I love dogs, horses and all animals. In fact right now, our dog, Sampson, is barking at me and dropping a ball in my lap to convince me to quit typing and play with him. I’m a regular guy. I hunt, fish, shoot guns (and carry one), love my country and, a proud Christian. I’ve lived in the same house for 21 years. I detest P.E.T.A. and don’t think much of the National Humane Society for their stance against hunting and trying to kill the great sport of dog racing). I recognize the difference between human beings and animals. Sometimes I get into the guy thing and think I’m tough. I don’t break into teaars on a regular basis. However, two years ago our wonderful dog, a member of our family, Runner, ran to visit some other dogs and we never saw her again. Runner was (is) an incredibly smart dog. Runner figured out on her own not to do her business on other peoples lawns and somehow knew the difference between private property and a right of way. Believe it or not, she would think about things for days or longer and scheme and plan. It’s the scheme and plan part that was the problem relative to her losing her family. My son loves her, and she loves him, so much I’m at a loss how to describe it.

Following my divorce my son was having a tough time over our breakup. He was 7 years old. During a big custody battle, in which I rarely saw my son for 4 months, I got an interim order giving both parents full legal custody and equal physical custody.(later made permanent). I figured a dog would help my son with the healing process. It worked like a miracle. I took my son to a dog muching facility and we chose a special 10 week old female husky from Iditarod racing stock. I had special pets over the years and alot of wonderful race dogs during my dog racing days but I have never before, or since, had a dog this smart. My son, who named the pup “Runner” because she loved to run fast, decided to try dog racing and, at the age of 7, trained Runner to race, beginning with the 1 dog class. Runner (like all sled dogs) loved racing. Show her a harness and she went nuts in anticipation of getting hooked to the sled and going. Like everything Runner did, she excelled. We clocked her once at 32 mph (a very rare speed even for a sprint racing dog). Runner and my son were inseparable and ;both of them were at their best just being together. Eventually we started a racing kennel and Runner ran, often in lead, with a team.

She loved it. My son ran Runner in her first Junior World Championship and, running against some of the fastest dogs in the world out of famous kennels, he and Runner (and the rest of the team) came in 5th, an amazing feat for a first time world championship team. Soon after my son turned 11 he discovered a basketball and traded dog racing for basketballl. We closed our kennel and, with the exception of Runner, sold our other dogs to other mushers where they would be happy doing what they loved most, racing. Runner was about 4 1/2 years old. We continued to let Runner run a sled recreationally and occassionaly let other junior and adult mushers that we trusted race her locally. My son and Runner continued to play, sleep, jump on the trampoline and do everything together. Runner and my son were best friends. Two years ago (July 13, 2005) Runner, who was almost 7 years old, was outside with me. My son was with his mom. I was talking to my neighbor and Runner was laying down a few feet behind me. A minute or so after I looked at her I turned around. Runner wasn’t there. I wasn’t worried since everyone in our neighborhood knows and loves Runner and Runner, who grew up in this neighborhood, knows it well.

After a couple of minutes I called for her. Runner will always come to me or my son when she hears us call. She didn’t come. I went out looking for her. No Runner. I got in my truck to look and left the door to my house open so she could get in if she got back before I found her. Two hours later, no Runner. I looked through the night. When I called my son at his mom’s and told him Runner ran away he literally collapsed on the floor. About 24 hours later a guy I didn’t know who lived about 3 blocks away told me he saw a dog fitting Runner’s description running faster than he’d ever seen a dog run. He said she went around the back of a local elementary school, through some bushes and trees and he didn’t see her again. I went back there and saw that there were 3 dogs in a fenced yard in the exact location she went to. It didn’t take me long to realize that Runner had planned this for a while. She waited until my back was turned and quietly ran to visit the dogs so fast that when I called her she wouldn’t hear and, if she didn’t hear me, wouldn’t feel compelled to come home until she finished visiting.

I kept looking everywhere for days. I had a printer print about a thousand posters, with Runner’s picture, and offered a $1,000.00 reward. With the reward, every kid in the vicinity and quite a few adults were looking for her. About a week later I was putting up more posters and asking about her in a business district about 4 miles from my house. Some employees of a pizza shop recognized her immediately and stated the day before she appeared in front of the shop and they gave her some pizza but didn’t think about looking at the tags on her collar. She was wearing a license, a rabies tag and a tag with her name and phone number. I continued to get phone calls reporting sightings from all over Anchorage and every time I went to the neighborhoods in the area, put up posters and spend hours looking for Runner. I checked the shelter every day. We never found her.

Apparently what Runner didn’t realize was that a new housing development had just been built behind the school complete with fences. I figure she broke out into a fenced back yard and could not get through the fencing to familiar territory. She had to make right turns away from our neighborhood and into unfamiliar territory.

Now, two years later, Runner is 9 years old. We believe that someone found Runner, realized she is an exceptional dog, took her collar off, and kept her. I continue to check the shelter a few times a week. My son and I grieve our loss every day. I feel as though a part of me has been ripped out and sometimes big tough me just starts crying. My son misses his best friend and it hurts him to talk about it, so we don’t very often. We love you Runner.

There is always a silver lining. I decided to get another dog about two months after Runner disappeared. I did this for my son mostly but also a little for me. My son said he didn’t think he wanted another dog but, knowing my son (who’s now 17) I knew he’d be thankful to have a great dog for a special friend and new member of the family. We went to the shelter, saw a 1 year old dog named Sampson (part german shepard and part husky) and, after playing with him for a while decided to go home and think about it. We really liked him (smart, beautiful, loving and reasonably well trained). The staff told us he had been there awhile and was scheduled to be killed within a few weeks. We deciided to get him but when we returned to the shelter he was gone. The staff couldn’t account for him and thought he was put to sleep. We felt horrible and upset that the shelter would kill him a couple of days after we expressed an interest and after saying he had a few weeks left. A few weeks later we were looking at some dogs at the local SPCA and saw Sampson (the SPCA never kills the dogs they rescue). We drove to the SPCA shelter and there he was. They had taken him days before they were told he would be killed. Sampson ran to us like he knew all along we were coming for him. We took him home. That was 2 years ago. Sampson won’t replace Runner (who we’re still looking for) but he’s part of our family and we love him. The silver lining Mark. Now we’re considering getting another dog from the shelter so Sampson has a buddy to play with while I’m at work and my son’s at school. We’ll see.

Mark, God bless you. Your like family to us. Thank you for standing up for animals and sharing your private life with the rest of us. A special thanks for standing up for the men and women of our armed forces, for our country and for the traditional values which made this country great. Thanks for fighting, alongside many of us, to hold onto the freedoms left to us and to restore the freedoms stolen from us since I was a kid. Again, God bless you buddy. Paul

Paul from Alaska