For those who have never read the story of Skunk or those that want to enjoy it again, here’s “A Holiday Tale” retold
SP Kennel’s first sled dog was Skunk. He was given to Aliy many years ago by a trapper who lived on the western coast of Alaska. Skunk was a mature dog with years of trap line experience. All he had known was a somewhat harsh world of eating carcasses from the trap line and fish oil then curling up in the snow.
In those days, Aliy was living in a small village north of the Arctic Circle. Skunk was delivered to her by bush plane the week before Thanksgiving. Since she had not yet built a dog sled, the two would walk the trails around the village getting to know each other and the area.
Skunk would habitually run ahead a ways then come back and check in with Aliy. He did this repeatedly – almost as a game. But then one day something (a rabbit, a moose, a caribou, an eagle, who knows?) grabbed his attention and he reverted back to his previous life. He scampered off into the wild. Aliy called and called. He didn’t come back.
She walked back to the village and put dog food on her porch to entice him home. That night dogs barked throughout the village. Skunk was around but he never came home. A day went by and the elusive dog was still missing. Where could he have gone? The closest town was 45 miles by dog trail!
The next night, only two nights before Thanksgiving, the dogs in the village barked constantly. This usually meant that a bear or wolves were prowling the town. This year, it meant a sled dog! Skunk traveled from cabin to cabin……a surprise holiday visitor.
The next morning, villagers knew that he had stopped at their homes when they couldn’t find their Thanksgiving turkeys. Many people in the Arctic use Mother Nature as an outdoor freezer. They keep their frozen foods on their front porches or in their arctic entries. Apparently, Skunk knew this too.
An “all-points bulletin” was put out on Skunk that day. He had ruined many a Turkey Day dinner. He was even spotted on a village road trotting off with a spiral ham in his mouth. The villagers were very upset. They chased him with a snowmobile, but no one could catch him. In that town, on the day before Thanksgiving, a loose dog was a dead dog.
Aliy borrowed some lynx traps from a trapper in town. She set them up around town and baited them with the half eaten turkey carcasses. That night and early into the morning, she made her hourly rounds to check the traps.
Then, at 3 AM on Thanksgiving Day she walked to the trap behind her house. In the glow of her headlamp Aliy saw two shinning eyes – SKUNK! She walked up to him and saw that his hind foot was in the trap. She looked sternly at him and said, “The town people want you dead, dog. You best not growl at me.” Amazingly, he looked up at Aliy and wagged his tail!
Aliy removed Skunk’s foot from the trap, lead him home that night and tied him up outside her place. The next morning neighbors showed up to report on Skunk’s antics. Even a family who lived several miles south of town came by to tell Aliy that he must have come to their cabin his first night out. All of the bait on their trap line was gone and so was the meat from their front porch.
For many years, Skunk held the record as Aliy’s most expensive dog, simply because of all the turkeys she had to pay for that Thanksgiving.
Skunk leads Aliy’s first dog team.
In the years to come, Skunk was an important part of Aliy’s small sled dog team but an even better companion dog. He spent 8 years after that fateful Thanksgiving as Aliy’s dear friend and constant companion. He even traveled with Aliy to the ‘Lower 48’ on an extensive cross-country trip. He was a perfect driving buddy, riding ‘shotgun’ for 8000 miles in a little red Chevy pick-up.
“SP Kennel” is named for that special dog. It will always be “Skunk’s Place”.