A year ago today, we released Sleet and Goldie from their failing bodies.
They were both old dogs, good dogs, so different in so many ways, but such good girls. Such a huge part of this place.
Sleet was our very first Yukon dog, my first lead dog; so smart it was a little scarey and the sweetest creature I've ever met. She was pure sugar! She was almost sixteen when she died; her spirit still strong, but her body unable to keep up anymore.
Sleet was a creature of habit. She hated change. She never missed a turn on the trail, always knew the way home, but could not figure out how to go around a box in her way in the house! I still keep her path clear at all times!
Goldie was the first shelter dog I met in the Yukon. It took me three years to get her to our home, but I knew that first day that she was meant to be here!
Goldie was tough. Life was not kind to her in early years. She was abused, malnourished and unloved. Three years in the shelter would break most dogs. Not Goldie! She had issues, but she moved on. She formed a deep bond with Chase; she delighted in every opportunity to stretch her short legs; she relished every meal and made it her mission to keep the Ravens away from her pen! She was fiesty, funny and very vocal.
In the end cancer was tougher than even Goldie, but she put up one hell of a fight. Given weeks to live when diagnosed, she stayed for 18 months and enjoyed every minute of her time.
We knew that Sleet and Goldie were leaving that day. What we did not know was what the next year would bring. In the next 12 months we lost five more dogs and one of our feline crew. Only the feline death was not horribly shocking.
Puff was at least 20 years old. She was not expected to live long when we got her. She stayed for four years before leaving on her own terms to find her first owner again. We mourned her passing, but it was not a suprise.
We did not expect to loose Founder in January; the way Bandit died will haunt us forever; euthanizing Mac & Ozzy was the single hardest thing we have ever done and a heartbreaking decision we hope to never face again.
Earle was 12, but we were expecting a couple more years with him. We continue to struggle with the fact that the best dog ever is gone.
The changes around here in one short year are amazing. Some of them are terribly sad; the absence of our departed pack members is felt everyday.
At the same time some of the changes are nice. I did not realize how much tension Mac & Ozzy caused in the pack. I have not broken up a fight, rushed a bleeding dog to the vet, tended wounds, stitches, drains etc in months. Since the end of February, I have not had to break up a single dog fight. I rarely have to even yell "KNOCK THAT OFF" anymore.
The yard is quieter, more peaceful these days . The dogs, except for Tehya, are all seniors. They don't cause nearly as much havoc and chaos as they once did. No one digs under the fence or leaps over it. Getting through the gate is much easier!
Feeding takes much less time and so much less food! One 5 gallon bucket of meat chunks feeds the whole pack. It used to take two of those buckets.
One of my extremely timid dogs, Sundin, has decided it's safe to unpack his baggage now. He's still a shy little dude, but he hangs out in the main yard quite often now. He lets me pet him with increasing regularity.
Pacer used to have to be in his pen all the time. The other dogs picked on him and he was seriously injured a couple times. Now Pacer lounges on the deck, joins in group howl sessions and is able to go wherever he wants without getting beat up!
We decided some time ago that we would not be adding to pack anymore; not filling the empty spots left by those who move on. That has been a difficult decision to stick to sometimes, but we have new plans and new horizons to explore.
We have enjoyed and continue to enjoy life with a big pack. It's been quite an adventure so far! This past year has brought many changes. The coming years will undoubtly bring more, some heartbreaking, some delightful.
I would change the heartbreak if I could, but not if it meant missing out on knowing, living with, loving this group of furry friends.