One of the highlights of my recent Alaska cruise was our afternoon excursion from Skagway to the Musher’s Camp for a sled dog ride and a chance to hold a puppy. Wild horses couldn’t have prevented me from going.
Our guide for the day was a young man from South Carolina named Jay, or J-dot as he liked to be called. He drove us out to the musher’s camp in a national forest outside Skagway. It’s a beautiful rural area, as you can see in this photo.
We had to stop the bus some distance from the camp. After a short hike, we were loaded into this military-style vehicle (I forget the official name) for the drive to where the sled dogs were waiting.
Four teams of sled dogs awaited us, some of them barking madly, apparently ready to run! Now if you’re expecting to see photos of beautiful purebred Siberian or Malamute huskies, you’ll be disappointed. The dogs used for sled racing in Alaska are mixed breed. The mushers breed huskies with other breeds that are bred for speed, like greyhounds. What they get is a Heinz 57 of mixed breeds of various colors, including some with blue eyes, though the body type is typically long and lean. (Huskies are good for expeditions where strength is more important than speed.)
This one had green eyes, though I never could get him to look into the camera lens to prove it.
We piled into four golf carts, each one pulled by a team of eight dogs.
If you’re not the lead dog, the view never changes.
Each team was made up of an experienced sled dog paired with a younger dog, typically about eleven months old. The dogs are harness on either side of a trace that runs down the middle of the dogs to the sled. Once they got started, it wasn’t difficult to figure out which ones were the newbie. One of them jumped a little too high and ended up straddling the middle trace. He didn’t look too comfortable.
At one point, the vehicle slowed a bit and I saw that one of the dogs had paused to do his business. Others just lifted their leg out to the side, and not always the outward side! I imagine they had to be hosed down at the end of the day. We were all laughing during the run. The kicker was when one of the dogs jumped over the middle trace to hump the dog next to him. That had everyone laughing. What can I say? Dogs being dogs.
J dot (on the left) and friends
When we got back to the camp, we watched a short presentation about running the Iditarod. Then came the high point of the trip for many, esp. the children (of all ages) in the group. We got to hold two-week old puppies. Charlie Brown was right: Happiness is a warm puppy.
Linda cradling a two-week-old puppy.
Another litter was taking a nap. I love the way they sleep all piled on top of each other. They really are pack animals from birth.
When we got back to the cruise ship, we saw that another musher had brought a group of older puppies on board for people to hold. It was a fun day for all.
Last month my Eclectic Readers Group got creative with a topic called Animal Acts which meant books written from the animal’s point of view, so today I’m sharing the three books I read. No one who knows me well will be surprised that I picked three books with canine main characters.
The Dog Who Knew Too Much
by Spencer Quinn
(Chet and Bernie Mystery series, Book 4)
Atria Books, 2011
This is a really fun series featuring private investigator Bernie Little and his canine companion Chet, a mixed breed dog who didn’t pass his final exam for the K-9 corps. Chet doesn’t remember exactly what went wrong but he’s pretty sure a cat was involved. The books are written entirely in Chet’s point of view.
In this installment, Chet and Bernie are hired by a woman named Anya as protection against her ex-husband when she goes into the mountains to visit her son, Devin at camp. However, when they get there, they learn Devin has gone missing from an overnight camp out. This all takes place in the mountains of another, unnamed state. (Sounds like Colorado to me, but states are never specified in this series, at least not so far. Geography isn’t Chet’s strong suit; grabbing perps by the pant leg is.)
It doesn’t take our intrepid sleuths long to figure out something is rotten in the unnamed country. The sheriff and judge are obviously corrupt and up to their ears in whatever casued Devin’s disappearance. When Chet finds the camp counselor who led Devin’s group dead inside an old gold mine, Bernie is inexplicably arrested for his murder. It’s up to Chet, who makes his way back home, and their friend, reporter Susie Sanchez to rescue Bernie. Chet is hilarious, as always, esp. the scene where he shows up alone at home and is taken in by the neighbor, Mr. Parsons, owner of Chet’s best friend Iggy. The two dogs are so delighted to be together, they go romping around the house, knocking things over. As Chet is leaving with Susie, she asks him if he was a good guest just as they pass the plumber on his way in to fix the toilet full of little guest soaps he and Iggy knocked over.
In the end, all works out well, of course, except for Bernie’s finances, which never work out well. Very enjoyable series and often quite funny.
Popular Amazon Kindle highlight: Sometimes big questions pop up in life. For example: was steak still on the menu or not?
A Dog’s Purpose
by W. Bruce Cameron
Forge Books 2010
Another book written entirely from the dog’s POV. In this book, the same dog is reincarnated four times as different dogs. First, he’s a feral puppy nicknamed Toby by Senora, the woman who takes in stray dogs. The first life is short and not very happy. Next, he is reborn as a pure-bred Golden Retriever at a puppy farm in Michigan in the 1960’s. He remembers his brief life as Toby, including how his mother escaped from Senora’s compound by opening the gate. Using that knowledge, he escapes from the puppy farm and wanders off down the road. He eventually comes to live with a family that has a little boy named Ethan. It’s love at first sight between Ethan and the puppy he names Bailey. This is his happiest life; his only purpose to love his boy. Two more lives follow, but I won’t go into more details.
Since before my husband died, I’ve primarily read what I like to call fluff: lighthearted, funny books that don’t make me feel anything but amusement. Life is much easier this way. Until I read this book. I really liked it, though it tugged on my emotions more than any other book I’ve read in a while. I laughed a lot, and I cried, several times. Cameron’s writing is philosophical and made me think. I love the idea of dogs reincarnating and perhaps reuniting with people they’ve known before. Recommended for animal lovers, esp. dog lovers.
My favorite line occurs after Ethan’s family has buried the family cat, Smokey: The next day, when Mom and the boy left for school, I went out into the yard and dug Smokey back up, figuring they couldn’t have meant to bury a perfectly good dead cat. That still cracks me up, though I’m still wondering what is so good about a dead cat.
by Diane Kelly
First in Paw Enforcement series
St. Martin’s, 2014
Fort Worth Police Officer Megan Luz almost loses her job when she tasers her partner in the privates. (The guy kind of deserved it. What a jerk.) Megan is half Irish, half Mexican, with a temper. The chief gives her another chance by re-assigning her to the K-9 unit where she is partnered with a German Shepherd named Brigit. It’s not exactly love at first sight. The last thing Megan needs in her postage-sized studio apartment is a huge furry roommate, not to mention fitting the dog into her Smart Car. She and Brigit battle for dominance, at first, though Megan comes to respect Brigit’s abilities as a police dog. Brigit is much better behaved on the job than off, resulting in some funny situations.
Favorite section: When Megan brings Brigit to mass with her, she slips the dog half of her Communion wafer, which Brigit promptly hacks back up. Grabbing Brigit’s leash, I hustled her out the back doors and into the foyer. Before I could stop her, she’d dragged me over to the font, propped her front legs on it, and lapped up a mouthful of holy water.
The point of view varies from Megan (first person ) to short third person excerpts from Brigit and a bomber who thinks of himself as The Rattler. When Brigit alerts at a trash can in the mall food court, Megan discovers a bomb in time to evacuate everyone. Only she and Brigit are wounded. Later, when Brigit licks tuna out of Megan’s hair, the Rattler is named the Tunabomber by the media, much to his disgust and anger. This is just the first bombing.
I enjoyed this mystery. There’s a budding romance between Megan and a fireman from the bomb squad named Seth, not to mention Brigit and Seth’s dog. Cute book for mystery fans and/or dog lovers.
As always, click on the graphic below for more great reviews in Barrie Summy’s Book Review Club.
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