Friday, June 4, 2010

A Father's Journey, His Sons' Legacy

One of the 40 Aklani Medicine Dog mixes
in need of new homes...beautiful, eh?!

This is the story of a man and his sons, their dreams, and a gorgeous family of dogs. Paul was an artist living in Hollywood Hills when I met him and his teenage sons just as they came home from boarding school. Their loving connection was so strong, their spirits so free, that I was compelled to spend the day photographing their summer reunion.
Their mother had died in the boys' early years, so perhaps I naturally felt big-sisterly toward them, who knows. Paul loved the photos, and I was touched that this artist called me an artist, too.

The years passed, we all moved around, but I stayed loosely in touch with the boys.
. One day, Paul's son Elijah told me that his Dad had a vision. To take the stray Aklani Medicine dog (and her pups) that he'd rescued from the streets of Arizona up to Alaska to train for the Iditarod. Along the way, his creative sons, now young men, decided to document the trip in a documentary titled "Stray Dog Journey." They were on their way, with hope and possibility in the North.

After the loss of Paul's reserved spot in the Iditarod training camp, winter was setting in and life got challenging. More details are available under "The Story" section of Stray Dogs Journey site, but the long story short is that the dogs multiplied quickly, and Paul's sons feared their father was succumbing to cabin fever over the brutal winter. They visited off and on, whenever possible, helping with the training while also gathering incredibly beautiful visual material in the form of digital photos and video footage for their film.

Approximately half a decade passed since Paul's journey began. I checked in with Elijah last week, and was sad to hear that his father had passed away in 2009. With only a few months until another Alaskan winter hits, Elijah is now the sole caretaker for the 40 dogs living near Willow, AK. He spends $1000 a month on dried dog food alone, and even more when he tries to supplement their diet with meat. His creative attempts to find homes for the dogs has produced few results. An awareness is slowly growing with his website and Facebook
remains to be seen whether or not that will generate any funding or a location to bring the dogs south for the winter, but that is the hope. He tells me he doesn't think they'll make it through another Alaskan winter alive, himself included, and I believe him. The isolation and harsh climate is beyond brutal.

So, you ask, why is this story on The Beauty Blog? Well, I've always found this family of men beautiful...they remain close despite the distances between them, they support eachother's artistic efforts, they dare to dream and they think outside the box. Most of all they are loving, and they simply loved one another.

My primary prayer for Elijah, Aaron and the dogs is that they make it South for the winter. My additional hope is that Stray Dogs Jouney -- The Documentary Film -- will be finished. The story may not be the tale of these amazing stray dogs completing the Iditarod, but one of a man inspiring his sons to follow their dreams in a world where dreamers are few.

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