Monday, January 28, 2013

Heading back to work.

The Old-School Alaskan blog has picked up some new followers, so it seems appropriate to explain a bit about my job situation and why I seem to disappear for two weeks out of every month.

The Job:
I work in a dual role as a security officer and medic at a remote industrial site that is considered vital to National security.  Though it sounds a bit melodramatic, my job is to protect the facility and my coworkers from the ravages of crime, terrorism and disease.  On the job, my work schedule is 12 hours per day, 7 days per week, 2 weeks on duty and 2 weeks off.  I have to remain at or very close to the facility during the entire 2 weeks that I'm away, literally living on site.  In addition, I have some training obligations that take me away from home for up to a week at a time.  Basically, I spend well over half my life away from home, earning the money needed to support my off-duty lifestyle.

In order to properly care for the dogs, we have a dog handler living on the property.  His job is to provide the daily care and monitoring the dogs need and to serve as a general caretaker around the place, in exchange for use of a cabin and small dog yard that I had built specifically for this purpose.  Jeff is our current handler.  Jeff is a veteran of the United States Marine Corps, a student at University of Alaska (Fairbanks) and has several sled dogs of his own, so the arrangement is mutually beneficial.

Because of the nature of my job, I share very little about events or my lifestyle at work.  I don't want to inadvertently provide information that a 'bad guy' might find useful when attempting to do harm to the facility, to me, or two my co-workers.  So, blog posts are pretty infrequent while I'm away at my place of employment.  It's not an ideal situation, but someone has to buy the high quality dog food and pay for the veterinary care the dogs need, and I'm that 'someone'. 


So, today I'll be preparing to drive up the infamous haul road of "Ice Road Truckers" fame very early tomorrow morning, to start my two week tour of duty.  I suspect my counterpart (the officer / medic on duty while I'm off) is more excited about that prospect than am I. 

I don't need to run any errands in town today, as I took care of that stuff during the bitter cold on Saturday.  I don't particularly enjoy spending time in the city, and Fairbanks Alaska does indeed qualify as a city.  Too many people crammed into too small a space.  I guess I get to feeling a bit crowded and claustrophobic when I have to go to town.  As a result, I try to consolidate all of the various things I have to do in town to minimize the number of trips. 

I do need to prepare my house for my absence, clearing out anything that might spoil from the refrigerator (none of it goes to waste).  I'll have to haul a load of garbage and make a quick trip up the road about 6 miles to our local general store and post office.  I'll fill the fuel tank on the car, collect any mail that has arrived, say "hi" to the folks at the 'old farts table', and head back to the house.

I'll need to pack my bags with two weeks worth of necessaries and stage it near the door to be loaded into the car in the morning.  I'll spend extra time out in the dog yard ensuring that everything is tidy and ready for Jeff to take over his duties.  He and I will spend some time as I brief him on each dogs condition and provide last minute instructions on how I want them managed during my absence.

Then it will off to bed early, as 3:00 am comes awfully early tomorrow morning.

Recap of this R&R:

Meanwhile, this has been a very good "R&R" from work.  We've gotten in some very nice training runs with the dogs, and a couple that were pretty challenging.  We've been able to restock the dog-food cache, repair or replace worn equipment, deal with some of the challenges that are inevitable during an Alaskan winter and even brought in a new pup to join the Stardancer team.

When I returned home from work I was feeling poorly with a nasty head cold.  That has completely resolved for which I am VERY grateful.  I don't cope with illness particularly well.  Just prior to returning home for this R&R we had unusually warm temperatures and freezing rain, that turned the trails into a mess.  Followed a few days later by a bit of snow, my friend Mike Green used his snow machine to break out the trails I most commonly train on, so that presented only a slight delay in our training plans. 

We had just enough snow on the ground that I had to spend most of a day clearing it from the driveways to my home and the handler's cabin.  Even with the tractor equipped with a very good blade it was a considerable chore. 

With the work done, it was time to play, and we enjoyed several training runs with the sled dogs.  One of the early ones presented some challenges that were pretty easily resolved by simply asking Jeff to come down and lend a hand while harnessing and hooking up teams. 

The highlight of the weekend was the sudden offer of a new pup for the team.  Dozer seems to be settling into his new living quarters quite nicely, and yesterday I put Friday, who is only a couple of weeks younger than Dozer, into the spot next to the new guy.  They greeted each other nicely and I think they enjoy each others company.

Dozer and Friday meeting and greeting.

 What to Expect on the Blog:

Since the Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race from Whitehorse, Yukon Territory to Fairbanks, Alaska will start on Saturday, I'll be following that race closely, and will likely provide commentary and updates on the race here on my blog.  I have several friends and acquaintances competing in the race and I enjoy sharing my thoughts and comments about the event.  Since that race will be on-going through most of my tour of duty at work, that will likely be the focus of this blog during that period.

One never knows for certain, however.  World and local events that capture my attention may also fuel commentary here in this space.  You never really know for certain what you might read from this old school Alaskan.


  1. I do have a question.. does your handler run your dogs while you are at work?

  2. I really wish he would, but he does not.