Thursday, September 14, 2006

from "Expanding Political Power"
Governor Cowper and I weren’t buddies, or anything. We just had occasions where we talked about things during my stint as President of the Alaska Fire Chief’s Association.
December 7, 1988
, a devastating earthquake struck the Soviet Republic of Armenia, burying thousands of people in the rubble. I watched the news coverage that Wednesday evening. Thursday morning, in the shower before work, it occurred to me that Alaska could send some search dogs and handlers over there to help locate trapped victims.
7:00 a.m.
, at work, I called the Governor’s office. He wasn’t working yet, so I told the woman who answered the phone that he might consider offering the services of the Juneau-based SEADOGS (Southeast Dogs Organized for Ground Search). I had used their services here in Cordova a few times and knew their veteran handlers, Bruce Bowler and Jeff Newkirk (a Juneau firefighter). I explained to the Governor’s aid that it might be a good way to pay the Soviets back for a couple of favors they did for us earlier that year: They had successfully searched for seven missing walrus hunters from Gamble who were adrift on an ice flow, and also had sent an ice breaker to free two trapped gray whales in the ice pack near Barrow.
A few hours later, Cowper called me to say he had first contacted the U.S. State Department who told him that there were plenty of search dogs already in Armenia
and that the SEADOGS would not be needed. “After I hung up, I said ‘screw it’, and called the Soviet Foreign Minister, Edward Shevardnadza, who said they could use the dogs. I called Bruce Bowler who said they would be glad to go, and that ‘We owe ‘em.’ Then I wrote to Soviet Ambassador, Yuri Dubinin, to make the offer official.” He continued to explain that the U.S. State Department would give him a bunch of shit over this, but he didn’t feel he needed any permission from the Federal government. He was just going to do it. Cool.