Waiting at the gate for Hugh's calls

My turn

Posted: Monday, March 12, 2001

Hugh Malone became a part of our family after my chocolate Labrador retriever, Kowee, became his friend. Hardly a day went by when Hugh was in Juneau that he didn't drive to our home to pick up Kowee and take her with his own dog, Gussey, to have an adventure.

Initially it was startling when Kowee would disappear from our fenced yard without notice. After a time or two of frantically calling Hugh's number and leaving a message inquiring about Kowee, he made it a practice to call before picking her up. He would leave a message on our answering machine telling Kowee he was on his way over to take her for a walk. We might find out Hugh had liberated Kowee hours after she was already back home. Now, anytime Kowee hears the telephone ring she runs to the gate to wait for Hugh's arrival.

Whenever he took Kowee, they would be gone for hours. But Hugh once told me Kowee would become anxious if he kept her too late. He said Kowee knew Cathy and I were "her people."

Hugh always referred to Kowee as his friend, and I joked that we had joint custody of Kowee. It was a good deal for everybody. On occasion I would join Hugh, Gussey, Kowee, and sometimes Debra, on an outing to Sandy Beach or some local trail. Inevitably we met other dogs walking, and their people would often know Hugh, who would introduce me as "Kowee's people" and his good friend. It had become somewhat of a ritual on Saturday mornings and afterward we would buy snacks and stop by the Friends of the Juneau Public Library store for cheap books.

Hugh was the best friend my wife and I have ever known. Moments spent with him are magical memories.

Sometimes I could get Hugh to talk about his efforts as a legislator, and later as an administration official under Gov. Steve Cowper. He would take no credit for anything he had accomplished in his quest to make government accountable to the people of Alaska. On the other hand, he was often critical of the way things have happened in this state since his days of public service, and freely offered his opinions about how things should be.

Some might be surprised to know that despite his critical role in establishing the Alaska Permanent Fund, Hugh was not satisfied with what had developed out of the initial idea of a means to use North Slope oil funds to make Alaska a better place for those who live here, and he was critical of its current application as an annual dole choking the Alaska economy.

Additionally, after his many years in public office, Hugh was a man of intense integrity who hated corruption in any form.

When Cathy and I approached Hugh and Debra early this year about our upcoming vacation to Mexico in mid-February, it was revealed that they, too, had planned an upcoming trip to Europe. Once again, as in the past, we would need to work out arrangements for care of the dogs. We were scheduled to return to Juneau only a few days after they left.

Mere words cannot describe the loss we now feel at the news of Hugh's untimely death March 8 in Italy. We are listless and sorrowful, although we know he would not want us to feel morose. So, Saturday morning I took the dogs to Sandy Beach for a walk like they were used to taking.

Kowee has been spending a lot of time at the gate waiting for Hugh following rings of our telephone. Taking the dogs out was one of Hugh's favorite things to do and now, in his memory, it is going to be mine.

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