Connecticut College Magazine · Summer 09

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When the Dog Bites and the Bee Stings

When the Dog Bites and the Bee Stings
in Alaska, Hays coached these huskies – and even broke up some of their fights.

Wrangling dogs, keeping bees and finding adventure is a way of life for Jake Hays ´06

by Rachel Harrington


Jake Hays ´06 wasn´t ready to join the traditional workforce after graduating from Connecticut College.

Instead, he set his sights on Alaska, where he became a professional sled dog handler, and then Hawaii, where he now works as a beekeeper. Both jobs kept him close to nature and helped him realize how passionate he is about the environment.

“I´ve always tried to get the most I can out of life and this usually entails going on adventures, both near and far,” he says. “I´m really just after true experience.”
He jokes that in his first job he avoided dog bites, and now tries not to get stung.

Next year Hays will combine his interests in philosophy and nature by studying environmental ethics at the University of Montana, where he´ll eventually earn his M.A.

“Without my recent experiences, I may not have realized how important the environment actually is to me,” he says. “Certain things just take awhile to become apparent, even if they are right under your nose the entire time.”

A canine lover, Hays began working with Alaska Excursions after graduating and even convinced Nick Raffel ´05 to join him. Running and pulling a sled is instinctual for a husky, and Hays´ and Raffel´s job was to harness this power.
“Dog sledding itself is fulfilling in the same way that coaching is fulfilling,” Hays says.

The position took him on the journey he´d been looking for. He found himself standing face-to-face with 800-pound bears and breaking up dog fights.

“While attempting to break up one bloody melee, which was only getting worse as more and more dogs joined, I took several good chomps to the arms and legs,” he says. “After getting stitches I learned not to be so diplomatic.”
Hays developed an appreciation for different cultures and modes of thought at Connecticut College — an understanding that came in handy when he lived in a cabin without running water or electricity.

“The truth is, what I learned at Connecticut College, both in and out of the classroom, both on campus and overseas, is ultimately what shaped who I am today,” he says.
When his seasonal position ended in September, Hays wanted another job that would keep him close to nature. He headed to Hawaii to work as a beekeeper.

While he was an undergraduate, he´d harvested honey with his uncle, a beekeeper in New Mexico, during a CELS summer internship. His uncle pointed him toward the position with Kona Queen Hawaii Inc.

On a typical day, Hays´ duties include feeding and caring for the bees; checking the strength of hives; making sure a hive is “queen right,” meaning it has a laying queen; and catching queens, which are then shipped to beekeepers all over the world.

“There is a considerable amount of care and attention in the type of beekeeping that we do,” he says. “Our job is to sustain smaller, more delicate hives in order for them to produce a queen.”

Hays says that majoring in philosophy enhanced his post-College experiences, giving him a unique understanding of ethical issues that often presented themselves in his work with dogs and bees. Working closely with the environment and animals conjures up all kinds of questions about values and moral status. Hays says that in graduate school, environmental ethics will be easier for him now that he can use concrete examples from his life.
“I can draw upon my experiences working in the natural environment to inform my own theories on particular ethical issues,” he says. “This will be a tremendous advantage for me.”

In the future, Hays hopes to pursue his doctorate in philosophy or work in either environmental policy or activism. He says that his time in Alaska and Hawaii has given him a renewed focus and direction in his educational pursuits.

“With no set plans, the entire world opens up to you,” he says. “That being said, the experiences I´ve had in the past few years have been priceless.”


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