The Puppy Avengers!
I've had so many questions about the puppies we saved from Wales, Alaska. I'm happy to say they've all been adopted into wonderful homes. Here's the backstory that brought them to this point...
It was only a short walk-- maybe half a mile-- from Ol' Man's house to the teacher housing, but the jagged winds pushed against us, biting at any exposed skin. Soft whimpers came from inside our coats, where we each had two puppies zipped in tightly. Kristy, Bethany, and I made slow time trudging through the snow drifts that had already changed since our trek to Ol' Man's. One-hundred miles from the Arctic Circle isn't a very hospitable climate for raising puppies.
Ol' Man's home smelled of bleach and puppy poop. Days earlier he'd told us sadly that he couldn't keep all the puppies. He'd found homes for three, but that left six-- if you didn't count the ones who'd already died.
Ol' Man confided he didn't like having to kill puppies, but that's what he'd have to do in the next few weeks. Already there wasn't enough food for them; his granddaughter was feeding them the last of the marshmallows they'd been living on. Ol' Man rubbed his chin. He looked tired. "I guess one good thing is they have really good fur. At least I can use that."
Bethany asked him if he would like us to take the extra puppies off his hands. His eyes brightened a little and he asked if he thought it would be possible. She said a friend in Anchorage could probably send out a kennel and we could find them homes in town. His granddaughter pointed out I'd just stepped in pee, while Bethany and Ol' Man work out the logistics.
Aubrey sent a kennel and some puppy food. After two days of full flights and a little confusion from the bush airlines, the solo kennel arrived. The puppies would leave for Nome and then Anchorage the following morning.
The puppies scarfed down a meal of puppy food mixed with rice. Then, a knock at the door interrupted their nap. Three little snow-suited figures-- Ol' Man's grandkids-- say they've decided they want to keep Tank. The largest, most huskie-like dog headed back out into the snow and we couldn't help but feel a little sad. "Well, at least he got a good meal," someone said.
The next morning, Roy arrived with the school's snow machine and sled. The plane was going to be landing any minute. I put some extra blankets in with the puppies and said my goodbyes. Their whimpers were whipped away with the start of the snow machine.
From then on, Aubrey kept us up to date on the puppies' progress. They had an adventurous night in Nome when they missed their flight to Anchorage. One of the station agents was kind enough to take the kennel of unaccompanied-minors home for the night, and put them on the plane the next day.
The five pups stayed with a foster-mom in Butte until they would be old enough for adoption. Aubrey sent us a picture of one of the pups' shenanigans: they helped their foster-mom's grandson ask his date to prom by wearing little tags on their collars that said "prom?" (Who could say no to that?!)
And now the end of the Wales puppy saga has come.
Aubrey calls me and says all the pups have found wonderful homes following a weekend adoption clinic. She tells me she will deliver them to their new homes the next day. I'm excited to see the puppies again thousands of miles from where we started, and to meet the woman who made it all possible.
Aubrey meets me in the backyard, flanked by a crew of puppies. They've grown so much in the last three weeks, and have put on some much-needed weight. They look healthy and so happy.
Aubrey tells me she is no stranger to saving rural puppies. Last fall, her job brought her to Wales, where a young dog had been abandoned. Like many villages with animal control problems and no access to veterinary services, there's a bounty on loose dogs' heads. On Aubrey's last day in the village, she was just about to get on the plane-- dog in tow-- when she learned the owner had just come back from Nome. She offered to pay him for his dog. Five dollars later, Aubrey and her new puppy were on the plane for Anchorage.
Seeing these little guys so lively and thriving, it's hard to imagine an alternative for them. They will never know how easily their lives could have been so different-- and probably short-- or how lucky they really are.
I can't fault people in the villages for not being able to fix their dogs-- which is something people can't really understand until they've been there-- but it's truly amazing and wonderful the lengths people will go to ensure these animals have a fighting chance. The people in the villages working towards solutions, the rural airlines and cargo companies that provide FREE airfare for kennels to/from Anchorage, the airline employees who keep them safe on their solo travels, the shelters and foster network in Anchorage working with these young and often malnourished animals, and all of those who adopted these dogs and will give them loving homes. (Two of the puppies will even get to stay together, being adopted by two sisters!)
It's been an amazing experience working with all of these people and these little animals. I'm happy to be apart of the amazing story for these five puppies from the northwestern-most point of mainland Alaska.