Alexander Mattison doesn't really remember a time in his life without dogs.
Growing up in San Bernardino, California, his family always had them. A Golden retriever when he was really young, a German shepherd, and several pit bulls, sometimes two or three at a time.
"I'm at a point now where [dogs are] just close to my heart – it feels weird not to have one," Mattison said.
So when the Vikings drafted Mattison 102nd overall in 2019 and he moved to Minnesota, he decided it was time to start perusing for his very own pup.
Drawn toward larger dogs that "you can wrestle and play with," the running back first began looking at rottweilers but decided to seek out a more rare breed. He started investigating blue Italian mastiffs, also known as Cane Corsos; before long, his search took him a little bit off the beaten path, and Mattison found himself reading about Blue Bay shepherds.
"I was kind of looking through the 'blue' catalogue, I guess," he quipped.
View photos of Vikings RB Alexander Mattison's dog, Kaña, who was featured as this week's Purple Pup.
Mattison discovered the breed is known for its deep, bluish-black coat color and wolf ancestry.
"They ranged from like 10-percent to 25-percent wolf. I didn't want to do too much – they said that at too much wolf, they become less obedient," said Mattison.
And so he brought home Kaña, a Blue Bay shepherd that's 18-percent wolf.
"She's a pain, but she's awesome," he laughed. "She's super smart."
Kaña, who turned 1 on July 5, draws some attention for her unique name.
Having initially set his sights on a male dog, Mattison had planned to name him Kane. But when he pivoted toward the female puppy, he sat down with his mom to discuss name options.
"My mom at first said Sugar, and I was like, 'No, I don't want to name my dog Sugar," Mattison laughed. "But then we kind of went down that route … Caña [means 'cane'] in Spanish, like cane sugar.
"We just changed it to the K, so it's Kaña," he added.
The high-energy pup has been a constant companion for Mattison, especially during shutdowns and social-distancing protocols put in place around the country this spring and summer due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"It's been helpful," he said of Kaña's company. "Other than her grabbing a shoe and running off or something, it's been fun to have her around and just play with her. She just likes attention. It's pretty fun."
He described Kaña as "really outgoing." The youngster does find ways to get into trouble – including chewing on Mattison's belongings during the virtual interview for this story – but her equally affectionate personality typically earns her a pass.
Mattison speaks like a proud dad when he shares about Kaña, noting that she learned to sit on command before she was 2 months old.
"She's super loving," he explained. "And you feed her a lot, and she'll be real calm, laying down, going to sleep… She has a balance of being calm and nurturing but [can also be] really excited."
He later added: "She's super smart and super intuitive."
Moving to the North was quite the transition for Mattison, a West Coast native. He did play college at Boise State University, which softened the stark contrast between California and Minnesota, but Boise's average of 18 inches of snow doesn't hold a candle to the Minneapolis average of 45.3.
Twin Cities winters may have been harsh for Mattison in his first pro season; Kaña, on the other hand, who came from a Florida breeder, delighted in the declining temps.
"She loves it," Mattison said of Kaña's affinity for Minnesota winters. "She will literally lay outside, go out and play around and just lay in the snow. I have to call her, like, 15 times to try to get her to come inside.
"It's like her natural habitat or something," he added. "She's super calm in the snow, so sometimes I can just leave her outside, watch her, and she'll be fine."
In the warmer months of the year, Mattison and Kaña play together in the backyard, where the running back is even able to practice some football drills with his four-legged friend.
"I love that about her – she loves to chase me around, and I get a real challenge trying to juke her out," he laughed.
As Mattison enters his second season with the Vikings and looks to juke real defenders on game day, he's happy to have Kaña's companionship.
"I believe that dogs have their own feelings, and they express them in a special way. You love them, they love you back," Mattison said. "It's not really like having a pet. It's like having a partner, having a friend. That's the reason I love dogs."