Winter always seems like a time to think about dogs -- dog teams out running everywhere from Wisconsin and Minnesota to many parts of Alaska, including the Arctic. There is no better way to deal with cabin fever than to have a couple of dogs around.
I tend to focus in on Greenland huskies, since we had two Greenlanders (Nuna and Avu) in Barrow and then in Medford, Wis., after a long air and road trip in mid-2008.
We love the breed and were happy to have them with us, especially in cold, dark winters. Having Nuna and Avu truly was like having part of Barrow with us.
Unfortunately, Nuna passed away at the end of 2009 at the age of 16. We did everything we could to help her, but her rear legs just kept going out and she was in pain.
Now, Avu, age 9, has been doing a great job cheering us up, and getting us out for a walk in all kinds of weather. And she also is well-known by folks along her walking routes, including along Main Street in downtown Medford. Nuna was also well-known, and is now missed.
People give Avu treats all over -- starting with the Medford Library and going to a tire shop, book store, coffee shop and other places. The library staff and patrons young and old love to pet her and give her treats. She in turn likes to lick their hands and face.
Larry, a mechanic with the tire shop, told me "If Avu ever gets lost, you won't have to put an ad in the paper -- someone will know her and get her right back to you." If he is going to be out when Avu comes by, he always leaves a treat for her with one of the other mechanics.
People often stop us and tell a story about a dog they had which passed away five years ago, or even longer. How they miss the dog, even after a long time.
Since Avu had an early background on a dog team in Barrow, my wife Chris thought she might be interested in pulling her on her bike or cross-country skis. But Avu let her know that she was retiring from that and would gladly go along on the side, but not in front of her.
I know I'd never get up early each morning if I didn't have to take Avu out to her walk, no matter how cold or windy it is. But Avu will come in our bedroom and shake a bit -- no barking, just a shake. Shows she is ready to get out for her walk.
Sometimes I get worried that I'll fall and maybe break a bone on very icy roads and trails. So I tell Avu we have to take it easy -- and she does. She is very smart and considerate -- well, most of the time. If a smaller dog happens to come by, she does make her display. But I chat with the owner and also offer the smaller dog a treat from the bunch in my pocket.
Got to go now. Getting close to the last walk of the day.
Earl Finkler Earl Finkler is a former resident of Barrow and host of the Morning Show on KBRW Barrow -- serving the North Slope. He now lives in Medford, Wis. with his wife Chris and former Barrow husky "Avu."
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