The Bucket List, Part 6, The End of the Beginning

This is my attempt at describing what it’s was like for me in Alaska as a sled dog handler. I’ll take a typical day and break it into separate posts, so you aren’t overwhelmed by text. This is the sixth post, which discusses why we left the sled dog job. Don’t miss the other posts: Mornings, Afternoons, Evenings, Nights, and The Dogs!

I’ve left our little sled dog adventure story unfinished for a year now. Whether I did so out of simple laziness or a desire to not talk about it is open for discussion. I believe the truth lies somewhere in the middle. Anyway, here we are. Not taking care of 40 sled dogs.

In February of 2009, we notified our boss of our intention to leave the handling job in April. From the laundry list of reasons to leave (most of which I will not discuss on a blog. Sit down and talk with me if you want the long version.), the two most prominent factors are the two most common: time and money.

Over the course of 4 months, I received 1 day off. Occasionally I’d get an evening or a morning off, but nothing regular. For one month, I negotiated to get one day off a week. That lasted 3 glorious weeks. Exhaustion was a good friend of mine, especially at the height of winter.

More importantly, we were losing money. Skippy’s job paid decently by Homer standards, but it was only part time. I was getting some work through Bigwoofs, but I had no time to really dedicate to it. Driving into town took at least 30 minutes, and I had dog duties 3-4 times a day, 7 days a week. That sinister friend (fiend?) of Americans, debt, meant we paid slightly more a month than we were making. With no improvement in sight, we needed to take steps to create our own improvement.

So we left.

No more buckets of dog food, no more chopping up frozen salmon, no more chipping turds out of ice. No 3am dog-house-turning-in-a-blizzard. The sound of 40 hungry dogs, excited to see their food trundling towards them on a bright orange sled, no longer reaches our ears. Except when we visit, of course.

We continue to live in or near Homer, and while our struggles to make a life up here may not have necessarily lessened, they certainly aren’t as exotic.

This is the end of this story, but not an end to our story. There is more yet to come!

Gone doggy, gone
In the year since we left the dog yard, several of our four-legged friends have passed on. I will keep track of them here as time takes its inevitable toll.

Ace, 15 years old. Ace got loose from his pen, and disappeared last fall. He was never found.

Redoubt, 16 years old. Redoubt began suffering from congestive heart failure, and was eventually put to sleep.

Skyler, 16 years old. Skyler got old, and his body failed. He was euthanized as well.

Goodbye, furry friends. Run on.