The absolutely true story of the Running Dog

Once there was a man who was so ancient that, even in their earliest memories of childhood, the elders could only recall him as hoar-frosted and grizzled. The Old Man was a dog musher, and he lived the way people in Alaska had lived in the past. He loved his dogs, and they loved him, but when he saw his first airplane, he fell for it hard - so much so that, from then on, he named his dogs after different makes of aircraft. There was Goose, Super Cub, Beaver, Otter, C-182, etc. By the 1980's, Citabria had become lead dog. The Old Man loved him greatly.

And the dog also loved the man.

One day, as the Old Man mushed his dogs through a mountain pass high in the Brook's Range, his old heart ripped free of his arteries. He slumped forward, dead, and fell into his sled.

The poor Old Man! He had lived his entire life without having once flown in an airplane, because he never found one that could accommodate all his dogs - at least for a price he could afford - and he would never leave a single dog behind.

Citabria sensed the death and was so stricken by grief that he ran harder and faster than he had ever ran before. Citabria's teammates tried to keep up with him, but they couldn't, and so they collapsed, one by one in their harnesses. Citabria charged ahead in a mad sprint, dragging his exhausted teammates and the dead man behind him. Finally, Citabria's heart burst - just as an airplane passed overhead.

Citabria's body collapsed onto the trail, but his spirit continued to sprint. Having no weight, the dog-spirit rose from the trail, over the pass and up to the airplane - a Citabria - and then merged with it.

Thus the airplane called Citabria became haunted by the dog named Citabria. The pilot of the Citabria could not understand why his airplane suddenly started doing strange things, like the time when he was just about go full-throttle down a bush runway when the airplane suddenly turned to the side, rolled to a pylon, stopped, lifted its tail as it briefly brought its spinning nose-cone down to the pylon, then raised one wheel into the air over the pylon and drenched it with a stream of avgas shot out through the fuel-draincock.

Soon afterward, as he flew over a horde of cats that pranced across the snow-blown tundra, the airplane suddenly began to bark, yip and growl. This totally freaked the pilot out. "That's it!" he said. He then sold the Citabria to me, Bill Hess, photographer and author, at a bargain price. Afterwards, he ran for various offices and wound up in the Alaska State Legislature.*

(What! You think I lie? You don't believe the above story? Do you think my feeble mind could even make up such a tall tale?)

I named the Citabria, "Running Dog," and changed the name of my little business to Running Dog Publications. For the next fifteen years, I flew the Running Dog all about Alaska, and into the Yukon and Northwest Territories, as I gathered stories, took photos and constructed various publications, both of my own creation and that I inherited from others. This was the best part of my life, and I loved that airplane like a cowboy loves his horse - the way the Old Man loved Citabria. Then one day I crashed the poor damn dog. Yes, I did. Flew him right into some trees, practically in Katie John's backyard, and cut down those trees.

Shortly thereafter, the governor of Alaska passed by, one his way to see Katie, and so did Katie John's attorney, and when they saw the wreckage everybody wondered if maybe I had been killed.

But my body was fine; only my spirit had been injured. Even so, I did the job that I had flown to Mentasta to do. I have since continued this work, but it has never been the same, nor has life been quite so good, as it was before that sad day, September 22, 2001, when I broke the Running Dog. One day, I will put this dog back together, and he and I will fly into the bush, once more. It's just that I don't know how I will ever be able to buy the gas to fly him.

*(This links to he - the former owner that I purchased the Running Dog from. If grilled on the subject, I suspect he would deny many of the above particulars, but then he is a politician, so what else would you expect?)

Bill Hess: photographer, author, print/web design and production; former and future bush pilot




Gift of the Whale:
The Iñupiat Bowhead Hunt, A Sacred Tradition

Celebration: Voices of Our Ancestors and Children (soon to be released)

Kivgiq - The Messenger Feast (in progress)

Children's book series for North Slope Borough School District

Taking Control: The History of the North Slope Borough




Publications (produced)

Uiñiq Magazine

Alaska's Village Voices

Eyak Echo

Tundra Times

Fort Apache Scout




Publications (contributed to)

National Geographic


Los Angeles Times Magazine

Anchorage Daily News: We Alaskans Magazine

Alaska Magazine

Field and Stream



and many others




Exhibits and shows

Anchorage Museum of History and Art

Iñupiat Heritage Center, Barrow, Alaska

British Museum, London

Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum, Bowdoin College, Maine

New Bedford Whaling Museum

Nome Library

Burke Museum - University of Washington

Tacoma Library

Huffman Kaladi Bros, Anchorage

Southside Kaladi Bros, Anchorage




First Runner-up:

W. Eugene Smith Memorial Fund Awards, 1999














Running Dog

The Running Dog tied down on the Unalakleet River. Unalakleet, Alaska - March, 2000.






Bowhead whale hunt
Beluga whale hunt
Goose hunt
Subsistence Misc
Alaska Native Veterans
Unangan war relocation
Yukon Flats
Katie John

Brahmin: India
Baby Kalib
Fur bearers

Alaska driveby's
Outside driveby's
India driveby's
Restaurants/coffee shops
Cats met along the way
Missoula, Montana
Missionaries, glimpsed


(Please note: construction has just begun on this site. Many of the above links lead nowhere - yet - or just to a few token images. It is a guide for things to come. It will be months - years - in the making.)





















dog broken
The Running Dog, broken even worse than his appearance, Mentasta, Alaska.
September 22, 2001