So cute we can't stand it!

In honor of the 1000-mile Yukon Quest dog mushing race, which began this weekend, we offer Hopper!

Resistance is futile! All photos: Chris Bochicchio

We recently spoke with Miriam Jones (University of Alaska, Fairbanks) about her summer, 2010, work in western and southern Alaska. The subplot to our recent story on Jones' field work involves the cute little guy pictured above. We asked Lehigh University graduate student, Chris Bochicchio, for more information.

What were you doing when you first saw the pup?

Our group consisted of Miriam Jones (post-doc, UAF), Eric Klein (PhD student, Lehigh University), Malia Klein (elementary school teacher, Anchorage), Adrienne Oakley (professor, Kutztown University), and myself (PhD student, Lehigh University). We were working in a remote part of the Seward Peninsula, camping at the fish camp of an Alaskan native hunting and fishing guide named Tom, who was ferrying us up and down the river.

There where a number of dogs at the camp, owned by Tom's family.  One of them was a five week old puppy (about 6 lbs.), this was Hopper.  He ran out from under the cabin while we were setting up camp and immediately started tugging at our boots.  We saw him almost every day we were there.


Was it love at first sight?

We were all pretty taken with him as soon as he came running out.  My wife, Adrienne, thought he was the cutest thing she'd ever seen. She asked Tom's wife where Hopper had come from and found out he belonged to a teenage boy, a friend of the family, who was visiting from the village of White Mountain further up the river.  Hopper was part of a litter from a pair of Siberian (mother) and Mackenzie River Huskies.  Tom's wife was worried that the boy couldn't afford to take care of a dog.

Chris, Adrienne, and Hopper in Alaska.

On our last field day Adrienne and Malia packed up most of our gear and went back to Nome to resupply; while Eric, Miriam and myself went out for a half day of field work.  We planned to stop by the fish camp for 10 minutes on the way back to grab the last of the gear before meeting up in Council. As I was about to leave on the boat the kid walked up with Hopper in his hand and said that he thought he'd have a better life with us in Pennsylvania and we could have him if we wanted him. I knew Adrienne wanted him, she'd been talking hypothetically about how we'd actually get a puppy home. I think she had hinted that she'd be willing to take another one from the litter if it could be arranged.  I thought about it for a few seconds and then decided it was time to get a dog, so I took him, said thank you and climbed on the boat with him under my coat. He slept most of the way back to Council.

We beat Adrienne back to Council so I waited outside our new cabin with Hopper in hand. She couldn't believe it when she realized it was the same puppy. She was very happy.

How did he help with your coring efforts and group morale?

I won't say he helped with coring in a traditional sense..., but he definitely provided some antics out in the tundra. The noise of our work didn't seem to bother him at all. This was probably because he grew up around generators and water pumps in a place where river boats are the only form of summer transportation.

Taking a break during a busy day in the field.

They gave us one can of dog food to tide him over till Nome and the owners of the next cabin were nice enough to soften their dog's food for him. Otherwise he spent a lot of time chasing bugs and eating blue berries.

Did he sleep in your tent?

Yes, he lived in a Corona box, but rarely stayed in it after dark. A tent is not the greatest place to start training an energetic puppy.

We all want to kiss that nose!

What did the vet back home have to say?

She said he looked healthy and wrote "He's a cutie!" on his forms. She also said most of the village dogs had parasites, so we started him on meds.

Dinner time in Pennsylvania!

How does he enjoy life in Pennsylvania?

He loves chasing leaves, hiking, playing in snow, and chasing the laser pointer. I take him running in the morning and he's in Adrienne's office at Kutztown Univ. during the day. All the students know him and like to take him for walks around campus during lunch. I'm training him to pull me on a skate board so he can get some of his huskiness out.

Nice gams!

You named him Hopper - what is the story behind his name?

Hopper is the name of a wolf in a book I was reading at the time. It seemed to fit because he had to hop around in the tundra is get anywhere.

Handsome Hopper