Earlier this week I read an article in the New York Times about how the Iditarod sled dog race in Alaska. The article reminded me of our beloved Alaskan Malamute.
At some point in his youth, my brother took an interest in Malamutes. His fun-loving black and white dog Fido had recently died, and he wanted a purebred dog [as a rescue dog, Fido’s lineage was obscure at best]. After much research in that pre-computer era, he settled on an Alaskan Malamute. He even located a breeder in a neighboring city. My parents decided that the Malamute puppy would be his Christmas gift that year.
A few days after Christmas, Frankie and I scraped the snow off of our 1967 Mustang. It was a bitterly cold, icy day. We were, however, committed to picking up the eight-week-old Christmas puppy. Frankie placed a box lined with towels in the backseat for the canine’s homecoming. I think Frankie and his puppy fell in love with each other on that frosty car ride home for they were true to each other ever after.
Tasha’s heart-shaped face markings gave a sweet look to her face. Her pink tongue hanging off-center outside her mouth made everyone smile. Her infectious bark, which sounded like “Bear-rare-rare! Bear-rare-rare!” always made us laugh. Soon Tasha’s name morphed into Bear-Rare and Bearsie. She delighted in waking up my brother on weekend mornings when Mama brought her into the house. Bear-Rare would tear off into Frankie’s room and immediately lick him with joyous abandon. A groggy Frankie stumbled into the kitchen with Bear-Rare crouching down, ready for a game of Rag. Eventually Mama’s rag drawer held only shredded cloths, for Bear-Rare’s took the Rag game seriously.
I still envision Bear-Rare and my brother racing throughout the orchard, Bear-Rare galloping at breakneck speed, inevitably knocking Frankie down in the snow, barking “Bear-rare-rare! Bear-rare-rare!” as he rolled around in the snow with her. For Bearsie was happiest in this arctic-like weather in her double-layered fur coat with her loyal human by her side. In the spring, Bearsie rubbed furiously against the cyclone fence surrounding her orchard in order to shed her winter layer of fur. Ribbons of white, gray, and black lined the long fence, clinging to the fence in the wind. Even wearing only her summer “t-shirt”, as Frankie called her single layer of fur, Bear-Rare was a beauty.
When Bear-Rare died of cancerous tumors on Christmas Eve ten years later, we buried a part of ourselves with her. I missed her non-stop barking until I petted and hugged her when on my visits home from college. I missed her heaving frame flopping down beside me after an orchard run. It would be thirty years before Frankie got another dog. But he never searched for another Alaskan Malamute. Every once in a while a pet comes along that touches the depths of one’s heart. For my brother, for me, it was Bearsie the Great, a dog for all seasons.
Ciao for now.
By Mary Anna Violi | @Mary Anna Violi