March 26, 2010

Expedition Surprise!

Angus and Bill have successfully wrapped up their expedition and I met up with them at the airport to get some things Joe sent for me, like a memory card full of photos, a jump drive, and these two fluffies!


That’s right. These two pups were born on the expedition.

What happened is that we didn’t realize their mother, Tikka, was expecting when we loaded her up in the trailer and headed up the Haul Road for the expedition. A few weeks after the expedition began, Joe noticed that she was getting an awfully big belly. By that point, Joe was so far out in the middle of nowhere that Tikka couldn’t be sent home. Even though she was pregnant the whole time, Tikka pulled as if nothing had changed and continues to do so still.  What a trooper!

The weeks passed by and finally Tikka started to act like she was ready to deliver. She dug a large nest in the snow and fussed with it until she had it just so. Then she laid down and waited for her litter. That night it was -52 Fahrenheit, and under the waving ribbons of northern lights two robust puppies joined the expedition!


Tikka kept the pups snuggled closely to her belly and cared for them like an old pro (even though this is her first litter). Over the Iridium satellite phone Joe and I remembered back to several weeks before the expedition began. Joe had come home one afternoon to find Mitch sitting on our doorstep. He had broken the snap on his collar and gotten loose. We laughed to ourselves and remarked that if any of the dogs ended up pregnant we’d know who the father was. And so we do. What’s more is that it’s actually a compatible match, so we lucked out!

After a few days of rest and relaxation, it was time to travel again.  Joe bundled the pups in his parka with a large Heat Factory pack, nestled them into a box, and secured the box to the top of the sled.  Each day the pups would sleep in comfort as the team traveled across the snow-covered tundra. 

Every evening they reunited with their mom, who prepared them an intricate shelter.  Not only did Tikka dig a nest in the snow, but she also carved out a small cave and made sure to place the pups there, safe and secure.





As baby boy and baby girl grew, they stopped relying so much on mother’s milk and eased into their diet of solid foods.




They came into Joe’s tent for snacks and visiting.

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The fact that these two puppies thrived in the arctic in some seriously cold conditions is an absolute testament to the strength and rugged nature of the Alaskan Malamute!  There is definitely a special place in our hearts for these tough little cuties.

In the meantime, I shipped a kennel up to Deadhorse and when Angus and Bill got picked up at the rendezvous point at the end of their expedition, they took the pups back to Deadhorse.  They spent the night at Deadhorse Camp…the first establishment the pups had ever seen at the age of 6 weeks. I think it’s safe to say they were very well-cared for.  Sadie and Justin, who work at Deadhorse Camp, shared some photos on Sadie’s blog

The next day, Angus and Bill and the pups flew to Fairbanks.  Now the pups are as frisky as can be, chasing each other around the house and getting used to the warmer temperatures. 

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We don’t have names picked out for them yet, but I’m sure Joe and I will be able to settle on some names for baby boy and baby girl very soon.


  • Emma Rose and The Duchess

    That is one of the most amazing stories I have ever read! Wow. Those are incredible dogs. Congrats on the new family members!

  • Bob

    Great Story! What a set of pictures too :)

  • Kit

    Good job Tikka!
    Great post!

  • Tim McElravy

    This is AWESOME!!! -52 F and these pups came into the world…wow…amazing…simply amazing. I’ve always WAY underestimate the toughness of the dogs…down here in Washington State I worry about the Pups we’ve had being born in May/June thinking i don’t want them to get to cold….I know now how silly that must sound…-52 born in the middle of nowhere…mom keeps working the whole time…I am very impressed…won’t see that on the Iditarod:)

  • Cheryl

    I can’t believe they made it. They sure are tough little things. Thanks so much for sharing and keeping us posted.

  • http://NWSDA(facebook!) Jeanne Rose Roxby

    WOW!! Thank you for sharing a BEAUTIFUL story!! and the pictures—-Congrats on healthy, happy surprises!!

  • Lyne

    Hey Joe & Andrea, what a surprise….I’ll email you photos of the same kind of surprise that happened on one of Ray’s Antarctic trip field expeditions….

  • Isabel Burgos

    Amazing story!!!! That’s the true malamute spirit!!! Love your blog and your pictures!

    • alaskanarcticexpeditions

      Thanks, Isabel!