Sunday, January 27


Aniak, AK
January 2008

Today, the family has grown. Just like that, without warning, a young dog has found his way into our home. Black, white spot on his chest, hair not long or short. Shy, scared, he looks almost like a puppy and has that look in his eyes so characteristic of dogs that have been mistreated in the past. For months now I've been holding my ground about not having a dog again, but those eyes won the battle today. Naím has named him Randi and Tola has seriously hissed at him to let him know who is the real boss around here.

Randi will be a good companion at home during David's numerous trips. He will also be great on our hikes. It's always nice to have a dog with you in addition to a GPS, so necessary to go anywhere in this chaotic wilderness that surrounds us. We will have to see how he reacts to the presence of a wild animal, whenever we encounter one. Here they say that if a dog is unable to jump between a bear (or any other animal) and you in order to defend his owner from an attack, you are better off shooting him dead. Tough people up here.

In Aniak, no home is without dogs. At least two or three, and up to fifteen or twenty in some cases. Most of them are sled dogs. After moose season is over, in late September, they start running the dogs using the four-wheelers, getting ready for winter. Many people here are into mushing. It used to be the common transportation many years ago, but with the introduction of the small planes first and the snow machine later, they have been relegated to a winter hobby.

Perhaps you have heard about the Iditarod, the most famous sled dog race in Alaska. It starts in Anchorage and goes all the way to Nome, about 1200 miles west. This annual race commemorates that twenty of Alaska’s best mushers and their teams took a five day journey in 1925, through part of this same trail, to deliver medication to Nome. Because of this, it was possible to avoid a larger expansion of a diphtheria epidemic in the area. Be aware that the epidemics killed about 60% of the native population in the beginning of the 20th century. Because of this, the members of the expedition (both men and dogs alike) are considered national heroes.

Each area in Alaska has its own personal Iditarod race. The one in Aniak is the K-300 and sadly, it ended the day before we arrived back in town from our Christmas vacation, so we couldn't see it as it came through town. We will have to wait for next year.

In the meanwhile, maybe we can start training Randi to pull Naím's sled.

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