Nick Varney

Nick Varney

Unhinged Alaska: How the dynamic duos of mutts came to be

I was forced to admit that I had been seeing other dogs.

I was roaming Bishop’s Beach the other day jawing with a visiting veteran friend when the subject of my dogs came up.

He wanted to know why we adopted another pooch a few years ago when our eccentric mutt, Howard, had been such a handful since his puppy days.

I told him that it all started when I inadvertently came home one afternoon with some blond hairs on my jacket and pants.

Initially, all I got was a quizzical gaze. A couple of days later, I overlooked some small scratches until it was too late and a devious wound snuffle produced a suspicious stare. The final straw broke when I waltzed in with a profound scent emanating from my duds.

Howard took an interrogational whiff and proceeded to pitch such a snit that he would have thrown a shoe, if he had hooves. It was then, and only then, that I was forced to admit that I had been seeing other dogs.

I was a bit stymied by his outburst because I couldn’t understand why Howard-the Hairy, who has an I.Q. two points lower that his chew toy, was jealous.

All I had done was innocently volunteer to help out during the animal shelter’s walk- a-dog program that a friend had told me about. It never entered my thick skull that I’d end up triggering a domestic canine dust up just by trying to do a good deed.

The shelter had certain hours where volunteers could take homeless hounds out for exercise and my pal suggested that it might give me a chance to find out what it would be like to be around a real dog. He always thought Howard should be in a zoo and there were times I would agree with him but overall, H.H. has always been a keeper.

Note: I met my bud’s dog once and must admit that it had one up on Howard because I could easily guess which end was its butt was on when it was stationary.

Week’s past and H. finally chilled out about the dog walking and grudging accepted my infidelity. So, naturally, I assumed everything had returned to what we considered normal until he had another brain fart.

I had just settled in for an afternoon power nap when a moose wandered into the front yard. I didn’t notice it, but the hairball did. He quickly surmised that he couldn’t get a good enough view from the door window, so he scrambled over Jane’s easy chair and launched himself onto the couch where he planted his back paws, reared, and let out a yowl that rocked leaves on one of our large house plants.

Not cool, especially because, I was his blast-off pad.

I could have forgiven the one claw that landed directly over a perfect pressure point for CPR sternum compressions, but the other hit where temporary high sopranos are born.

His sudden erratic behavior started me thinking that maybe Howard was in need of an in-house companion to keep him otherwise occupied before he started notifying us about everything that caught his eye including meandering gnats.

The visit to the shelter in search of a back-up support dog turned out to be a more complicated affair than I had anticipated.

My first walk-a-mutt was Mitch. Nice dog, but a bit weird. The hound had “separation anxiety” issues. I was told that if you left him alone for over a couple of hours, he would attempt to devour the contents of the house. Fortunately, the owner finally reclaimed him when she was able to replace her furniture with designer rocks.

Mega Mutt Two, was Buddy. He was a creature that one might politely describe as “eager and hefty” and seemed more than able to pull eighteen wheelers out of mud slides. Howard, on the other hand, was just as big but was so lazy, that he had to take a nap after scratching himself. Those two would have never hit it off.

Next up was a cuddle freak called Marshmallow. What a sweetheart. The lady had beautiful blue eyes, soft white hair and was as quiet as a bunny’s snore. Her only problem was that she shed like a Musk Ox in the Sahara and the job of keeping our cabin fur laden was already taken.

Just as I was about to give up, the shelter called and said that they might have the perfect companion for Howard-the-Hairy. It was a breeder female toy poodle rescued from a puppy mill and a bit of a lost soul. She could no longer produce and had been facing a dismal future before being saved.

I drove in, took one look at the loneliness and love in her eyes and the search was over.

We named her Little Bear and she and Howard became inseparable until she passed from cancer and another rescue mini poodle (Princess) was brought home to heal his broken heart.

The only thing my brother veteran said after hearing the story behind the story was, “How did you end up with Howard in the first place?”

“I found him abandoned and wandering along the Dalton Highway.” I answered.

“Maybe that’s why he bonded so quickly with the little critters. They had so much in common.”

Nick can be reached at

More in Life

Quinoa Chickpea Kale Salad is packed with filling protein and great nutrition without being too heavy on the stomach. (Photo by Tressa Dale/Peninsula Clarion)
Fresh and hearty salad to fuel springtime’s busy days

Quinoa Chickpea Kale Salad can be simply poured into a bowl and eaten without breaking stride

When Takotna resident Alec MacDonald registered in February 1942 for the military draft, he falsely claimed to have been born in 1900 in Chautauqua County, Kansas.
The Separate Lives of the Man Who Fell — Part 1

Even now, with much more of the truth laid bare, mysteries remain

Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion
A copy of H Warren’s “Binded” is held in the Peninsula Clarion building on Thursday.
Off the Shelf: Political resistance bound to the personal

“Binded,” a new poetry anthology by Alaska author, confronts nonbinary, rural existence

“A Thousand Cabbages and other poems” by Mary Mullen. Published by Hardscratch Press, 2023. (Promotional photo)
Taking a wider view

‘A Thousand Cabbages and other poems’ sweeps across time and distance in Mullen’s second outing

Nick Varney
Unhinged Alaska: The spring emergence of Willie

He grudgingly skulks out of hibernation only when the sun has decisively conquered the last drifts of winter

Minister’s Message: Don’t give up on life

No doubt, life has its difficulties

People gather in Ninilchik, Alaska, on Friday, August 5, 2022 for Salmonfest, an annual event that raises awareness about salmon-related causes. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)
Blues, brass, Cajun and local acts to perform at ‘eclectic’ Ninilchik festival

Salmonfest headliners include Old Crow Medicine Show, Sierra Ferrell, Leftover Salmon, Pigeons Playing Ping Pong, Jackie Venson, The Burroughs and the High Hawks

A painting by Charlotte Coots is part of “Making Her Mark,” the June show at the Kenai Art Center in Kenai, Alaska, on Tuesday, May 30, 2023. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Women artists dive below the surface in new Kenai art show

“Making Her Mark” features the work of Charlotte Coots, Abbey Ulen and Shannon Olds.

Most Read