Beauty and The Beast

After a long night of managing Pongo’s restlessness because of fireworks going off around us, I woke up to grey skies and 50 degrees…again.  I was tired and a little bit weather cranky but knew Audra was going to be waiting for us at the Gold Mint Trailhead.  So, I packed up the car and made the venture to Hatcher Pass.  As we drove further North and further from Anchorage, blue skies started to peek in-between the grey.  I started feeling hopeful that we may actually get to hike in some decent weather.  By the time we arrived at the trailhead, the sun was shining and it was absolutely gorgeous!  I can’t believe I even thought about not going…I wouldn’t have missed this hike for anything.


Greta and Phoebe

Audra and the girls


Pongo showing me he really doesn’t like having his picture taken.


My attempt to get a picture with Pongo–he was having none of that.

Dwarf Dogwood

Alaska Spirea

Success!  I got Pongo to sit still for the 10 seconds it took to shoot this photo.


I’m not too sure what jumped out and got Pongo: a rock, a log, an animal he found in the brush?  I didn’t hear him yelp or cry and he wasn’t acting any different until we got home. He was walking a little funny and I thought he was just tired and sore.  But as I was brushing him out, I came across this nasty beast that took 2 staples and a week’s worth of antibiotics to tame.

Our poor boy is now having to wear the donut-of-shame.
And is having a hard time getting comfortable.

I’m sure though he has absolutely no regrets about running, jumping and zipping around having the time of his life.

Savage River

What Steve and I are slowly realizing is that there aren’t many more weekends available to get out and camp.  Summer is quickly flying by and before we know it, our trailer will need to be Winterized and put back into storage (sigh).  Alaska’s camping season is so darn short, and we are trying our best to make the most out of the time we have to enjoy our trailer and explore the great outdoors.

This past weekend Steve and I went camping in Denali National Park at the Savage River Campground, with some friends of ours and their two girls.  We left Friday evening, after Steve got off of work, for the four and a half hour drive up North.  We hit rush hour.  We hit construction.  We drove through a torrential downpour that had the possibilities of hail but thankfully the storm did not release it’s full fury on us.  We were really pushing it as check-in at Riley Creek Mercantile is no later than 11:00 PM.  We pulled in at 10:30 PM to this beautiful scene.

After we checked-in, we had another 13 miles to drive to reach Savage River Campground.  We found the last two spots available, set-up, got the girls to bed, and poured a much needed drink after the stress of driving.  I am always amazed by the differences in light as you travel through Alaska; the farther North you go, the lighter it stays.  This picture was taken around 1:00 AM (with no flash).

It ended up being a late night for all of us, especially Pongo who had spent all day at daycare while Mama prepared the trailer and food for our trip.  He was overly tired and beyond CRAZY!

The next day we explored down by the Savage River.

Here’s Steve photo-bombing Jenn and Matt’s family photo (don’t worry-I got the perfect Christmas card photo for them, minus my goofy husband).

We knew that it might be a little difficult for Pongo when we made reservations, as there are some pretty strict rules pet owners must follow when bringing their pets into the park: dogs are not allowed on any of the trails.  You can walk your pets around the campground loops and along the road.  He adapted though and enjoyed the places he could go.

Walking along the main park road, which was heaven…no other dogs for miles.

Pongo enjoyed using the well more than his bowl.

What we found was most of the A campsites (for RVs and tents between 30-40′) at Savage River were uneven and you had to do some leveling.  Our campsite 32A had some pretty incredible views and had some great sun exposure, when it was shining.

We were excited to see our campground host living in an Airstream.

A sight-seeing plane taking off near the park entrance.

As always, the weekend went by way too fast but it was great to get out with friends who we hadn’t seen for awhile.   We will definitely be visiting Savage River Campground again next year to do some more exploring.


I have a love-hate relationship with Alaska.  I love the beauty and splendor of what surrounds me.  I love the uniqueness that comes with living in Alaska.  I love the small town feel even though we live in the biggest state in the United States.  The people are down-to-earth and no-nonsense.

On the other hand, I hate how isolated we are.  I hate the road system consists of basically 3 main highways: one going South to Homer, one going North toward Fairbanks, and one going Northeast toward Canada.  To get down to the Lower 48, you can always drive the AL-CAN or take the ferry but count on at least a 4-5 day trip.  And, who has that much time when you only have a week or two for vacation?  So, what do I hate the most about living in Alaska?  I hate that the only quick way out of Alaska is to fly and I HATE to fly.

I’m a terrible flyer.  I get anxious and panicky days before we have to fly.  It’s on my mind constantly.  And as the time to fly nears, I get worse: racing heart at just the thought of take-off and landing, sweat pouring from my pores at the thought of the small bumps we always encounter, and let’s not mention the bigger bumps that pilots like to call “minor turbulence” those thoughts bring me to tears.

I know…I have a serious problem.

When I’m lucky enough to have my husband with me as we fly, poor Steve ends up with nail marks in his arm and a mess of a wife.  He reminds me that “flying is safer than driving” but that gives me no solace; give me a car and an open road and I am a much happier camper.  But when I have to fly alone, which I have had to do the past couple of trips, I do my best to hold it together.  I load up on the Cortisol Manager and even order a drink or two to calm my nerves.  I set my watch to my destination’s time so I know exactly how much more time I have to endure surging through the air at 500 miles per hour, 37,000 feet above the sweet ground.

Years ago, I learned a mantra that I teach my elementary school kids when they are feeling anxious or upset.  It’s one that I use myself and will even admit to them that I use it when I am feeling scared and uneasy: like when I am flying.  This mantra runs through my head as we take-off, during each bump we hit, when I feel my heart racing because there’s a strange noise, as panic sets in because I am stuck in this plane, and when we land.  It has gotten me through many-a-flights and will hopefully get me through many-a-more…like the one I am on now…


A Wet & Wild Day

The weather here in Anchorage has been less than desirable for the start of our brief summer: grey and cold.  So last night when I looked at the forecast for today and saw that it called for 59 degrees and sunny, I knew we needed to get out and take advantage.  I cancelled Pongo’s daycare reservation for today, packed up our backpacks and Pongo’s other outdoor essentials and made a plan to head out to Eklutna Lake for a walk by the lake.  When we arrived at the lake today, there was one car in the parking lot and one car unloading their kayak–we basically had the lake to ourselves.

I always thought it was hard to keep Reid out of the water but I have to say, Pongo is right up there with her; he loves the water!  Eklutna Lake is glacially fed, which means it’s darn cold.  It was near impossible to get Pongo to stay on dry land long enough for him to warm up and stop shivering.

Pongo entertaining himself while Mama eats lunch.

And as they say, “A tired Cattle Dog is a good Cattle Dog.”

May 12th Nose Work Trial Photos

One of the rules at a Nose Work trial is that no one besides the Official Photographers are allowed to take pictures.  While disappointed, not a single photo was snapped until we exited Camp Carlquist. We didn’t want to take any chances of tarnishing Pongo’s Nose Work Trial–a few photos were just not worth it.

After much anticipation, trial photos were finally posted.  With permission from the National Association of Canine Scent Work and our two fabulous photographers Mike Lewis and Donna Quante (©2012HuskyProductions/Donna Quante), I am able to post pictures of Pongo’s Nose Work trial experience.

Vehicle Search (0:47.30)

Coming into the vehicle search area.

Pongo got “lost” for a moment and forgot where he was suppose to be searching.

Now we’re on track.

Almost there…it’s in the wheel well about 6 inches up from his nose.

Exterior Search (0:46.63)

I was a little worried here that he was going to alert on possible left-over picnic goodies.

The exterior search area was dauntingly huge with lots of nooks, crannies, and distractions.

Now we’re on the birch scent trail.

Getting closer…

Found it Mom!  This was one of Pongo’s best alerts: looking up at me and sitting. Here he is mid-sit.

It was a tricky hide: birch scent stuffed into a birch log but what a smart boy!

Container Search (0:14.12)

This is one of my favorite photos.

And Pongo’s favorite part of the search: getting the treat!

We unfortunately don’t have any photos from the Interior Search but we do have some random photos.

Waiting to move into the search areas.

The awards ceremony.

Our Nose Work Champion

Literally.  I really should try and be humble right now but I am one proud Mama and don’t care if I gloat just a little.  Pongo was on today.  I was on today.  And we both rocked Alaska’s first official K9 Nose Work trial!  My goals for today were 1) have fun 2) trust my dog and 3) focus on accuracy not speed.  We accomplished all three goals and so much more…

First Place Overall NW1:

PONGO BUCHANAN!!!   2:09.26

NW1 Title:


Exterior Search: 2nd Place (46.63 seconds)

Interior Search: 2nd Place (21.21 seconds) There was a 0.17 second difference between 1st and 2nd place.

Vehicle Search: 47.30 seconds (12th Place)

Container Search: 14.12 seconds (4th Place)  We could have placed 2nd or 3rd but I didn’t realize that Pongo’s nose had crossed the starting line, which is when the timer starts, and I waited a couple seconds before giving him the “Go find it” cue.

Faults= 0!!!  This was my biggest fear and sweet Pongo gave beautiful alerts today. I thought maybe we had faulted in the container search because he smashed the source box a little but no fault was given.

If you’re interested in seeing Overall Results and Element Results for all trial participants, they can be viewed here.

Steve and I are both beaming and so very proud of Pongo!

Bringing Her Home

It’s been seven long months since we’ve last seen her.  I’ve often thought about her…wondering if she was safe and yearning to have her back in our company because that signals Summer is finally approaching.

Each year, the Alaska State Fairgrounds in Palmer has a Winter Storage Program for campers, RVs, trailers, boats, etc.  It truly is a bargain to store your recreational vehicle at the State Fairgrounds.  The going rate for covered storage here in Anchorage is about $150/month, which is outrageous!  We paid $400 for seven months!  While the buildings are not heated, they do provide cover from the elements and that was most important to us.  I can’t even imagine what it would have been like trying to store the Airstream in our tiny driveway, with the record amounts of snow we had. It would have been a nightmare to say the least!  So, we were very thankful when we received a call from the State Fairgrounds letting us know we had a space reserved, in the Farm Exhibit building, for the Airstream this Winter.

Dropping Off The Airstream In October

(Steve’s incredible parking job)

Friday was the day for us to head out to Palmer to pick up the Airstream.  But before we could bring her home, the driveway and yard needed a good Spring cleaning.  I spent 2 1/2 hours shoveling, sweeping, raking, and bagging old Winter debris.  Reid enjoyed being outside in the sunshine and playing with her ball, while I worked.

And, here’s the Airstream waiting for her ride home.  She was rather dirty but looked like she had fared the Winter well.

(Pongo got to come along for the ride.  Although it doesn’t look like it here, he was a happy boy!)

Crazy, Long Night

I was so excited to get all that snow off of our roof that I never really thought about the repercussions of removing all that insulation from the ice and puddles of water.   As the water and partially melted ice refroze last night, it expanded creating these heart-stopping, jolt-you-awake sonic booms that shook the house and us to the core.  Needless to say, neither Pongo nor myself got much sleep last night as it wasn’t just once this happened but 5 or 6 times over the course of the night.  Pongo was the lucky one who could get in a catnap before heading to daycare this morning.

Weight Lifted

We’ve known for a couple of years the roof on our house needs to be replaced.  We kept hoping we could make it one more Winter before having to spend mega bucks on a new roof.  We knew this Fall we were taking a risk not getting it done but before we knew it, Winter was here.  And, oh boy what a Winter we are having!  Anchorage is just 3.3 inches shy of breaking the 60 year old snowfall record of 132.6 inches. Here’s a picture just to give you an idea of how much snow we’ve had (this picture was taken on January 14th and we’ve had a lot more snow since then!).

While breaking a record seems pretty cool, it means massive amounts of problems for Anchorage residents.  We’ve had numerous roofs cave in, ice dams, roofs leaking, and the list goes on.  On Monday, I lined up someone to come out and shovel the roof and hopefully, prevent any problems.  We only had 3 days to keep the status quo.  I really thought we were going to be able to sneak by without any problems this year but low and behold, on Tuesday I came home to a huge puddle of water in the gym.  I don’t know why these things always seem to happen when Steve is out of town?!?  I promised him I wouldn’t get on the roof, so it was a matter of trying to find someone to come out and look at the roof at 7:00 PM.  Thankfully, the contractor who built our fence was able to come out and work on the roof.  We had a huge ice dam and water was seeping in under the flashing of the skylight.  He was able to stop the leaking and created a large trough in the ice dam to allow the melting, puddling water to drain.

Today a girlfriend’s husband, who has a small handyman business came and shoveled thousands of pounds of snow off of our roof.  It took him a back-breaking 7 1/2 hours to shovel our entire roof.  The aftermath of his work is astounding!

View out of the kitchen and front room windows

Poor Pongo can’t even keep watch for “intruder” dogs on the street anymore!

Shortly after Nick got done shoveling, the doorbell rang.  I answered the door to two pre-teen boys begging me to let them build a fort in the “huge snow pile” in front of our house.  I had to be the grouchy neighbor lady and say “no” in fear the fort would collapse on them from the weight of the snow, and we would be held liable.  Sorry boys.

Now, I just hope all this snow melts in a neat and orderly manner…

Back In The Game

After a holiday hiatus, we are back into our Nose Work classes.  Pongo has sniffed his way to Advanced Nose Work and is preparing for a trial in May.  Our instructor Liz, at Alaska Dog Sports made today’s class especially challenging for the dogs.  Instead of using the usual small, metal tins to hide the scents, she put the scented q-tips into empty pens.  That means the scent could only travel through the very small opening at the end of the pen.

I love watching Pongo take on a challenge but felt for him today when he struggled a bit to find the hides.

We also had a chance to practice box drills.  Pongo is working really hard on alerting with a sit instead of becoming the Smash-O-Nator and destroying the hide or the box.  All of these small details matter in a trial.  He can find the hide no problem but if he disturbs the hide area, it’s a fault.  So, practice, practice, practice!