Sunday, December 19, 2010

Remembering the warmth!

So we did make it back from Costa Rica, but ever since we got back it's been cold, cold, cold here! So cold that even my dogs can't be convinced to go for a run! There's no end in sight to the cold snap, -33C predicted for Christmas day!

Oh, how I miss this view!
Costa Rica was amazing. We had a fantastic trip. I took an insane number of pictures! The critters were all well behaved in our absence! :)

Volcan Arenal was clouded while we were in the area so we didn't see any lava flows. It is still a spectacular sight though!

The surrounding area is full of lush beauty. This is the La Fortuna Waterfall. The hike down to it is more than a bit treacherous, but the view and the swim under the falls was worth it!
We saw all kinds of wildlife, including several troops of Howler monkeys. The noise those creatures make puts the Siberian Death Howl to shame!

We went fishing. Stuart was one happy camper as he reeled in several tuna and a couple groupers. The boat captain came to our cabina the next night and barbequed up our catch for us. I even ate some grouper & lived to tell the story. I don't usually eat anything that used to live in water!

The sunsets in Playa Tamarindo were truly spectacular. I liked the consistent 12 hours of light everyday. Sunrise & sunset only change by a few minutes over the course of the year. I could definately get used to that. The only thing I truly hate about the North is the months of dark!

Lounging on the Blue Dolphin Sailing Catamaran with a glass of sugar cane liquour! I'll be holding onto this memory all winter....maybe all the way to late 2012, when the return trip is hopefully going to occur!

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Cross your paws...

In a mere 3 sleeps
(I've been counting down since mid-June)
We will be getting on a plane and jetting away from here!
21 hours & 3 flights after we leave home, we will arrive in
Costa Rica!
Yes, we know it's the end of their rainy season.
No, we don't care!
Warm tropical rain sounds more appealling than
the freezing rain we had today!

We'll be checking out one of the world's most active volcanos!
Lounging in some hot springs
Hanging out at the beach in
Checking out where our coffee comes from
and whatever else comes up along the way!

So cross your paws,
not for us, not for good weather,
not for Tropical Storm Tomas to move on
not even for safe travels
for the brave friend who has agreed to take care
of this zoo while we are away!

And hope we are still friends when we return in a couple weeks!

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Godspeed Sweet Girls...

This is the saddest day in the history of Wandering Spirits Kennels.

Two of our canine pack moved on to whatever comes next this morning. Two of our firsts; two of the dogs who were here almost from the begining of all this craziness.
Her Royal Highness, Queen Sleet.
Our first Yukon dog, Sleet arrived here just a few months after we did. Stuart was taking a training course for volunteer firefighters and went for coffee with a couple in the course after class. He came home and said "Trish sent something home for you." I had never met Trish at that point and wondered what a stranger could have possibly sent me.

I opened the truck door to find a slightly frightened and confused black and white sled dog. Trish has since become a close friend and Sleet is without a doubt the best gift anyone has ever given me.

Sleet was already seven when she got here. Still an active working sled dog, but one who was not so interested in spending her days outside, unhappy in a traditional dog yard setting and not quite as fast as she used to be. At the time, I only had three other dogs, purebred Siberians who had no idea they came from sled dog lines! Sleet spent several years happily leading a growing team down the trail. If it hadn't been for her, I'd probably still be standing in the driveway, dogs going crazy, harnesses tangled and lines chewed, wondering what the hell to do next. Sleet got us started, got us home when the musher insisted on taking the wrong trail, taught the young and the scared that pulling was fun. In life Sleet was sweet and submissive; in harness she took no crap from anyone and was all business.
She did not enjoy winter nearly as much in the last couple years. She spent more and more time inside, curled up on her bed in the living room. The other dogs all knew that even if Sleet wasn't on it, that was her bed and they weren't to use it. Time took it's toll on Sleet's body as she slowly lost control of her bladder, lost her strength, mobility and energy. Her vet records show she was born in June 1994, so she had over sixteen good years. Still somehow doesn't seem long enough. I've never really known Yukon life without Sleet; there will be many adjustments without her.

We woke to several inches of snow this morning....a fitting send off for one of the finest lead dogs to ever pull a sled.

Minutes after Sleet left us, Goldie joined her. Goldie was the first dog who ever looked at me from a shelter kennel and as plain as a day asked me to help her. Her face, those soft, scared brown eyes at that moment are forever burned into my memory. My silly husband actually said " you have three dogs that's enough!" If only he knew what the next few years would bring! Two years later, eight dogs were here and Goldie was still wasting away in the local shelter. She came here in April 2002.

Goldie's life was a battle from day one. Her front legs were curved, likely from malnutrition as a puppy; she was found as a yearling, in heat, fending for herself, terrified of men. Then over two years in a shelter; prolonged confinement like that does funny things to a dog's psyche. Goldie came to us with issues and immediately started to battle here too. She hated Preacher and tried to beat him up every chance she got. She randomly started fights and ended up spending much of her time isolated from the other dogs. In an effort to figure out what was wrong with her as it seemed her life was not much improved from the shelter, we had multiple tests done at the vet.

Turned out that Goldie had a fractured pelvis. Her vet thought she had been kicked viciously. The break was never treated and by the time she got here it had healed all wrong. It was the root of Goldie's aggression; she moved wrong, it hurt and whatever dog was closest to her at that moment got bite! She started immediately on pain control and anti-inflammatory medication. Within in days, the sweet, gentle, fun dog I knew was in there came out to play!

Goldie developed a strong bond with Chase. They shared a pen and their lives. A funny looking pair indeed...short, fat Goldie, long, lean, tall Chase, but they adored each other and were never far apart. Chase stayed by Goldie's side even as she took her last breath. She was lucky to have him; he added joy, canine companionship, play and security to her life. I am lucky to have Chase and hope he will be able to adjust to life without his dear friend.

Goldie's final battle was one we knew she could not win. She had bone cancer in her ribcage. She made it eleven months with the cancer, much longer than originally anticipated. The tumor had grown so large that no amount of medication allowed her to get truly comfortable. She had trouble walking and no endurance.

Such different dogs in almost every way, such wonderful dogs in so many more. It was a privilege to share your lives.

Godspeed my girls. You will be deeply missed for a long time.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

There was a time....

There was a time, not so long ago, when this would have thrilled me!

Over six inches of heavy snow fell yesterday. We often get snow this time of year, but I've never seen this much snow in September and it's not melting with any great speed!

The dogs are happier about winter's early arrival or at least they were happy I survived the drive home so they didn't miss dinner!

The ancient and the sick dogs are less than impressed. Sleet clearly thinks I've lost my mind every time I suggest she should go outside! Goldie is quite thrilled with sleeping in her crate and needs some convincing when it's time to go back to her pen.

The aging out of my dog team and my lack of a reliable leader is seriously dampening my enthusiasm for winter!

To any other mushers reading this...NO NO NO NO, I am in no way interested in that young dog that didn't make your team, the older leader who needs a semi-retirement home,the puppy with leader potential, ect, ect, ect.....This crew is here to stay until nature takes it course, but there will be no new additions for several years at least!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Anvik's Arrival

Four years ago today, I walked into the shelter to meet a stressed out sled dog; so stressed out the staff thought he was having seizures(those turned out to be just a side effect of his anxiety, not actual seizures). Said sled dog promptly launched himself out of his kennel, wrapped his paws around my neck and rested his little blond head on my shoulder. I have no idea what Anvik saw in me, but from that moment I was his human and he was coming home with me.
We had our first and so far only noise complaint that night. Anvik did not like being outside and he let the whole Yukon know about his unhappiness. We hear the Anvik Death Howl less often these days, but it still echos through the forest occasionally!
I am quite certain that it was his seperation issues and the Death Howl that lead to his being dumped at the shelter. It certainly wasn't his ability in harness. Anvik is a fine sled dog; always willing, a decent command leader and able to run all day. A tired Anvik is a good Anvik!
I'm not sure that he likes Tehya as much as she likes him...
but he is a tolerant big brother!
He is still happiest glued to my side, but he has figured out that I come back so he doesn't leap the fence in a single bound anymore or do the Death Howl all day! I regularly get squashed or sent flying when he decided he wants to be a lap dog or that he needs a hug. We make sure he can always see in the house; the doghouses against the side windows are very attractive! He doesn't scream as long as he can see me. Anvik's world begins and ends with me--a bit much sometimes, but sometimes also a nice change from the usual aloof husky personality! Plus it makes him reliable off-lead, a rare trait for a husky. I have never had to call Anvik twice; he always responds the first time he hears my voice!
Happy Gotcha day, my big anxious lovemuffin!

Thursday, August 26, 2010


Ooops, I haven't been here for awhile; perhaps it's time for some updates....

We almost lost Sophia over the summer. At first I thought it was just her stomatitis acting up, but her mouth looks fine and she was able to keep her last two teeth! However, she was clearly hurting, not eating, not purring and she walked like she was loaded. X-rays eventually showed that Sophia has some serious back problems, including three ruptured discs which were inflammed and pressing on her spinal cord. That was leading to all her problems. Her vet wasn't hopeful that there was anything that would help, but prednisone worked it's magic again. It has saved Sophia's life at least once before! She will never be a light on her paws, graceful feline again, but she can get where she wants to go without falling over; she's not in pain; she's eating and demanding her extra canned food every night; and best of all, she has returned to sleeping on my head purring her heart out. I will never understand how people sleep without purring in their ears! :)
We will be loosing Goldie in the not so distant future. She has waged a brave battle against bone cancer for 9 months, but it is winning. The cold, wet weather has not been her friend and the tumor is getting huge. We are lucky, if it's possible to be lucky with cancer, that the cancer is in her ribs, not a limb. She would have been gone a long time ago if it was in her long bones. Good pain meds are keeping Goldie comfortable still. She's still bossing her BFF, Chase, around all day. She will not be able to handle the cold of winter weather; sometime soon even the best meds won't keep her comfortable anymore. She hasn't told me that she's at that point yet, but it is coming for sure.

My human family suffered a loss this week when my Auntie Faye lost a short, but vicious battle with cancer. She was a lovely, one of a kind lady with a warm spirit, loving heart and a wicked sense of humor. She'll be missed by all the family and many friends. I like to believe she is now reunited with her husband, Fritz, who she missed terribly since his passing a few years ago. There's definately some dancing, laughing and probably a few beers being drank where ever they are now!

Out of that sadness comes some happiness as I will be leaving to visit my family in a few days and will finally get to meet my newest niece! Zoe was born in late April and I am looking forward to meeting her! I hope someday, in the very distant future, she will remember her Auntie T with the same fondness I remember my Auntie Faye!

Thursday, July 01, 2010


It's of yesterday, I have one dog who is not offically classed as a senior and 23 who are officially old!

Yesterday, my pair of brothers, Mac & Ozzy, turned 7. They still act like yearlings but according to the charts at the vet clinic, they are senior canine citizens now! They've come a long way from the terrified pair who arrived here 6 years ago. From dogs I could not touch, full of fear and in a chronic state of anxiety, with supposed heart issues that would prevent them from running.

To house dogs who enjoy a good cuddle; official greeter dog at the gate(Mac); my early warning system that something or someone is approaching(Ozzy); with hundreds of miles in harness under their paws. Survivors with resilient spirits and bodies.

Happy birthday, boys. I hope it will be a long while before you two start playing the "but I'm old" routine! Just ignore Hobo, he has nothing left to teach you, especially about how to get away with spending all day inside!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

My big ball of dumb....

Six years ago this afternoon, I dragged a terrified, kicking, panicked Chase out of the shelter where he'd lived for 18 months. He'd come in as a four month old puppy, all legs, too far past the cute stage to get adopted quickly, too full of fear to get someone to notice him in a positive way. All his buddies already lived at our place, so why not Chase too? Except Chase didn't want to leave the only home he'd ever known. It took three of us to get him into the truck.
It would probably take three people to get him back into the truck now. Chase likes to run and go for walks, but he is happiest in his yard; in his pen with his beloved Goldie. Chase does not like change. He likes everything exactly the same as it was yesterday!

Chase is not the brightest crayon in the box. We have often said he's so dumb it's a bit suprising he remembers to breath on his own. He's a giant over-grown puppy, stuck in goofy puppy mode forever. But he just wouldn't be Chase if he was a doggy genius. It's part of his charm!

Sometimes the dumb ones are gift....Chase is an easy dog in every way; Chase never thinks to challenge me; I tell him to do something, he does it; there's no husky selective hearing, no debate on what it's in it for him; he just does as he's asked to do; he's grateful for every little tidbit of attention and love he gets; every walk is the greatest adventure he's ever been on; every dinner is the best meal he's ever had; he can't open gates, never tries to escape or challenges a fence and even if he did mange to, he'd never dream of leaving the yard, its scary out there; he never gets put out because another dog got something he didn't; he doesn't seem to realize he doesn't have to let Goldie be the boss of him; he's quite happy to let her boss him around endlessly and she's delighted to be the boss of someone.
Anyone who thinks dogs don't form their own love bonds needs to meet Chase and Goldie. He is her only canine friend; she's half his size, 5 years older, short, slow and fat to his long, fast and lean. Goldie's life has been much happier since Chase came into it. As she nears the end of her life, he continues to dote on her. I am hopeful that his clueless nature will help limit his grief when she passes.

Chase is my big ball of dumb, but I say that with great affection as he's also a great snuggler; a sweet and gentle boy; an entertaining goofball; a gift to me and Goldie.

Happy Gotcha Day, my doofus dog.

Friday, June 18, 2010

What are the odds of that?

We are planning a trip to Costa Rica later this year. Critter care is arranged; flights are paid for, hotels booked in several locations. We aren't doing any major chains or resort accomodations this time. We are staying in small B&B type places and renting a cabina on the beach.

Today I was emailing with the owner of the hotel where we are spending our first and last few nights in Alajuela. Close to the airport, without the hassle of the big city of San Jose. Hotel was picked pretty much at random..I liked the website, my Fodor's guide book gave it a decent rating and the reviews on TripAdvisor ranged from decent to glowing.

Today, the owner told me he used to have a similar email address to mine, when he lived in Yellowknife......

What are the odds that of the hundreds of hotels in Costa Rica 4500 miles from my home, I booked the one owned by a fellow least he totally gets why even rainy season in the tropics sounds awesome to me! November is about my least favorite time of year's dark, it's cold, but not quite enough snow usually to enjoy the winter yet!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Hobo Update

No cancelled appointment for Hobo today! He had improved dramatically....just about anything would have been an improvement over the way his eye looked last week! He was almost back to normal, but he wouldn't chew. Partly that was a monster I created; Hobo really likes canned food, but he wouldn't touch kibble. So he kept his dental appointment today.

And it turned out to be a good thing...painful for both his mouth and my wallet, but a good thing anyway! Hobo had several rotten teeth, including the one suspected to have caused the original abscess. By the end of the day, Hobo was short four teeth! Hopefully, that takes care of the problem...he's running out of teeth! Fortunately, it appears that nothing worse than an infected tooth or three was causing Hobo's troubles. There was no sign of a bone issue, a tumor or other serious problem.

Hobo wanted dinner tonight, although I only gave him a tiny bit of canned food. That's much more typical of my boy...not much keeps Hobo from his dinner!

Monday, May 03, 2010

Firsts are not always good things..

Last night for the first time in the six years we've known each other, Hobo refused to eat. No Hobo Dance of Joy as he waited for his bowl to be filled; didn't even sniff the food; wouldn't eat a single bite. For most of my dogs skipping dinner once in a while is not a big deal; for Hobo I took it as a sign something was very wrong. I've seen Hobo eat with infected molars; within hours of surgery to remove those molars; during his entire recovery from the wolf attack he never ever missed a meal, not even the day after he had major surgery to put his ravaged little body back together.

This morning, Hobo headed to the vet clinic. When I finally convinced him to stand up, at least part of the problem was obvious. The left side of his face was swollen, his eye was weepy, both classic signs of a dental infection. Not a good thing, but better than some of the alternatives I had come up with overnight!

But it's not a tooth. That would be relatively simple. My dogs don't do simple! Hobo has a Retrobulbar Abscess, an abscess behind his eye. That's a new diagnosis for my dogs; a word I've never had to google before!

His eye looks like it is going to pop out of his little head this afternoon! Causes of this problem could be related to his teeth; could be a foreign object, like a bone splinter or foxtail stuck in there; could be something much nastier!

He's back home with a major dose of antibiotics and anti-inflammatories. If he doesn't start to eat in 48 hours, he'll be going back to the clinic for more tests, x-rays, surgery, all that fun stuff! If he's not almost back to normal in 1o days, he has a tentatively booked surgical appointment. I'm sure hoping we can cancel that one!

This is what Hobo is supposed to look like...happy, goofy, silly. I won't show you what he looks like today! He's my goofy little guy; the happiest dog in the yard. I've never seen him show so much pain, be so quiet and lethargic. I've seen this dog with massive, life-threatening injuries and never heard him complain & he was still trying to wag his tail. Hopefully, the meds will kick in soon and he'll be doing The Hobo Dance of Joy for no apparent reason again!

Friday, April 09, 2010

The Big Kahoona's Arrival

9 years ago today, Kayleigh, aka the Big Kahoona, came home.

If I had known then what I know now, I probably wouldn't have adopted her. But I would not know what I do now without her. The tough ones are the best teachers.

Happy Gotcha Day, big girl!

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Good medicine...

Sleet is 15 and a half years old; she has all the struggles dogs of that age have...stiff hips, cloudy eyes, limited strength and endurance ect. This mild winter hasn't been much fun for the sled dogs, but it has been a blessing for Sleet! Mild temperatures, sunshine, and Metacam are good medicine for old bones!So good that I was able to capture this beautiful sight this afternoon...The ancient one playing, actually playing with sweet Pacer being gentle and letting her win! Definately one of the prettiest sights I've seen in ages, even through my dirty front window!
(Mom, you should come visit soon, the windows are filthy!)

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Earle Update

Earle got to come home on Sunday evening. He wasn't eating yet, but he was pretty anxious to get out of the clinic. Apparently, he was becoming quite vocal about his unhappiness with his confinement!
So we decided to see if he would be hungrier at home. It didn't work on Sunday. He was happy to be home and the other dogs were truly thrilled to see him. There was none of the usual "you smell funny" stuff. They took turns sniffing him; licking his ears, and snuggling with him. But Earle wouldn't eat yet. Monday Earle started to eat, not much and only if he thought another dog was about to steal his food, but at least he got a bit of nutrition into him! It had been a full week at that point since he had eaten anything! Today he ate breakfast because he just couldn't let Franklin have it! Tonight he wolfed down his dinner, without competition for the bowl! He was actually hungry!

He's not 100% yet, but we did come very, very close to loosing him so it may be awhile before he's fully back to normal. He'll likely need a special diet for the rest of his life, but he seems to like the low fat, easy to digest food. We are thrilled, deeply relieved, and happy beyond words that he's still with us and appears to be on the road back to health!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Acute Severe Pancreatitis...

Acute Severe Pancreatitis...that's what Earle has!
Monday he was a healthy, happy boy. He even came for a big walk, playing in the snow with his buddies, Daisy and Hobo.
Tuesday morning, he started puking and by Wednesday morning he couldn't stop puking, wouldn't drink anything, refused to stand up on his own, was essentially unresponsive to everything around him...conscious, but didn't care one bit about anything. The diagnosis, acute severe pancreatitis..a very painful, potentially life-threatening condition.

After two days at the vet clinic, on a constant drip of IV fluids, pain control and anti-nausea medications, x-rays and an ultrasound...
He's improving. Not himself, but responsive again. He ate a whopping 3 tablespoons of food this morning, kept it down and then refused to eat another bite all day. He can't come home until he is eating and drinking on his own and most importantly, keeping it all down!
Maybe tomorrow he'll get released from the doggy ICU!

Monday, February 01, 2010

Click in his little canine brain...

A little over four years ago, a timid grey dog arrived in my world.

Sundin's mother, Pingo, already lived here. I was told they had similar temperment, a bit spooky, but sweet, smart dogs. Sundin is sweet and smart, but he is pathologically timid. Terrified of everything, trusts no one. I put him in the smallest pen I have in November 2005; I did not touch him again until February 2006! He was completely uncatchable. From that first contact til very recently, Sundin would occcasionally decide that he wanted to run. He is confinent and reliable in harness. He came from a distance musher and has been to races all over North America.

We reached a mutual understanding. I wouldn't push him too much; he would occasionally let me pet him or put him in a harness. Last winter, Sundin showed me that he does trust me when he has to, like when he's badly injured and needs assistance. He knows who to turn to when he needs help. After he had recovered, our relationship returned to it's status quo.

Until three weeks ago, when something went click in Sundin's little canine brain. All of the sudden, he decided that he likes me; he likes sleeping in the house; he loves having his ears scratched and he'll run every time I hook a team up. I even get the occasional little kiss while I'm putting his harness on! He can be loose in different pens; I can catch him without trapping him or luring him with food. Like a normal dog, "Come here, Sundin" actually gets him to come here!

Apparently it takes four years, three months and two weeks for Sundin to unpack and decide to make himself at home! I just wish I knew what it was that made the click happen! I would have done it a long time ago!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Just what every sled dog needs...

A chair!
Anvik rarely gets on the furniture in the house, prefering the comforts of his crate when indoors, but he makes good use of the old recliner in the yard.
Pacer is both a bed and chair hog, indoors and out! Here he is enjoying an armchair in the yard! Pacer would never survive in a real dog yard...he loves to pull, but no way is he sleeping outside!
Hobo has recently decided to play the "I'm old" card. He is old, 13 actually, but he rarely acts his age. He's one of those dogs who is never going to truly mature. He has mellowed a tiny bit with age and now thinks if someone is home, he should be allowed to be in the house with them! His new favorite spot, my recliner! Age has it's privileges!