My daughter seemed to see everything in her world through a lens of dog culture, much of it learned from her daily and personal interactions with Metoo. Cole’s hair flows to past her knees, and when she French braided it, Lynx would say “Mommy has her tail on.” When I used the chainsaw, she would tell me it “barks loud.” Being raised in the woods, when we made shopping forays in town, she described the speeding cars as “running by too fast.” And, for months Lynx called her hands her hands, but referred to her lower extremities as her “hind feet.”
With mixed emotions, we even realized Metoo had taught Lynx how to howl, as all the dogs do after mealtime and at dusk. Together they would sit on the couch, their noses pointed to the ceiling, crooning at the top of their lunges, and each loving every minute of the shared song. Lynx learned the language of the pack—her pack, the one she was born into—and she learned it long before she acquired the language of her own kind.
(From Life with Forty Dogs by Joseph Robertia)
The driving force of sharing these stories is also to give readers a glimpse of what it’s like to truly live a half-feral Alaskan lifestyle as we have and still do, so they can vicariously experience and comprehend the magnitude of responsibility, and all the joy, pain, and myriad other emotions that come from the fabric of a life threaded through and through by the fur of forty dogs.
We don’t own our dogs; they are a part of us, our lives inextricably intertwined. For those who spend more time around people than animals, this is a tough concept to comprehend. Looking at a yard full of high-strung huskies, most outsiders to our world don’t see the individuals, distinctly dissimilar from each other. To most folks, they’re merely different sized and colored canines. They don’t see what we see. They don’t understand the unique personalities or our shared histories with each one. But this is a chance to see it all.
“I could not put [Life with Forty Dogs] down and finished it in less than a day, even with going into work! As someone who rescues huskies in the lower 48 (California, to be exact), the topic of sled dogs is near and dear to my heart. Thank you for thoughtful stories—some of which were laugh-out-loud funny, others brought tears to my eyes. A great read for anyone who loves dogs, especially rescue dogs.”—Jane Cordingley, www.NorSled.org
Joseph Robertia is a UAA graduate who has been writing professionally for the past 16 years, in which time he has won several Alaska Press Club awards including: Best Outdoor Column, Best Outdoor Story, and Best Use of Story and Photos by a Journalist. He has also twice won the American Association of Zookeepers Excellence in Journalism award. He is a regular contributor to Alaska Dispatch News—the state’s largest newspaper. His first book, Life with Forty Dogs, published by Alaska Northwest Books, launched this April. It is available in hardcover and paperback from several book sellers including Amazon.
Watch for upcoming book events at Kenai National Wildlife Refuge on July 15, 2017, Kenai Visitors and Cultural Center on July 22, 2017, the Soldotna Market every Wednesday in July 2017, and various easy coast events this August.