Friday, March 19, 2010

Jack-Dog-Dog, Hot Dogs and Reindeer

As a lover of language, I find that despite my attention to how and what I say, some things may get lost in translation. For example, while raising my first daughter, I would keep her away from knives by saying, “No, Honey” and pointing at the knife I would say “Sharp”. Sure enough, as her language developed she always referred to knives as “sharps”. Furthermore, in Nome, Alaska, some common things referred to in the Lower 48, where most of the non-Native adults were raised, we often lapsed into terminologies we expect to be understood.

This came home to me when my best friend and I decided to take her dog, which the girls referred to as “Jack-Dog-Dog”, and the girls out to her cabin near the river for a nice outing. Spring was on its way and, while a bit cool, the day was sunny and bright. Shelley and I gathered up some lunch items, put everyone in the truck, and headed out to her wonderfully homey cabin off the Nome River.

At the cabin, we proceeded to do some preparation for the coming of “cabin” [aka summer] weather: shoveling the walkway, unloading pellets for the stove, dusting and cleaning. Jack, her black Labrador, was happy to be in the wild and just ran around, letting the girls chase him, checking out every little hole in the tundra, and generally feeling good. Somewhere around noon, we called everyone in and asked what we should have for lunch. Shelley said, “Well, why don’t have some hot dogs?” I chimed in and said, “Yeah, hot dogs would be good, don’t you think girls?”

My daughters, then perhaps 4 years and 2 years, suddenly looked stricken. “Hot dogs?” Shelly and I happily said yes. The girls looked at each other and said, “Hot dogs? Jack-Dog-Dog? No, Momma, no! We don’t want to eat Jack-Dog-Dog!”

Amidst a few tears and a great deal of explanation, we explained the difference and had a lovely lunch, feeding Jack-Dog-Dog some of the hot dogs.

The worst part of this is that was also the day we lost Jack. We think he must have gone off chasing some of the reindeer that were being domesticated as a food source for Nome. The reindeer herder had already warned that if he found dogs chasing his reindeer, he would shoot them. We went home that night, after having our hot dogs, with no Jack-Dog-Dog.

Jack, we still remember the joy your brought to our lives.

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