In June 2015, a wildfire, given the nickname the "Sockeye Fire," ravaged through the city of Willow in Alaska. The fire caused widespread evacuations and the destruction of a number of homes. Unfortunately, Willow was home to a number of sled dogs as well as their owners. These people prioritized getting themselves and their furry friends out alive, but lost everything in the process. The aftermath of the blaze left hundreds of sled dogs displaced. Their owners were easy enough to house, but teams ranging from eight to twelve dogs were not as easy to find a place for. Local kennels, of course, stepped up to help, but a few local women had some other ideas.
Stephanie Crawford is a graduate student studying wildlife biology at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. After the fires, she sprang into action the day after the fire passed to round up volunteers. She also set up an online fundraising page and managed to round up 25 volunteers and raise $3,200 a week later. While all the displaced human victims were getting plenty of help, Crawford and her volunteers set to work to provide housing for the displaced animals. Veteran sled dog musher Aliy Zirkle came up with a cheap housing design for a temporary kennel boxes to hold teams of dogs.
With this simple design and a team of three carpenters, the volunteers managed to crank out 32 kennel boxes for the displaced dogs, with each being spray painted a salmon pink to commemorate the Sockeye Fire. With the need for dog housing filled, the volunteers donated the rest of the funds to other needs of the musher community.
Elsewhere in Anchorage, Megan Ashe and more volunteers performed a similar feat. In what they dubbed Operation Doghouse, Ashe and her volunteers built over 30 doghouses this past Saturday and hope to build 100 more in the next few weeks. While there are some who tout dog sledding as cruel to the animals that work so hard, regardless, this case of neighbour helping displaced neighbour warms the heart.