“I always wanted to get a dog, ever since I was knee high to a grasshopper,” Amica Sturdy explained. Despite her desire, she waited patiently for the right, and responsible, moment to welcome a dog into her life. For Amica, that meant owning her own home. “The day I signed the dotted line on my mortgage, I started puppy hunting.”

Kodi as a puppy

She kept her thumb on Yukon Animal Rescue Network’s (YARN’s) Facebook page and the Mae Bachur Animal Shelter’s website. YARN uses a theme to come up with names for all the puppies in each litter surrendered to them, and the “breakfast cereal” litter caught Amica’s attention. She contacted Cheryl McGrath, YARN’s operator, and met several of the puppies from that litter, all of which were being fostered locally. When she was introduced to little “Corn Pop,” a husky-looking puppy, her hunt was over.

Corn Pop had been nicknamed “Moose” by his foster mom, Jackie Nicolas, owner of Top Dog Training Academy. After meetingJackie sent Corn Pop, aka Moose, home with Amica for a trial sleepover. It was there that he found both his forever home, and his third – and permanent – name: Kodi (which was inspired by Amica’s Kodiak trailer).

“I just fell in love with him right away and he’s been my one-and-only ever since then,” Amica said affectionately and matter-of-factly.

Over the next months and years, she would return to meet Jackie hundreds of times as a student in her dog obedience classes. “We’ve done all of Jackie’s classes – or the majority of her classes. Right from puppy basic and socialization, to Canine Advanced and Canine CrossFit. I mean, being a first-time dog owner, I wanted to make sure I was doing it right.”

When asked if she ever had a weak moment – when she wondered what she had gotten herself into, Amica responded, “I think every mom of a husky thinks that at one point or another, but I certainly would not have gone through it without a great trainer. And Jackie was amazing!” It was a good thing that Amica took her puppy training seriously; Kodi ended up being waist-high and 75 pounds! This now wonderful and well-trained dog just turned three on Feb. 22.

But dogs will be dogs, and many a Yukon and Alaskan dog owner can relate to Amica’s smelly tale of canine naughtiness, (or instinctual indulgence), when Kodi and a doggy pal both rolled in dead and rotting salmon near Dyea.

“It was pouring rain and freezing cold and we had to get from Dyea back to Whitehorse with stinky fish dogs.”

They did the only thing they could do under the, uh, smell; “We put up our hoodies, cranked the heat, rolled all four windows down, and drove as fast as we could.” Is having a dog everything you imagined? I asked Amica.

“And more!!!” she responded, without missing a beat. “Honest to goodness,” she went on, “being this responsible for another life is so rewarding and so wonderful. When I come home from a bad day at work, it’s pretty hard to not smile when he greets you at the door with his tail just going nuts, like he’s just so happy to see me. He’s just such a pleasure to have in my life. He’s top priority.”

From being abandoned to being Amica’s “top priority,” eating a raw food diet, and bathing in Rosemary scented shampoo (post Salmon rub), Kodi is clearly in doggy heaven right here in Whitehorse.

The joy and purpose he brings to Amica’s life demonstrates the long-term rewards of being a dedicated dog owner.