Adventures of an Arctic Chihuahua

Living Small at the Far Edge

Archive for Jennifer

On the Kodiak


Mill Bay Beach

Mill Bay Beach, Kodiak, Alaska – December 28, 2008


Now that The Arctic Chihuahua and I are safely ensconced upon the rock that is Kodiak Island, we have a bit more opportunity to catch up with some of the projects each of us has set out before us.  Gidget has a small stuffed mole still needing to be fully consumed, and I have a few pet projects myself.  

1)  Learn the camera

2) Learn the camera

3) Learn the camera

After those three projects have been completed, I hope to get back on track with the expressive therapeutic modalities work.  

You might check out some of the early photos of “Arctic Chihuahua Photography” as well as the earliest of the Poetry and Poetry Therapy posts.

If anyone can help with learning the camera, I’d sure love to hear from you!

Cheerios and always,

Jennifer and Gidget the small (and large hearted) Arctic Chihuahua : D


A Clean Feather Bed…

Cleanliness is next empty wallet?

Thirteen dollars! And how much clean water?

Sunday morning and it was drizzling outside.  This Fall weather was a lovely day to stay indoors to catch up on my happy domestic life.  I made a list of chores and a list of supplies on hand, running  the logistics in my head. Alas, as is often the case, the lists did not quite match. A walk to one of the local grocery stores (a choice between the Alaska Commercial Company or “AC Store” and Rotman’s) appeared to be in order.  I chose to walk to the AC Store because it is close, is on my walking route to and from work each day, and I tend toward the familiar.

This living small on the far edge may seem an unfamiliar adventure in many ways, yet in a few ways very routine.  Culture is not limited entirely to the expressive arts, language or spirituality.  Culture extends into the small acts and daily tasks belonging to each of us; it permeates everything we do.  Culture  for example includes expectations about laundry, it’s associated rituals and comforts. For me, there is something soothing about clean whites and in my culture (having been raised on 1950’s and 1060’s American television commercials),  a pile of still-warm terri bath towels with that slight eau d’bleach scent is next to…

“Oh!  Thirteen dollars a gallon!”

Let me repeat that:  “$13 dolllars a gallon!”

Ouch! I double checked the price, and remembering that $13 dollars was a small price to pay for Nirvana, I brought a bottle to the cashier. Only $13 for the pleasure of a hot bath with candles, a clean white towel, a clean white robe…and later, a set of crisp, clean sheets!  That is the culture passed along to me by my grandmother and her grandmother and her grandmother before her… clean laundry.

Days like today are lovely and simple within in all of that complexity of daily human ritual or chore.  Tonight I will slip into bed, raise my arm up to create a small cave for Gidget, and as soon as she curls close to my belly, small and warm, we will nestle into our feather bed. Cradled into piles of lavender, sea green and white slipped pillows Gidget will smile as she sleeps, her little three pounds of snore almost inaudible, yet comforting. Life is good!   I am very fortunate to share this luxury with such a devoted, loyal and hedonistic beast. It is almost something I take for granted, clean laundry… this abundance of water, potable and plentiful.


There are areas on this planet where mothers die from contaminated, untreated water, and where the hard bare ground might be all for their children’s beds.   For those of you who can effect change, please do.  And for everyone else, whatever your circumstances, where ever you may be, whatever your pleasures or hardships in cleaning or maintaining life, may your need for clean water and abundance of it always match up.  In your dreams, if not in reality, where ever and however you rest your head, may you and your children, from time to time sleep in a clean, soft feather bed.

Good night.

Jennifer and The Arctic Chihuahua


Flow the Film

Charity Organizations

Water Conservation Tips

Seals, Herring, and the Last Stones of Summer

The Last Stones of SummerThe Last Stones of Summer                                      

Gidget and I, as is sometimes the case, take a jaunt down to the shore to meander among the pebbles and driftwood. We step gingerly over the occasional jellyfish washed to shore and I collect interesting stones. 

This morning as we approached the water, I could see the surface was already smooth and mirror like.  The Kotzebue Sound becomes very still just before a freeze.  This morning it is not at all about to freeze. Though just a few short days ago the biting air told us it was trying or wanting to snow, today it is almost barefoot weather, with slight breeze to the skin. These are indeed the last days of summer.

Soaking it in, my sleeves rolled up on this no-jacket-kinda-morning, Gidget and I listened as the water lapped quietly. Herring jumped and flowed with the current, slapping and flashing a fin or two. At times, a cluster of herring hit the surface frenetically and as a group splashed and shimmered like a silvery puddle in heavy rain.

Further off, a seal or two, or five or six could be spotted, their dark conical heads riding smoothly just above the waters surface. The seals are beginning to migrate south for the winter. Some signal up north, the chill or the movement of the fish, whispers to the seals…”it’s time to be heading off.”

And so it is…

Later gators,
Cheerios and Love Life!
Jennifer and the Arctic Chihuahua

Hurricane Katrina: Never Again!

Safe and Sound

May You Stay Safe and Sound

As Hurricane Gustav prepares to set foot on United States soil this week, I am painfully reminded (as are we all) of the devastation and heartbreak left behind by Hurricane Katrina only three years ago.  In the early days following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita (Katrita), my work on the ground was focused on helping those of the human species whose lives were spared but devastated.

Humans were not the only beings to suffer tragic and enormous loss however. Many pets were left behind in what were considered safe places, their families expecting to be able to return within a day or two.  Other animals were simply left behind with the hope they could fend better for themselves if released.  As time progressed however, areas behind the National Guard lines remained uninhabitable to man or beast.  Not only were there floodwaters and the dangers of unstable debris, but also there were hip deep and throat burning toxic muds.  With no clean water, no food, burning chemicals, and serious injuries, these beloved family pets slowly began to die.  No one came home, and still, they waited faithfully and loyally to the end.

I felt so devastated by the animal tragedies all around me that I found myself avoiding calls home to my own dear pet and devoted friend Gidget.  I felt it necessary to avoid thoughts and feelings about animals and pets.

I cannot begin to tell you the heartbreaking encounters, the pleading eyes from beloved animals too far behind the poisonous lake of muck, and so close to death, I dared not whisper.  I cannot begin to tell you about the evidence of violent, not always immediate death by storm.  I cannot begin to tell you how gentle and good your animals were during their last moments of life, how hungry they were for food, water, pain relief, love and reassurance. I can only hope that your pet was among one of the many who WERE rescued and is now home safely with you or perhaps lives with a family elsewhere, happy, healthy and well fed.

Our pets do become family; they rely upon us for their safety and well-being.  We remove them from their own species and habitats where we become their entire worlds.  Gidget tells me about the relationship between man and beast each time she greets me with maddening tail wagging or bows to invite me to play.  Our pets deserve all of the safety we can provide them.  

FACT: Over 60% of American households include a family pet.

Never again!  Let’s prevent the animal tragedies of Hurricane Katrina from ever occurring again.  Wherever you live with your pet, consider developing a pet disaster response and evacuation plan.

FACT:  Of humans who are safely evacuated, return prematurely to a devastated area and die as a result, the majority went back in to rescue a family pet.  

Let’s take them with us! Several organizations have excellent suggestions for disaster planning, pet evacuation, pet safety and ways to stay connected to your pet if you do become separated.  No matter where you live, evacuation for some sort of disaster… hurricane, flood, tsunami, fire, toxic spill… may become necessary.  Plan ahead.  Learn pet first aid.  Practice evacuation whenever you bring your pet to the veterinarian.  

During times of national disaster, you can help by volunteering or donating to a reputable and effective response effort.  At any time, disaster or not, consider becoming a volunteer and donating to your local animal rescue efforts.  

The Arctic Chihuahua and I selected some pet safety links posted here for you. Perhaps you will find them useful:

American Veterinary Medical Association – Disaster Related Pages

Humane Society of the United States – Disaster Center, Animal Response Team, Volunteer

Humane Society Disaster Relief Fund – Help by Donating!

American Red Cross – Animal Safety and Pet Disaster Planning

American Kennel Club – Microchip – Stay Connected for Life

American Society for the Prevention of Cruely to Animals – Disaster Preparedness


The above links are for starters. If you find another powerful animal disaster safety website, please leave a comment. It’s urgent!

Be safe!

Gidget and Jennifer “>

Learning to Knit

 Nut and Berry Colored Wool… 

The Chihuahua  and I are learning to knit.  Real wool, real needles!

Earlier this year I purchased  four skeins of a  roughly spun, richly dyed wool, a pair of wooden needles, and the book “Stitch and Bitch”  (I kid you not!). Perfect for the Arctic Chihuahua!

What was I thinking you might wonder…I’d been thinking that in work meetings, I’d wasted a lot of indelible black ink on doodling, tattooing my arms as they leaned into the doodles, and upon my shirts. It was time to switch to another media. 

It took me a while, as new ventures often do.  Sometime about two weeks ago, I finally plucked the knitting lot up and took it to work. You know, like ‘Take Your Daughter To Work Day?”  I was looking forward to this new turn of events. Come to find out knitting is more like bringing a chaotic teenager to high tea. 

More than one of my esteemed colleagues watched incredulously as I manipulated my new and unlikely appendages for the first time.  Fingers, wool, needles, all entangled like so much kudzu on a chain link fence.

“That doesn’t look like any knitting I’ve ever seen!,”  my boss told me.  My colleagues agreed and also laughed.

Stubbornly, I struggled trying my best to recall the instructions which, naturally, I’d left at home.  Undaunted, I kept at it, working up to a decent clip, so I thought. Chortles continued to fill every lull in an otherwise dull meeting.  Laugh away! My knitting clicked.   Yarn the color of nuts and berries spilled out along my arms, in a spongy carpet.  Needles waved like Elm twigs from the ulna and the radius…you remember Edward Scissorhands?  Same concept, lighter souls.

That was about two weeks ago.  Today, I carried the project into a five day training.  Confidently I pulled out my wool, possibly a new dog blanket for Gidget, and resumed the soft clicking of wooden needles. My Inupiaq colleagues however were born with knitting needles in hand (which come to think of it must have been traumatic for their mothers)! Before you know it, whispers began drifting from each corner of the room.  Everything seemed to be quite in order, no class clowns here.  I looked around again. 

“Don’t tell her, she’ll probably cry,” came a tease meant for me to hear.


“OK” I said with a feeble smile and clear voice, feeling dismayed inside all the while.  “Teach me!.”  Now there is a win-win dare if ever there was one!  They’d been laughing at me.

From a corner formerly filled with giggling,  a colleague emboldened, approached to take the project into her own capable hands. She made a couple of swift twists, needles, wool and all.  Patiently once more for me to see, then she simply returned to her seat.

Tonight, it is raining out.  As vehicles pass the open window, I hear a familiar splash of wheels moving along down the road.  The sound vanishes.  My work for the day is done. In this moment of contemplation just before bedtime, I review the day and all that filled it.  It is a miracle indeed. Today, in embarrassment’s earliest moments, with nothing more than a pair of wooden sticks, bare and clumsy fingers, a bit of colorful wool, we stepped forward to dare, to weave and to teach. In some small way, with these seemingly inconsequential twists of fate and wool, the gift of the ewe and the gift of each other, we put one more stitch into the most luscious blanket ever gifted to dog or to dreams…

Here’s to knitters everywhere, alert or sleeping soundly.

With Love,

Jennifer and Gidget, The Arctic Chihuahua

Let’s Get Real! Dating Online

ET Call Home! Can you hear me now?

I get emails on a regular basis from friends and family  who have partners, who are in the dating scene, or who  attend events with friends.  Living “outside” of the Arctic  gives a certain convenient proximity to any number of  potential mates.  Somedays (usually before I’ve had my  first cup of coffee) this chatter about proximity gets me  to longing for my own someone special. You know the  one.  The one who loves you when you wake up in the  morning, hair all akimbo, teeth unbrushed.  The one who  loves you even in your srubbiest but most comfortable  jammies, loves you even as you fumble to let the dog  out. For me today, that special someone is Gidget, The Arctic Chihuahua herself.  She doesn’t care what my hair looks like on any particular day, and she certainly doesn’t brush her OWN teeth before coffee.  She doesn’t want to date me either.  

One of the advantages of online dating, is that you can be far away from the person you are getting to know.  In my case, this would be VERY far away.  This is an advantage over proximity.  Online I can give the very false impression I am at all moments a hot and desirable woman.  

Let’s get real! I  live in the Arctic where nothing is hot.  But I’m ready just in case. I already have on the scrubby and comfortable jammies and haven’t brushed my teeth yet. I’m just waiting for that special someone to happen along with our breakfast. 

This morning, I got to thinking, which can be a dangerous thing in and of itself (remember this is before coffee),  I conspired to send myself, sans fireworks and certainly sans the dog, into the universe to see what The Chihuahua drags in.  Hopefully it won’t be a kibble she’s been hiding all winter.


Let’s try something different…no disappointments!    I’ll tell you the worst and over time you decide what you think is the best.

I live very far away from you. I am self-absorbed, initially timid and shy, chatty, anxious and nervous. Intense, serious, somber. Cold, untender, impulsive, reckless, clingy, cloying and saccharin. Slow intellectually and verbally, passive dependent and passive aggressive, depressive.

I do not like Hawaiian slide guitar, country songs in minor keys, screaming heavy metal or “It’s heaven to be dead” religious songs. I do not like disco, aerobics or jazzercise. I do not like to run unless it’s up the stairs for fun or exercise. I am afraid of being hit in the face with a baseball and enjoy watching the game. I do not play tennis, racketball or regular golf. I’ve seen more Stanley Cup Finals on TV than I’ve seen Sex and the City episodes. I like regular pedicures.

I do not like pulp romantic novels or seek out the funny papers. I like “Pulp Fiction,” “My Life as a Dog”,“George and Gracie(also on radio)“Crusader Rabbit”  and the Weather Channel Storm Watch but have never seen “Jaws” or “The Exorcist.”  I use work to procrastinate life and I use life to procrastinate work. I am a lousy masseuse. I’d rather have a snake for a pet then ride a horse. I kill houseplants.

Please don’t laugh too often at my DVDs of 1920’s Russian film comedies. I cry every time I read Tillie Olson’s “I Stand Here Ironing.” 

I am technically obese but choose “a few extra pounds” because everyone else does and I could lose the weight ” anytime I want to.” I have bad skin, jowls and a turkey neck. I have many crows’ feet wrinkles. I squint. I hate to wear my glasses, abuse them dreadfully when I can find them. I have a straight, thin mouth and poor teeth. I highlight books. I am furry all over including my face. I can sleep hours in a bathtub full of water. I am frumpy. I still have a Christmas wreath on my wall because I like it.

I can sleep with the light on. I would rather take a walk at -50F then do the dishes every day, rather fold laundry than pay bills, rather do heavy work in the garden then cook, rather cook than fix my hair up. Maybe I have that last one backwards.

I am allergic to mangos, don’t eat peanut butter. 

My family is more functional than most. I might be in denial about that. I’ve been told I’m extremely patient though sometimes steam comes out my ears and I can’t speak. I can’t tell a joke. Sarcasm confuses me. I’d rather follow then lead…until I’d rather lead then follow. I snore. I steal blankets and pens.

I don’t listen. I get jealous easily until I remember I am wonderful but not yet queen of the universe.

My speech is slow and tangles up. My 3# Chihuahua does not “speak” at all, she begs for human food and sits on command… when she wants to. She’s ill mannered and expected to live for a very long time. 

I’m stubborn, my mother calls it persevering. My mother loves me, bless her heart. I need clothes hampers within easy tossing distance of where ever I am when I take a shower. I am too generous and stingy. I drive too slowly forwards and too fastly backwards. Same with reciting the alphabet. I cannot add more than four digits in my head.

I don’t always do what I say I will and don’t talk about my plans.  I’ve been known to fart on occasion. I get sick about once a year and my nose runs…a lot…or worse. 

I was born, small, naked with very red, dry skin. 

Any questions? Your turn…

March, 2009

March, 2009



Andromeda Strains

.One down, six more to go. The first 24 hours of this crisis on-call rotation have been emotionally challenging..

In any small community, residents are related to one another in more ways than one; for example, your mother-in-law might also be your child’s teacher.

In the Northwest Arctic, family is extraordinarily important so extended family members are considered part of the immediate family.  In conversation, there are few, if any, referrals to degree of separation (i.e. second cousin). Everyone is either a brother, sister, auntie, uncle, grandmother, grandfather, brother-in-law, sister-in-law, child, grandchild or cousin. Adoption is culturally embraced; frequently the first born child is adopted to a grandparent or other relative. Large families are the norm. 

 “Everyone is related to everyone else” I have heard it said.

Historic and generational traumas (epidemics, religious oppression, cultural decimation, boarding school practices, language suppression) compound the modern societal or individual hardships and traumas (unemployment, poverty, doubled-up homelessness, alcoholism, drug addiction, mental illness, suicide, assault, domestic violence, sexual assault, bullying, child abuse, accidental death). In such a small and tightly woven community, the smallest ripple of these tragedies is capable of triggering great tidal waves of grief upon the region’s people. Inupiaq in the Northwest Arctic, Alaska have one of the highest youth suicide rates in the world.

The Inupiaq subsistence way of life is challenged, global warming is evident in local changes, the soaring cost of fuel oil and gasoline prices ($8+/gal) impact the ability to reach elusive food sources, to provide for one’s family or to stay warm in temperatures easily to -50F. Many of the young, strong and healthy, those who have no elders to care for, leave the area for work or college and never come back.

Increasingly influenced by a global cash economy, the region’s commercial centers are growing into more densely populated and urban-like centers. Expansions of adequate housing, employment opportunities, educational or health facilities are limited by proximate land, human resources, materials, extreme weather conditions, a permafrost foundation and the fact that we are ‘off of the road system’.

“It ain’t easy living here.”

This region is full of strength and potential as well.  Consider, after all, that a people and culture surviving for over 30,000 years isolated in one of the planet’s harshest climates, must embody several extraordinary and impressive resiliencies! These strengths however, are not the qualities brought to my attention during a rotation of crisis intervention.

“It ain’t easy working here.”

After a long day, and what seems to be an even longer week ahead, it was comforting to come home tonight to find a  familiar friend online. She provided a running synopsis of a fictional world crisis, I provided the cathartic, if not essential, heckling. We ‘watched’ the new release of Michael Crichton’s “Andromeda Strain.”  I didn’t actually ‘see’ the movie, but I had seen the original version back in the 60’s or 70’s and could follow today’s storyline fairly well. Neatly settled onto her recliner in the ‘Lower 48’, my my dear friend watched the 4 part mini-series while I read her instant messaging from a laptop in the Arctic. During the commercials, we chatted.  Solar bird baths were mentioned. Gidget napped at my feet. Her dog no doubt napped in her lap or someplace nearby.

These are the moments I speak of when referring to “Living Small,” the shared or individual moments that comprise our day-to-day lives, spending time with a friend for example. These moments are easily overlooked and whether modern or traditional, near or far, in the final analysis, they are the stuff of life as we know it. 

Once again, I had better slip off to catch some sleep while I can….more blogging another day.

“Keep Coming Back” as they say in some rooms…or drop us a line. 

Be thinking of you,

Jennifer and Gidget