Love lost


Have you seen Dusty?/ Jack Forshee photo


Dusty has been gone a week now and with every passing day Jack Forshee worries more.

In his worst moments, the 62-year-old man fears that one of his new neighbors in Bear Valley above Anchorage might have killed the 12-year-old Labradoodle. In his best moments, he rejoices at how neighbors old and new rallied to help him look for Dusty after he posted on the social media website Nextdoor.

“I’m just really humbled by all the response to this dog,” Forshee said Thursday. “People are caring.”

Forshee’s sad tale of a beloved, missing dog is more than that. It is a story about the world Americans live in today, a world in which we often barely know our next door neighbors and yet have friends all over hell and gone. Link this story on Facebook, and you’re likely to have people around the world reading it.

But quite possibly not the woman next door or the guy three houses down the street or the other people nearby you barely know well enough to nod at when you drive past them on  the street.

These are strange times where people are closer together than ever while sometimes being a long ways apart even when in close proximity. Go figure.

Or stick your nose a little deeper into that smartphone or computer and read on.

A changing place

Forshe has lived 32 years in Bear Valley above Alaska’s largest city. This is the city’s one-time hillbilly suburb. There was a period when people use abandoned cars for dog houses and chicken coops, and there may still be some doing that.

But the valley – aptly named for the bears that run through it – began to gentrify in recent years, though far from totally.

“Moose Mamas,” an Anchorage moose rescue group, used to have a facility to raise moose calves near the end of the last road highest in the valley. But then a bear jumped the fence and ate some calves, and the hurricane force winds that sweep the Front Range Chugach Mountains roared in later to flatten the pens, and the Moose Mamas retreated down the mountainside.

They were going against the flow. More people are moving up year by year. The valley offers some great views of Anchorage.

“The first 22 years,” Forshee said, “I had two neighbors. Now all the lots are filling up.  We used to shoot guns out here and have target practice.”

Neighbors knew each other well then. Not so much now. People are closer together and yet know farther apart. Forshee misses the old days.

“It’s only been the last eight years,” he said.

Once when Dusty got out – and Forshee readily admits Dusty took off a  lot – a neighbor baited the dog into his yard, nabbed Dusty, and hauled him the 15  miles down the hill to Anchorage Animal Control. Forshee was called to come get him and pay the impound fee.

“Instead of calling the number on his collar,” Forshee said, “that’s what he did. Then the guy moved, and I thought it was over.”

It wasn’t.

Gone were the old days, Forshee said, when a neighbor would call to say, “hey, your dog is in my garbage.” And Forshee would say, “well, pump the BB gun up once and sting him in the butt.”

Now there were snatching Dusty about one a year to haul him to the pound. And, worse yet, people pumping the BB gun, or the pellet gun, up way more than once. One day Dusty came home with two BBs buried deep in his leg. Forshee had to take him to the vet.

But people weren’t the only problem.

There was a lynx with a couple of kittens about her size living in the neighborhood for a while, Forshee said, And one day Dusty got loose only to come home punched full of holes.

“He had about 12 different bite marks in all,” said Forshee, who was pretty confident Dusty lost a cat fight.

House arrest

After that, Forshee kept a closer eye on Dusty, although it wasn’t always easy. Dusty was a bit of a horndog, Forshee admitted. If there was a female dog in heat just about anywhere in the valley, Dusty would get wind of it.

The last time Forshee saw Dusty was Friday. The man was helping his daughter load some things into her car. He left the door to the house open, and Dusty sprinted out.

“I immediately ran down to the neighbor’s house,” Forshee said. He knew there was a receptive female there, but for some reason, there was no Dusty. And Dusty hasn’t been seen since.

“I first went looking for a live dog,” Forshee said. Eventually, he expanded his search to look for blood in the sparse snow on the Anchorage Hillside this year or a pile of fur left behind after a predator makes a kill.

“I’ve seen wolves up here,” Forshee said. “I’ve seen coyotes.”

Several weeks ago, there were reports of wolves stalking dogs just to the north of Bear Valley between the Campbell Creek and Rabbit Creek drainages, alhough the “wolves” were more likely coyotes. A week ago, there was a reliable report of coyotes stalking a dog in the Potter Creek Valley just to the south of Forshee.

Both wolves and coyotes will kill and sometimes eat domestic dogs, said Wade Schock of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, who has had to console dog owners who’ve watched their beloved pets attacked.

Forshee thinks it possible a wild animal could have taken down Dusty, but “he’s awfully fast. He could jump in the air, do a 360 and land on his feet. When he was a young, he used to try to throw in a back flip, but he never landed one. It was hilarious.”

And now he’s gone.

“Dusty has never been gone overnight,” Forshee said,  his voice cracking a little. “In this cold weather, if he was injured, he could have frozen to death in a ditch somewhere.”

Temperatures in Anchorage have been dipping down into the teens, which is not unusual for winter. The weather, the time and the absence of sightings all make Forshee fear for the worst.

Now, he largley just wants closure.

“He’s probably dead,” Forshee said. But the man doesn’t like his premonition that “somebody, and I believe it was somebody fairly close to me, did him in. If they’re mad at me, don’t take it out on the dogs. It’s not his fault.

“Give me a call, and I’ll come and get him. Give me a call, and I’ll tie him up.”

There is, of course, no way of knowing whether Forshee’s feelings about his neighbors are real or imagined. Many Americans used to know their neighbors better than they do now. Now they know a lot of people in the tubes who they might never have met.

And the weird thing is some of them might live Nextdoor.









20 replies »

  1. When I first came to Alaska in the 60’s I met a man desribed as “the best wolf trapper in Alaska” who caught 26 wolves that prvious winter, “proof” of the high number of wolves in the area. I learned that his trapline never left Anchorage and extended along the hillside from Potter to Muldoon. The “wolves”of course were loose dogs, mostly sled dogs and other longhairs most common then. Once stretched and dried the pelts fooled a lot of folks. Not condoning this or anything else but loose dogs have been subject to unpleasant fates probably since the city’s founding in 1915.

    • now there’s an interesting bit of history. the dog-coyote-wolf mixing has a long rich tradition in this state. the late Joe Delia in Skwentna used to stretch and dry his coyote hides and sell them to Japanese tourists as those smaller Alaska “brush wolves.”

    • OK T, are you suggesting your trapper friend was able to fool the F & G biologists who sealed those dog pelts?
      I don’t buy it!

      • My last post on this. Dont care what people buy or dont buy. Alaska in the 60’s way different than now Fur Rondy fur auction wasnt supplied solely by ADF&G like today. Furriers, etc provided the items. Even dyed furs were sold to the usual group of Cheechakos and GI’s and the few knowledgeable folks. Always amazes me when someone can look back 50yesrs, or 100 years and ascertain events or outcomes more to their liking than the actual facts. Done.

  2. Jack Forshee never really cared about Dusty, if he did he would have made sure the animal that he was responsible for didn’t disappear. A dog is supposed to be man’s best friend but so many treat them worse than a door mat. If your dog is not fixed and is well known to run the neighborhood, it isn’t the dogs fault for doing what a dog does it’s your fault for allowing it. Be a responsible dog owner and stop making all dog owners look like assholes.

    • I dont care what you buy. I saw the pelts and saw them for sale at a taxidermy. I also do not recall sealing in that era except for beaver. You seem to have more faith in biologists than I do, a one-time ADF&G employee.

      • Well T, you may have something about not having that requirement of sealing wolf pelts at that time. I do recall being showed a half-wolf by F & G employee (who trapped it near Fbks) in late 80s that would have been impossible to tell the difference once skinned. The clincher in the flesh was the wolf-dog had unusually short legs. Evidently a person had raised a litter of them and released them as young adults and they all ended up in traps.
        Also, know that women sewers in some villages wanted certain dogs taken when they conducted their dog-shoots because of the quality of their pelts.
        What you are saying is that one taxidermists was able to fool lay people-I still don’t buy it that F & G folks would have been fooled if you weren’t. Also, there would have been no law against having dog pelts tanned without a seal as coyotes aren’t sealed, but the idea that one trapper could trap 26 dogs around Anchorage and pass them all off as wolves is absurd IMO.

      • Craig, It was a few years ago but I watched a video on PETA website that showed a, what I would guess as a mongolian type, individual that was operating at a fair (or circus) and taking large male racoons by their hind legs, over his head, and slamming them to the ground rendering them unconscious. He then proceeded to skin them alive and threw the skinned animal onto a pile of other similarly skinned ones that had regained their conscious and were trying to blink, without eyelashes. It was hard to watch but my point is that, when it comes to cruelty, there are some out there that go above what most of us can even imagine.
        And a neighbor high schooler, about 15 years ago, watched a video in one of his classes that showed an oriental person skinning a puppy (not unconscious at all) by attaching it with a loop through a board around its neck. This fellow’s teacher had some problems with trappers being involved in that sort of behavior and my neighbor had some time explaining that it was tough enough to skin a dead animal. Why would anyone want to skin one alive??? Then that mongolian type fellow did just that with those racoons-must be some reason for that behavior but I just can’t get a handle on it. Them being alive and unconscious perhaps made the skinning easier but the humane issue involved is beyond me.
        Another neighbor, when discussing leghold trapping of wolves (these 114 Newhouse traps have teeth), did not think there was anything inhumane about this taking of wolves because they were going to die anyway. Cruelty is a tough issue, for sure, but then throw in domestic animals and it gets tougher IMO.
        Of course, your point was that people can be conned when it comes to fur but we also know that lay people are conned all the time about wild vs. farmed fish. Be vigil, always.

  3. I guess I will announce it here: You people are crazy, Therefore I am asserting the incapacitation clause in the State Constitution and removing you from the decision making process

  4. There are a lot of smart people that read here. Why can’t we all get along? I can explain it and tell you how the smart people can achieve the smart solution….Chris

  5. Yep, things change. But it always amazes me how some folks that grew up here or have lived here for decades don’t make changes themselves to deal with the changes around them. Classic example here. Anchorage is not a free-range for dogs any more. If you have a dog, you have to have a fenced area for it. And when it is let out of the fenced area, it has to be on a leash. That’s simple. It should be common sense these days in Anchorage. But it’s amazing how many people can’t figure this out and their dogs, like Dusty, pay the ultimate price for their stupidity.

  6. I have a Border Collie that has never been on a leash. The dog never leaves the yard and on the trail will remain stationary with the command sit. I lost two dogs herd dogs 10 miles up Eagle river to a wolf pack. You can’t ski with those dogs on a leash in difficult terrain. Several years ago my daughter’s Jack Russell was killed by a wolf on Campbell creek

  7. Off leash dogs are a huge problem. I never have had to draw my gun for a bear, but I have for off leash aggressive dogs and frequently on my own land because some people just let them roam.

  8. Sorry the guy lost his dog but he seems to be one of those irresponsible pet owners who don’t realize that not everyone wants to deal with his pet especially when this pet has proven to be a constant problem in the neighborhood. How many times do you have to call a neighbor to tell him “your dog is in my garbage AGAIN” before the guy realizes something is going to happen to the dog? The obliviousness of some folks is incredible.

  9. I’m sorry Dusty is gone. I know the loss he feels. Sounds to me like he didn’t take the care of Dusty that he should. I know it’s Alaska but I would have taken more care to keep my friend home and not to expose him or my neighbors to the dangers that all loose dogs can experience in Alaska or anywhere else…

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