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.