Tuesday, February 28, 2017

A few interesting headlines

1) Editorial on the perceived cruelty in long-distance dog mushing.

2) Last week, 4 meth dealers were banished from Allakaket, a village of 100 people on the Koyukuk River. It's accessible by plane, river, or, in winter, a trail from Tanana, a relatively bustling metropolis of 300 people at the confluence of the Tanana and Yukon rivers. Banishment is an ancient punishment that often meant death in premodern times. Nowadays, it's still used in communities that have no police force, nor even a Village Public Safety Officer. Today, this editorial appeared from a community member. I think it speaks well of the community and its self-policing.

3) Anchorage is asking for residents' help with a moose census.

4) A memorial for Buzzwinkle

5) Here is a Starbuckeroo squeezie selfie. Just because.

Monday, February 27, 2017

As Long as you Love me So...

Last Thursday, I got home early, so started shoveling the fresh snow from our walkways while it was still light. When DL got home, I had finished the walkways, so he did the driveway (by headlamp!) while I went in to cook dinner. Then it snowed all night, so we repeated the routine Friday. Saturday morning, we woke up to a fresh few inches of snow, so DL offered to shovel it while Starbuck and I went skiing, so we accepted the kind offer. :) Then Saturday night, it dumped 6 inches of fresh snow yet again, and the forecast had a "winter weather advisory" and called for blowing snow with gusty winds all day Sunday.

We had to cancel a planned trip to Chatanika to meet three candidate friends for Starbuck at a kennel up there. I had had a lovely day planned--doggie dates and a snowshoe hike in the White Mountains! Then giant cheeseburgers at the Chatanika Lodge! But alas... The musher, who is actually gearing up for the Iditarod, was understanding and agreed that we could try again this coming weekend, even though it would be her last day of rest before hitting the trail!

I had been concerned that she'd question our commitment and have second thoughts about placing one of her beloved dogs with us if we cancelled, but in Alaska, people are very understanding and flexible with regards to weather. It helps that weather is pretty universal and falls on the just and unjust alike. When a coworker calls in sick on the day to do something painful, you wonder. But when a coworker tells you he will be late because he's shoveling his driveway, well you know he ain't lying because you were just delayed due to the same thing!

So Sunday morning, DL, ever the gentleman, offered to start shoveling first AGAIN so Starbuck and I could go skiing. Again, we graciously accepted. :)

Look! We were the first to make tracks, for the second day in a row!

The sky still looked stormy:

Although we could see sun on the hills in the distance:

I've decided that Starbuck will wear her rose in public all the time from now on. She doesn't notice, but I think it's a sign that says "I'm friendly", so that when she approaches people, they are less inclined to be concerned. She also gets petted more, which she loves!

Starbuck loooooooves snnnnnooooowwww!

Then suddenly she gets up, shakes herself off, and stands there looking all dignified-like:

And she runs ahead and looks all WOLFIE!

I mean, if wolves wore roses, anyway:

The light looked gloomy on the ridge:


Friday, February 24, 2017

Walking by woods on a snowy morning

A foot of snow fell overnight last night, so our morning run turned into a slow, plodding walk. While we were out, daylight spread over everything, and I turned off my headlamp. All kinds of short-coated dogs, whom we never see when it's colder, were out and about. Also, the school bus had apparently been delayed by an hour (in a ditch?), so Starbuck and I visited with the neighborhood kids, who were standing around their driveways trying to decide how long to wait.

We visited with a pair of little boys whom we had not seen in a while.

Do you remember us? I'm Arvay, and this is Starbuck!

"Yeah, you used to run by every day."

Yeah, you haven't seen us in a while since our older dogs couldn't walk that far. But they've both passed away, so it's just Starbuck and me taking long walks again.

"Where are they?"

They passed away... They... uhhh... they're in Doggie Heaven. They were seventeen years old.

"WWWHOOOOAAAA! Wow! That's awesome!"


"I wish dogs lived longer. Dogs don't live long enough."

I agreed that they didn't.

"Dogs are COOL."

I agreed again.

"Cats are meeehhh."

I laughed.

I don't like cats much, either. Do you still have your golden retriever, Ann?

"Yeah! She's 11! Her birthday was yesterday!"

Starbuck's was last month! She's 10.

"Starbuck and Ann are going to live a LONG TIME. Just like your other dogs."

I agreed.

In total, we met 5 kids, 7 dogs, two of whom tried to follow us home, and 2 yearling meese, who by appearances had only recently left their mother, but were sticking together. We only saw 5 adults, and didn't speak--they waved from their cars. It occurred to me that Fairbanks is a great place if you want to try your hand at being a hermit, but don't want to commit to 100% solitude. Sometimes when you think you are sick of people, you are really just sick of adult meaningless chatter. Try kids, dogs, and meese!

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

The search for a new friend for Starbuckeroo

Last week, I emailed both AW (Autumn and Linden's former musher) and EW (Starbuck's former musher) and let them know we were looking. I also took the liberty of posting this onto our neighborhood message board:

The post I never thought I'd make... We had to put both of our elderly ladies down recently (Autumn on Jan 6 and Linden last Saturday). They were 17 years old and had covered some 16,000 miles with me running, walking, hiking, and skiing since I got them in 2007! I feel really blessed and have nothing to complain about--only smiles through tears. But now we must look ahead, and Starbuck (the black one) is all alone during weekday daytimes, and she needs a friend. If you know someone looking to rehome a dog, please let us know. Our criteria are:

* sweet, gentle temperament (Starbuck is very gentle, and we can't have a dog that would bully her)
* 3-7 years old
* good thick coat, can come on adventures with us when it's -40
* but willing and able to live comfortably indoors (we like our Friends with us)
* medium-ish sized (40-65 lbs)

All three of our ladies have been retired sled dogs; that seems to suit us fine! Thanks!

I quickly started getting responses from people who jump on a chance to "place" a dog that's currently on their mind, whether or not that dog is actually a match for my post. I even had to start a file of generic responses to copy and paste to people.

1) I have a lovely senior dog...

Thank you, but we are hoping for a younger dog since our emotional capacity for elder care is pretty wrung out now. Also, Starbuck is a very youthful 10, and deserves a youngster to bound and play with after years of helping us with geriatric care.

2) Have you seen this dog at the city shelter website? He looks so sweet!

Thank you for the recommendation, but we're hoping to go through personal connections and adopt a dog with a known history before we try the shelter. (Do these people think I am incapable of going to the shelter website, if that were my goal??)

3) Have you thought of fostering?

I can't foster. Starbuck is too sensitive to see Friends come and go, and I, frankly, am not generous enough. I can only take dogs I can keep and love all their lives.

4) I have a rescue from an abuse situation. She's just now coming around, blahblahblah...

She sounds lovely, and I commend you for rescuing abused dogs! However, I don't consider myself to be a "rescuer". We are not looking to be heroes and take any abuse cases or "special needs" cases right now. We want a happy, well-adjusted friend and family member. Starbuck especially deserves that... I knew Autumn and Linden when they were young and fun. Starbuck has been a nursemaid to elderly dogs and humans for 3 years. She deserves to romp and have fun and not worry about dancing around someone's special needs.

5) Look at this adorable puppy! You know you want him!

Oh, GOD, he is adorable. Don't tempt me! No, we don't do puppies. Do you know that adorable thing will poop all over my house and eat my shoes??

Last weekend, we went to visit EW, who introduced us to Candy:

She is really sweet and lovey, but a little shy, especially at first. She hid behind EW and approached the two scary strangers timidly. She warmed up quickly, but she's definitely not as pushy for love as EW's other dogs, who swat at you with their paws, jump into your arms for hugs, and flip over for belly rubs! She's pretty submissive. The upside is, she would not bully Starbuck, for sure! EW still has not decided for sure whether to retire her, though. She's only 5 years old, running a bit slow for a working team. EW just bred another girl, so if the litter takes and is a good size, she'll consider placing Candy into a retirement home. If not, she'll want to keep her. In the meantime, we are meeting other candidate dogs as well. I will keep all 9 of my loyal readers posted on our search!

Monday, February 20, 2017

Life After Death

It's now been a week since we lost Linden, and six since we lost Autumn. A lot of the concerns I had had while they were still with us never came to pass. Starbuck adjusted fine to hanging around the house by herself all day, even coming upstairs with us at bedtime to say goodnight. She still doesn't sleep with us, which would be my preference, but she just loveloveloves her couch:

I'm not even as devastated as I had thought I would be. I'm sad, I'm heartbroken, but I'm not gutted. As I wrote in an email to DLM after Autumn died:

It actually didn't hurt as much as I had thought it would. Autumn was so tired and mentally woozy, she seemed ready to go, and she drifted off so gently, with her head in my lap. My most overarching feeling about the whole situation was and is gratitude. When she was younger, I would occasionally worry how I'd cope with her inevitable later passing, but it hurts more to imagine it when they are young. When they are old, it becomes obvious that it's time. I'm sure you have experienced that. I saw a documentary a year or so ago about a British former champion rock climber, now retired and living in a little cottage and clearly unable to climb. She was asked how she felt about her recent sedentary existence, and whether she missed climbing. She smiled and said, "No. That was then. Now I sit here and read." and she clearly meant it. That was a marvel to me at the time, and it makes me fear my own aging less.

With Linden, it was a bit more sudden, and a bit more shocking, but still, you can't realistically expect that much more time with a 17.5-year old dog. If any dog could have lived forever, it would have been the bouncing Booger, but alas, no dog does, no matter how much we love them.

Life is easier to plan now. Starbuck doesn't have to pee as often. She has no pills to take (except an over-the-counter glucosamine, which is liver-flavored, so she takes it willingly). When we plan to take a 6-mile hike in 90 minutes, by golly, we take a 6-mile hike in 90 minutes. We don't have to stop and rest, dawdle, or turn around because she has changed her mind. She happily gobbles down her breakfast and supper, which don't require any enhancements (beef for Autumn, and chicken for Booger... no, wait, Booger has changed her mind and will only eat beef today... no, wait, today Booger will take her supper with those salmon skin scraps, thankyouverymuch!)

Especially after Autumn started to show signs of dementia, the elderly ladies were so much work and care that I was afraid I'd be incapable of judging when it would be their time to go. Was I letting them go because they had no quality of life? Or was I letting them go because I myself was tired of all of the work? At the end though, it was crystal-clear when their final days were winding down. Neither was suffering, nor in pain. But Autumn had been mentally "gone" for days and could barely walk. Linden didn't even want to get up to bounce around the yard, per her usual morning routine. I'm thankful for that clarity, and we definitely did not let them go too soon, nor too late. I'm thankful that I got to hold them and pet them as they passed, and that they knew that I loved them until the end.

I'm also thankful that they lived to help me find DL, and also that we got Starbuck when we did. She was indeed a great companion to Booger after Autumn died. Booger would have hated being alone, but she was also going a bit woozy herself in those days, so it would have been difficult to introduce a brand-new dog at that point. Starbuck is so sweet and loving, she was and is a perfect companion. I also could not imagine coming home to an empty house nowadays. It would be unbearable.

They were so beautiful in their old age--they never got skinny, and their coats never got thin. They were blessings even in those little ways, leaving me with only good memories and beautiful photos!

Monday, February 13, 2017

Linden, Summer 1999 - February 11, 2017

We had to let Booger pup go over the weekend. Surprisingly, it was not her cancerous leg that did her in... she had recovered well from her last surgery. But although new tumors were already growing, kidney failure beat them to the punch. Her degradation was very fast--just one weekend prior, she had been walking the trails with us; the following Saturday, she was not interested in walking at all.

Unlike other old dogs, both she and Autumn remained beautiful and thick-coated to their last days.

Let us remember that even though they were delightful company in their golden years, they are probably having much more fun now reliving their middle age, when we hiked, skied, skijored, and backpacked all over the State of Alaska and then some!

The irrepressible BOOGER!

And now, of course, puppy photos!

Little Booger sampling straw!

And hangin' with her siblings (that's Autumn on the left):

Booger, having just been borned! She was a goober from the very start--lying on her back and waving her paws around!

I hope my ladies have a nice couch where they are, so at the close of every day of running and exploring through the woods and snow, they can sit and watch over us here on earth:

Of course, I had to crunch numbers... She was active for another year after Autumn needed to start reducing her walks, which brings the Booger total to 17,000 miles with me! :D Wow, what an honor to have 17,000 miles of fun and 26,000 hours of sleeping with the irrepressible Booger at my side!

Autumn and Linden were both incomparable blessings! Our vet said he had never seen a 17-year-old husky, and not only did we have TWO, but Booger remained a puppy the entire time!

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Chop chop!

Got my triennial haircut yesterday, and I'm sending my braid off today! I feel so good... light as a feather! Although I love my long, shiny hair, it also feels tragically unhip. Chopping it off makes me feel like I've just fled one of those cults that believes in keeping women "old-fashioned". I'm liberated!

How cute is Booger?




The other day, I bought silk flowers and put them on the ladies. Booger's suits her particularly well, I think!

Roo looks like a spanish dancer!

And in other news, this Fall, I will teach what was my second favorite class as an undergrad!

And in other other news, loyal reader and longtime real-world friend DLM sent me this awesome hat! It has SHEEP on it, and she knitted it using wool from Shetland, where she now lives! That makes it awesome in at least six different ways!

Friday, February 3, 2017

Scenes from around the house

A draft dog is one that blocks drafts:

Sittin' with friends!

When you pet Booger, she smiles!

Here is a shot of the ladies looking all dignified-like:

Booger! Dignified!