Don't forget about dogs when the ash falls

Melissa Devaughn

So, what's a person to do with 10 dogs that approach indoor living with the same enthusiasm they show when undergoing a rectal exam?

That's what I fretted over this week as Mount Redoubt blew its top and I examined the warnings against breathing in the ash. Forget my own problems -- what was I going to do with a team of huskies who, according to Alaska Volcano Observatory recommendations, should not breathe in the fine glass-like particles found in Redoubt's emissions?

During the week, while taking them out for a short run, I worried the same: Are they, at this very moment, breathing in fine particles that I can't even see? Will there be irreversible damage because of our simple jaunts at Beach Lake?

My dilemma is small compared with that of mushers of large kennels, whose lots further north and northeast are much more at risk. What about the mushers off Petersville Road, where the ash has already been reported? What are Jeff King's dogs doing up in Denali, where there also have been trace amounts of ash found? Those dogs should be recuperating, post-Iditarod, in their comfortable doghouses, not being packed away to some sterile "ash-free" locale.

Who has a backup plan for that many dogs, anyway?

Experience has shown me that my sled dogs do not like being indoors. Even Carson, my latest troublemaker with an injured foot, tired of being in her padded indoor kennel after a few days this week. At first, she thrived on the attention given to her by the kids, who slipped countless dog treats in through the kennel cage and cooed at her like she was a baby.

But by Wednesday, she was whining, shaking nervously as if about to burst. She wanted to be back with the pack, outdoors, in the cool air with which she is accustomed and the scents and sights she knows so well.

There have been few details on what to do with your pets in the event the ash settles in Anchorage.

The one-liner "bring your pet indoors" seems simple enough for most animal owners.

But at our house, a strategy had to be developed. Because we have no garage, moving them to a "near-outside" location is out. Paying a veterinary office or boarding kennel to keep them is financially impossible. My 8-year-old daughter -- a future veterinarian who would not let the subject drop -- pressed me on the issue until I finally came up with a plan that satisfied her. It involves a complicated kenneling of the dogs in the dog truck, which we would back into the workshop for shelter, then letting them out for limited activity until the ash passes. I imagine the hassle and I cringe, hoping it won't come to that.

It may be overkill, or I may be underestimating the potential damage the ash could cause, but I promised her the dogs would be OK.

For now, though, my dog team has sensed no change in their environment and lounge in their doghouses as if Mount Redoubt never existed. I, for one, would like to assume the same.

Outdoor writer Melissa DeVaughn, and her blog "Deadlines and Stopwatches," can be reached at

Melissa DeVaughn