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Winter is Coming to PPH Alaska!

 In Facility Dogs, PPH Alaska
Service dog-in-training, Ralph, tries on his booties in preparation for a long, cold winter in Interior Alaska.
Service dog-in-training, Ralph, tries on his booties in preparation for a long, cold winter in Interior Alaska.

Wintertime in Interior Alaska comes in hard and fast and can last for 6-7 months, bringing with it a variety of new sensory experiences for a service pup-in-training. Along with the encroaching darkness come shadows, flashlights, and headlamps, a constant theme on morning and evening walks. As the seasons change from summer to winter and cold sets in, the very brief autumn is rainy and dark, especially before the snow falls. During a camping trip on the Denali Highway last month, Paws for Purple Hearts service dog-in-training, Ralph, encountered his first frozen puddle. At first, he didn’t know what to make of it. Whenever he put his paw on the surface, it unexpectedly slipped, so he backed up and wagged his tail, shook off, and went in for another try. It wasn’t until a more experienced dog ran across the frozen puddle to fetch the ball that Ralph began to skirt the edges of the puddle. Within 5 minutes, Ralph had assisted the other dogs in cracking the surface of the puddle, landing all three dogs in the silty, freezing water.

Juneau, service dog-in-training, traveled from Project 2 Heal in North Carolina to Fairbanks, Alaska as a young pup.

“Winterization” of the dogs not only involves desensitizing the dogs to wearing booties and dog coats, but also to the regular application of paw pad salve to protect their feet once the snow falls. As the snow accumulates, skiers, snowmachiners, sled dog teams, and people on fatbikes are everywhere. Paws for Purple Hearts volunteers and Canine Assisted Warrior Therapy participants are encouraged to bring in their winter gear and equipment during our weekly Open House to help the dogs build positive associations with snowboards, skis and poles, winter hats, and big puffy coats. Watching the pups in snow for the first time is always a treat, usually starting with the doggie high-step, then evolving into enthusiastic jumping and frolicking through the snow. Interior Alaska’s snow is generally very dry and powdery, which results in a layer of snow lightly accumulating atop the dog’s fur. Chuck-it balls often get lost in the deep snow, but the glow-in-the-dark balls glow through the snow, so it’s easier to find them after dark. Snowballs are a fun way to keep the dogs thinking; every time they catch or fetch a snowball, it falls apart in their mouth. Support Paws for Purple Hearts Fairbanks, Alaska site as we delve into the long winter by visiting our Amazon Wishlist and support PPH Nationwide by choosing Paws for Purple Hearts as your nonprofit organization with AmazonSmile.

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