly dementia victims to the heart-felt delight in fostering larger/older rescue canines I always get so much more out of volunteering than I put in.  But volunteering has also served as a means to meet people and develop social networking with locals of a similar mindset.  And it sure seems there’s always worthy causes out there seeking volunteers to help fulfill their goals.

So it is I find myself entering into yet another volunteering effort; one which has already introduced me to many new local folks and promises to be one of the most, if not the most, fulfilling of all my volunteering efforts to date.  On March 17, 2019 ten local people, of which I was one, completed our CERT basic training and were awarded our graduation certificates.  For those of you uncertain regarding the nature of CERT let me explain.  CERT is an acronym for Community Emergency Response Team and is a FEMA created program by which teams of volunteers across the United States undergo varying levels of training and are prepared to function when activated as support to first responders in the event of man-made or natural disasters.  It is important to recognize that while CERT members have varying levels of expertise in basic medical treatment, light search and rescue, preparedness, fire safety, disaster psychology and terrorism we are not EMTs or first responders unless our members were so trained before they joined the CERT effort.  However, if requested by first responders we can act as support for these functions.  In the event a CERT team is onsite first – a very real possibility in rural Alaska – we are capable of basic medical care (i.e. stopping severe bleeding, clearing/opening airways and recognizing/mitigating shock) and simple triage.  We can also assist trapped victims and evaluate disaster situations. 

But our real goal in such situations is to gather as much information as possible regarding the event and the ‘fallout’ so we can quickly and accurately share this information with first responders once they arrive on scene.  However, CERT can do so much more for our communities. Our members have access to a myriad of training courses through which skills like crowd management, traffic direction, radio communication and similar can be developed.  We all embrace the concept that the foundation of CERT is ‘neighbors helping neighbors’ and we will always try to ‘do the greatest good for the greatest number of people in the least amount of time’.  In order to reach levels of proficiency we have monthly meetings and schedule training sessions involving our team and sometimes in coordination with other CERT operations in the general area.  Of interest to this immediate area; the CERT function should mesh very well with the increase in neighborhood watch programs.

In order to fulfill these responsibilities team members need some basic equipment such as ID vests, backpacks, hard hats, safety goggles, gloves, elemental medical supplies, flashlights and similar.  While FEMA offers support to CERT via training opportunities they do not offer financial support.  For the most part neither does the federal or state government.  Therefore, most CERT operations must look to local businesses and community organizations to help defray the costs of equipping a CERT function.  This means we need to be aware of potential grants and be able to submit requests for monies as well as insure the local economies and community functions are aware of our needs.  As you can imagine there is nothing really low cost when purchasing basic medical supplies like triangle bandages, tourniquets, tweezers, scissors, hot/cold compresses, non-latex exam gloves, anti-bacterial wipes and similar.  Nor are other required items such as hard hats, goggles, work gloves, flashlights, back packs and the like.  Many of these supplies will, hopefully, never be used but in the event they are needed they could prove lifesaving.

In the end CERT can be seen as a kind of local community insurance; while it may cost a bit from time to time if and when it is needed it can be almost irreplaceable.  It is important to remember CERT members are all volunteers who have given and continue to give of their time to train and be ready for what most of us would consider ‘the unthinkable’.  We can form a community core of local people who stand ready to assist and support their fellow neighbors during difficult times.  Living in the Talkeetna area has really brought home just how vulnerable we are and how much on our own we could become in the event of a major disaster.  The magnitude 7.2 earthquake on November 30, 2018 helped me understand how valuable a CERT function could be as the only road between this area and the lower valley (Wasilla-Palmer and Anchorage) is the Parks Highway (AK 3) and it was closed for a time.  It has also been closed in June of 2015 during the Sockeye wildfire in the Willow area.  If a major earthquake or wildfire severed the Parks Highway at, say, Mile 96 Talkeetna and the surrounding areas would have no access to the lower valley and their support functions.  In this case it would be just a handful of local firefighters and EMTs available to deal with the aftermath of such an event and if there is widespread damage and casualties they would be quickly overwhelmed.  Under these circumstances a CERT presence could function as an ‘expertise/first responder’ multiplier and help the first responders assist so many more people in need.  Although we hope we are never called upon to assist in a disaster situation we stand ready to assist our neighbors in their time of need and work closely with our wonderful first responders to ‘do the greatest good for the greatest number of people in the shortest amount of time’.

Neighbors helping neighbors

Mid-Winter’s Wanderings…

After a prolonged period of no creative inspiration I’m finally beginning to feel the desire to once again put some of my thoughts to the written medium.  With this said I do remain firmly in the grip of ‘mid-winter blah’s’ most likely fueled by yet another ‘winter that wasn’t’ here in south central Alaska and the fact I ran out of my Vitamin D 3 supplement two weeks back and the local store has yet to restock the product.  While I take a bariatric multi-vitamin on a daily basis I’ve found the Vitamin D 3 supplement during the winter months does improve my overall mindset and encourages a more positive outlook.  Regardless, I am already beginning to see the days lengthening and this produces a sense of ambivalence within my psyche as it signals the coming end to winter – my favorite month up here – but it also speaks to the approach of spring and another new start to the ‘dance of the seasons’.

I’ve been very busy of late as I now am the vice president on two local non-profit boards and I continue my fostering of larger and older rescue canines for the wonderful ‘AK Cat & Dog Rescue’.  In addition, come middle March I’ll be attending a CERTS (Community Emergency Response Team) training session for the local community with the ultimate outcome of establishing a CERTS presence in this immediate area.  This is something I’ve thought we needed since I relocated and I’m very pleased to see this effort finally taking form.  Just yesterday I was reflecting back on my life in general and my ‘Alaskan life’ in particular; while doing so it occurred to me just how much volunteering has become ingrained into my daily existence…

Although volunteering is now an integral part of my daily existence just nine years back this wasn’t the case.  I’d done some simple volunteering during the final five years of being ‘gainfully employed’ but working anywhere from 45 to 70 hours a week and being single left little time for such efforts.  It was only after retiring and regularly visiting my mother in an assisted living facility did I really begin to consider volunteering.  At that point I was still learning to deal with the freedom of retirement and knew I had plenty of time even though I was raising my blessed ‘little angel’ Anana (my 120 pound female Alaskan malamute) and learning just how much of a handful a Mal puppy could be!  I started my ‘serious’ volunteering at the Northville Sunrise Assisted Living facility where Mom was staying and within a short time found I really enjoyed the work and eventually was putting in 40 to 50 hours a month.  I soon learned I received so much more satisfaction and joy from this volunteering than I put into the actual efforts; it quickly began a true ‘win-win’ situation for the facility and me.  The delight I took in this work made me feel as though I was doing something truly important and I felt so much more satisfaction and pleasure from my volunteering than I received from all my paid employment across my previous 35 years.  To me, this spoke volumes as to the value I placed on volunteering.

When I relocated to semi-rural south central Alaska I had hoped to find similar volunteering opportunities with the elderly but as the nearest such facility was over 60 miles south this wasn’t to be so I sought out other volunteering options.  I became a volunteer newscaster/music show host at the local NPR outlet (KTNA) and continued this work for three years before parting ways due to philosophical differences exacerbated by a change in station management.  During those times I also began volunteering at the Upper Susitna Food Pantry (USFP) first as a ‘shopper’ and then as a board member.  I continued this for three years before stepping down.  Soon after I learned of an opportunity to join the Sunshine Community Health Clinic’s (SCHC) board so applied and was seated; last October I was elected to the vice president’s position.  I also learned of an opportunity with the Upper Susitna Senior’s Incorporated (USSI) so I again applied and was accepted in September of 2018.  On January 1, 2019 I became the vice president of this board as well.  During the late spring of 2018 my beloved Anana passed away and I was devastated but also recognized my German Shepherd Dog (Qanuk) was similarly impacted and he needed a pal.  I had earlier decided if I added any more canines to my life they would be rescues.  A good friend from SCHC was a foster for ‘AK Cat & Dog Rescue’ and convinced me to try fostering canines.  I picked up my first foster in July and continue to foster to this day.

For me, the essence of volunteering is giving one’s time, energy and talents to any worthy organization or effort in need of assistance.  This favors not for profit organizations as they tend to have the shoe-string budgets combined with large needs.  With this said my first taste of volunteering was with Sunrise Assisted Living which is a for profit corporation so I’ve seen both sides.  Once I began volunteering I realized I did have some usable skills which could benefit operations seeking help and I was more than happy to offer my services for free.  In hindsight I think I missed feeling I was a part of something beyond myself and volunteering, especially with organizations that truly valued and appreciated my efforts, made me feel I was helping a worthy cause.  To this writing I have always felt I get so much more out my volunteering than I put into it; it is this realization that makes it so easy for me to volunteer.

I also believe my urge to volunteer has some roots in my age related retrospection which has left me pondering the fact for 55 years it seems all I did was take and take without ever giving much back.  Sure, it was easy to rationalize my failure to undertake volunteering in my twenties, thirties and forties based upon working full time and excessive business travel.  However, regardless of the reason once I reached my middle fifties I couldn’t escape the fact I felt very self-centered and greedy for not giving back anything even though life had given me so much.  In this sense, volunteering has provided me with a ‘warm’ feeling knowing that I am now giving something back, be it ever so small, instead of continuing to just take.

Finally, I know part of my impetus to volunteer stems from my need for social activity even if said need is fairly minor compared to most people.  When I relocated to this area I knew no one and so had to start all over regarding building a social/support network; I knew this would be the case but I greatly under-estimated the amount of time and effort doing this would require.  All my volunteering efforts in the Talkeetna area have really helped me meet new folks and establish new relationships; this frames yet another reason why I find volunteering to be a true ‘win-win’ situation for me.  I find it most encouraging to recognize just how integral volunteering has become in my daily life.  Given all the benefits I feel from such efforts I couldn’t be happier with my discovery of the wonder of volunteering…

Volunteering

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…

 

Extreme Earthquake – Even by Alaskan Standards!

This will be an uncharacteristically brief entry into this blog as I still have a lot of correspondence to answer regarding yesterday’s powerful magnitude 7.0 earthquake.  But I wanted to let everyone know we came through the event in relatively good shape owing to the fact we were 100+ miles from the quake’s epicenter which was around 7 miles NW of JBER (Joint Base Elmendorf Richardson); the base is on the northern rim of the Anchorage area.  This is not to say we didn’t experience quite an event!  At 08:29 I was working at my desk when I felt the initial shudders within the earth that often presage a tremblor; I paused briefly as the dogs ran into the room and clustered about my chair.  I glanced at the clock and noted the intensity of the tremblor was still increasing as was the noise.  This continued for another 20+ seconds before tapering off.  I was actually gripping my desk to stabilize myself and considering getting under it.  I had heard lots of loud and unusual noises which I later learned were a couple of shelves collapsing and a number of pictures being knocked off the walls.

My damage was minimal and in this I was very lucky; the further south one heads down the Parks Highway (AK 3) the more severe the damage.  I spoke to a dear friend in Willow – around 30 miles to the south – perhaps an hour after the main seismic event; she, her husband and her cat were a bit frazzled but safe.  However, they have many cracked and broken windows and their power was out.  As of Saturday morning I believe this is still the case in much of Willow.  Being true Alaskans, they have two generators and thus are able to power their furnace, fridge, water pump and similar while awaiting the restoration of electricity.  I lost a couple of fragile personal items and when a shelf collapsed in a spare room which contains all my network associated gear my 2 TB NAS fell five feet to the floor.  As it was operational the impact has most likely trashed the mechanical HDDs.  The case impacted on a corner which ‘sprung’ the enclosure; I had to dissemble a portion to get everything back in place and then re-seated the two HDDs.  However, while the unit will power up I never get beyond the flashing ‘initializing’ LED and the system will not recognize the NAS.  I’ve pulled the two HDDs from the enclosure and will see if I can re-initialize them as standalone drives.

Even with these losses I count us very lucky!  The canines were really freaked out by the intensity and the duration of the main tremblor; the frequent aftershocks across the next ten hours didn’t help them regain their composure.  This isn’t surprising as one aftershock was a magnitude 4.2 while another was a magnitude 5.8; either of these by themselves would’ve been noticed up here.  I did notice my GSD (Qanuk) acting a bit flaky maybe a half hour before the main tremor; he was pacing and trying to get really close to me.  While the latter isn’t all that unusual the former was different enough to grab my attention.  None of the dogs liked the experience but Delilah, my newly adopted ‘Russian Bear Dog’ – more properly known as a ‘Caucasian Shepherd Dog’ – did shrug off the entire experience within a few minutes and was snoring again maybe fifteen minutes after the main quake.  She did wake up for a couple of the aftershocks but only yawned, shifted her position a bit and went back to sleep.

Please keep your hopes and prayers focused on the folks in the Anchorage bowl and the western Matanuska Valley and the southern Susitna Valley as they were hammered.  Anchorage is again accessible by road but there is a lot of earthquake damage and it will take months and months to even begin to get repairs underway.  Given it is late fall and snow is on the ground I don’t know how many of the destroyed sections of road can be repaired; perhaps they will only do temporary repairs until spring..?  Thanks for everyone’s concerns!

113018 Earthquake Damage

Aftermath of magnitude 7.0 earthquake on 11/30/18; this is the small room where I keep most of my network related hardware

 

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