By Joseph Robertia
A pixel, in digital imaging, is a term referring to a single element of a multicomponent representation.
This definition is still somewhat appropriate to a dog named Pixel, owned by Sterling musher Ashley Irmen. Alone, Pixel is just a shy, 35-pound, cream-colored husky, but when put with her kennelmates, she is a powerful part of Irmen’s sled-dog team.
But there was a glitch — Pixel’s exuberance for exercise caused her to go on the lam for nine days earlier this month, when she slipped out of her harness on a training run. Her adventure led to many ups and downs for Irmen, who wondered if she would get her dog back. But Irmen never lost hope, and her friends — aided by Cohoe Loop-area residents, where the dog was lost — never gave up the search.
“I’ve been amazed at how kind and helpful people have been,” Irmen said.
Pixel, along with another dog, came into Irmen’s life in December 2008. Irmen takes in dogs unwanted or abandoned by others for various reasons. Pixel came from the Fairbanks Animal Shelter and her adoption was facilitated by Carol Klecker and the Second Chance League, a group that works to find homes for the sled dogs that flood the Fairbanks shelter each year.
“She came pretty unsocialized,” Irmen remembered.
“Many of these sled dogs lived previous lives on short chains, with little socialization, and very limited training, and so many develop shy and skittish personality traits,” said Irmen’s friend and one of Pixel’s searchers, Jill Garnet, who also rescues sled dogs.
“Because Ashley fences her dogs and does not chain them all day long, she has worked with Pixel over the years to overcome her shyness. These days Ashley can get her to come to her during feeding and she will come inside the house,” Garnet said. “But, it’s usually on Pixel’s terms.”
The address of a pixel corresponds to its physical coordinates.
For a dog owner, few things are as frightening as their canine companion running away. When the dog is lost away from home, in an area with which it is not familiar, fear can escalate to hysteria for both owner and dog.
Irmen had loaded her dogs and driven to friend Jane Adkins’ house in the Cohoe Loop area, to run her dogs on the extensive winter trail network used by Adkins and other mushers living in those parts. What had been planned to be a day of fun turned into anything but.
“The dogs haven’t been out much this year because I’m in nursing school and working. They’re been spending most of the winter being house dogs, so their energy was pretty high and Pixel just slipped her harness,” Irmen said.