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Pantops Pet Salon & Spa
Charlottesville's Professional Dog Grooming

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(434) 293-2424
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504 Pantops Center
Charlottesville, VA 22911

Remembering Alaska

Sunday, December 27th, 2009 by Mike Cronk

Cold weather and snow always kick start my memory of living in Alaska in the early ’50′s. My Dad was career Army and stationed in Fairbanks. At the time he was a Captain in charge of a company, so he was gone for training 24-7. That left Mom and four children living in a log cabin which was heated by a coal fired stove. It was rough going, but we didn’t know it since everybody we knew lived the same as we did. This was before T.V., so we didn’t know what we were missing. We dealt with the nine months of winter and three months of summer that was more like spring. I remember going and coming from school in the dark- the sun came up about 9:00, and was going south around 3:00. On the other hand, in the summer we were playing in daylight as late as 10:00PM!!

I don’t remember much but with out a doubt, one of my stongest memories was of the care and treatment of dogs at that time and in that place. We didn’t own a dog, but many neighbors did. Most were kept on a chain attached to a dog house. Alaska is the home of the sled dog, and the packs were cared for purely as working dogs. Even today, most Huskys and Malamutes are chained up to the doghouses and the poop and pee freezes for a nice brown and yellow mess. When the snow was 2-3 feet deep, the dogs actually tunneled to their houses- chain and all!

Given our perspective with the companion dog environment (where FiFi sleeps in our bed, sits on the couch and is served chopped chicken over rice), the Alasken dog owner would be reported to the humane society with a recommendation that they be chained to a dog house buried deep in the snow. But these ancestors of the wolf existed naturally in far harsher conditions. At one time, they raised their young in an earthen den, and traveled thousands of miles during the day in a pack, hunting everything from mice to baby elk. Life was rough, and a case of pure survival. Maybe having someone provide food and water and blankets in a doghouse for a sleigh ride isn’t so bad after all!

But I still am a little haunted when I remember those burrows deep in the snow, knowing one of my favorite animals lay below.

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