The Iditarod is all about dogs. Some Alaskans are more about cats.

Friday, 06 October 2017, 01:05:49 PM. Dan Love of Anchorage, a 33-year-old Army staff sergeant, is one unapologetic cat fan.

Dan Love loves cats.

That much is clear from the small house Love shares in Anchorage's Fairview neighborhood with his wife, Laura, their two young kids, Jeffrey and Astrid, and their two cats, Sockeye and Oscar Anderson.

"When you're a known cat man, people will find things for you," said Love, a 33-year-old Army staff sergeant with short brown hair. One sign in the living room: "Home Is Where The Cat Is." And books, from "Guys Can Be Cat Ladies Too" to "Does God Ever Speak Through Cats?" On a shelf sits a collection of small ceramic cats, including a colorful one a friend bought in Mexico.

The Loves commissioned a family portrait of themselves as cats in their yellow Ford van. Love's mom, who lives in Washington, painted the kids as cats riding bicycles.

Then there's the white porcelain cat lamp. A friend found it for Love while he was teaching in Maryland. Love thought it was one of a kind. Then he searched the hashtag #catlamp on Instagram and found a bunch more like it.

Now the cat lamp — big, elegant, bright — sits in the living room window facing the street.

"Because the cat lamp guides you home wherever you go," Love said. He broke into a laugh.

the-iditarod-is-all-about-dogs-some-alaskans-are-more-about-cats photo 1 Oscar Anderson, a Maine coon cat, sits next to a cat lamp while looking out the window of Dan Love’s Fairview home. Love would like to start a cat club where people get together for coffee with their cats. (Bill Roth / Alaska Dispatch News)​

Love shoots videos for an Army communications department in Alaska. He said his cat love stands out in the military.

"Everyone tries to be all tough and manly and have a giant dog and a huge truck," Love said.

With the Iditarod pulling most of the state's attention this week, longtime cat rescuers agreed: It's not just the military. Alaska is a dog state.

"There's a long history of dogs being useful in Alaska," said Vicki Naegele, one of the original board members of Alaska Cat Adoption Team, based in Chugiak. "Dogs and Alaska go together. Cats, they aren't going to pull a sled."

Look no further than Pick.Click.Give. donations from Permanent Fund checks, Naegele said. As of December, Alaska Dog and Puppy Rescue had received the sixth-most donations of any charitable organization, with 1,105 donors giving $50,054, according to data provided by Sofia Fouquet, Pick.Click.Give. program manager.

The top cat-related organization, Adopt A Cat, had 330 donors pledging $16,175.

Judy Price runs Clear Creek Cat Rescue, a Homer-based nonprofit network of statewide volunteers that matches stray cats with foster homes. She said the public focus falls on dogs, particularly around the Iditarod.

But people are "totally devoted" to cats too, Price said. In September 2014, a 22-year-old Copper Center woman was arrested while trying to cross a huge avalanche field in Thompson Pass north of Valdez to save her sick cat. 

Musher Jen Seavey, wife of four-time Iditarod champion Dallas Seavey, takes in feral kittens for Clear Creek as a foster owner. Price usually calls Seavey after the Iditarod ends to ask about the kittens.

"She's really good at it," Price said. "She obviously knows about dogs, and helps with cats."

Love liked dogs growing up. He owned an English springer spaniel. But after his third deployment to Afghanistan, he found cats were easier to care for.

His wife, Laura — a fellow cat lover — thinks there's something therapeutic about cats too.

"After he was deployed, I think having a cat was a nice comfort," Laura said.

He and Laura met on Tinder, the dating app. Dan's profile picture showed him wearing a sweater and holding his cat Kongju, who has since died. A bigger, disembodied version of Kongju's face stared out of the sky.

the-iditarod-is-all-about-dogs-some-alaskans-are-more-about-cats photo 2 Dan Love’s picture on the dating app Tinder featured his pet cat, Kongju, now dead. Love, a cat lover, met his future wife using this picture. (Courtesy Dan Love)

Laura swiped right. The first message Dan sent her was, "Tell me about your cats."

Ask Dan about his cats, and he'll open up. Oscar Anderson — an easygoing, long-haired Maine coon cat named after the Anchorage pioneer — has a leash and loves to take walks in the summer. Sockeye, a calico, isn't as friendly with strangers. When Dan brought her into the kitchen, she buried her head in the crook of his arm. But she sleeps by him almost every night.

In February, Dan Love half-seriously posted on Nextdoor.com about starting a cat club. He got a long string of responses from people who wanted to share pictures of their own cats.

Love said he was tired of scrolling through mostly negative posts — reports of crime and break-ins — on Nextdoor.

"I thought, you know, we should talk about cats more," Love said. "I think what this discussion needs now is cats."

Despite his neighbors' responses, no one actually seemed interested in a club. Love turned to Facebook. He made a page called "Anchorage Cat Lovers Unite." 

He's thinking of a "cats and coffee" kind of thing, where he can pet as many cats as possible.

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