Monday, November 04, 2013

Good-Bye Big Guy....

We said goodbye to another pack member this weekend.
Heyoka has been here for ten years or so.  He wasn't the kind of dog we normally took in; he was very adoptable, but Stuart fell in love at first sight and decided we deserved an easy dog for a change.  Some guilt went with that decision which led to us also adopting Raven, a far less adoptable, long term shelter resident, on the same day. 
Heyoka was in many ways an easy dog.  He was the anti-malamute.  He had none of the traits that make malamutes so difficult at times.  He didn't eat cats; he wasn't same sex aggressive; he was reliable off leash and obeyed most commands.  He also had no work ethic and my attempts to turn him into a working sled dog were futile.  He was a pet, a delightful, happy, goofy, pet. 
 His name meant clown who teaches or a shaman who does everything backwards.  It fit him perfectly.  He was a clown.  Silly and happy all the time, even as he aged and his body let him down, he remained happy. 
Heyoka's health has not been great for much of his life.  He was a shelter dog but we know who bred him, a lousy backyard malamute breeder who bred solely for size & did not care about the overall health of his dogs.  Heyoka paid the price for that negligence.  A couple years ago we took Heyoka to Anchorage for surgery on his throat.  He loved being an only dog for a week and we are forever grateful that he had over 2 years able to breath with ease!  His spine started to degenerate several years ago.  He occasionally had difficultly getting his legs to do what he told them!  With help from our wonderful vet and good chemistry, he was pain free and mobile. 
Three weeks ago, Heyoka refused to eat and was working hard to breath.  His throat surgery left him at high risk of aspiration pneumonia, which he did have at that time.  Unfortunately, we also discovered that he had lymphoma.  He'd probably had it for a long time and the drugs we gave him for his other issues controlled the symptoms.  We elected not to try chemo.  Heyoka was not young dog and was not healthy to start with.  He also truly hated the vet clinic.  He had no problem with the doc, but he fought going in her building with everything he had!  Putting him through the stress of very frequent clinic visits didn't seem worth it.  We elected to keep him comfortable for as long as possible.  Unfortunately, it wasn't very long. 

Saturday morning, Heyoka was lethargic and refused to eat.  Heyoka always delighted in food.  We always assumed he needed immediate vet care if he didn't eat.  Our vet found he was running a very high fever.  She gave him a couple injections & said if he didn't respond in a few hours, we would have to make a decision.  We knew leaving the clinic the end was near for Heyoka so we spent the afternoon enjoying his company on an unseasonably warm day.  That evening we let him go, surrounded by the dogs, cats and people he loved and who loved him. 
I miss everything about him...his big raspy wooo, watching him chase his own tail, listening to his gentle snore, big dog cuddles on the couch, the way he bounced waiting for his dinner.....the list is endless.  There will never be another like him.  I am heartbroken & so glad we broke the rules and took that "easy" dog. 
Every dog leaves a hole when they leave, some  bigger than others.  Heyoka leaves a hole several times bigger than his 130 body.  

Sunday, October 20, 2013

More Running Fun!

I spent last weekend in Victoria.  Three blissful nights of uninterupted sleeep!  No senile old dogs who want out every two hours all night long!  That alone was enough for an epic weekend, but I was there to run another half marathon...the Victoria Goodlife Fitness Marathon!
So I was up ridiculously early on Sunday morning, hanging out with 5000 other people running the half!  Over 10,000 people ran various events that day, from a one mile kids' race to a full marathon!

 I trained all summer for this run and was hoping to finish a few minutes faster than my first half marathon in Mayo. 
 It went better than I'd hoped!  I didn't cramp up, didn't feel like I was going to die at any point and I finished a whopping 16 minutes faster crossing the line in 2:23:07!  Running in the middle of the pack in a bigger race is a lot of fun!
My first finisher's medal!  I am ridiculously proud of that thing! 
I'm going to run a few more halves next year.  I'm registered for one in Calgary on June 1.  Next October, I'm planning to run Victoria again, but as my first FULL MARATHON!

Monday, September 09, 2013

How I spent my weekend....

Running in the Klondike International Road Relay!  It's a 10 leg relay from Skagway, Alaska to Whitehorse, Yukon.  Starts on Friday at 7pm in Skagway and runs all night long.  The last teams are into Whitehorse around 3pm Saturday. 
I was running leg 6, the longest leg of the race at just under 26km.  I started running in the pitch black and in a misty rain just before 5am.

About half way through I was out of the darkness...readers who know me will know that's a big deal.  The dark is one of my least favourite things!  The scenery along the highway is pretty spectacular once you can see it!  Most of my leg was uphill!  19km of elevation gains.  The last 7km were mostly downhill.  Downhill is tough when you are tired! Not as easy as it seems it should be!  I did handle it much better than I did in the half marathon in Mayo though!

The end of my leg in Carcross, Yukon.  The longest run I've done so far by a few kilometres and I was still upright at the end.  Yay Me!  :)
Next up I'm running a half marathon in Victoria on Thanksgiving Sunday & I've decided to try a full marathon sometime next's a whole new kind of crazy around here!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Oh, the chaos!

The last few weeks have been chaotic around here.  Reminds me of the old days when the dogs were constantly into something or up to something!  I'd rather not be reminded quite so often of that!
Two days after Pingo's passing, I left for a family reunion in Saskatchewan.  The reunion was a ton of fun.  I am blessed with a large and loving extended family! 
The day I left Tehya seemed a bit off....lethargic and not her normal bouncy little self.  I asked our dogsitter, the ever brave Todd, to keep an eye on her and call our vet if she didn't perk up.  I thought Tehya was just mourning the passing of her friend and she'd be back to normal in a day or two.  It didn't quite work out that way!
The next morning, Tehya couldn't stand on her own and was nearly unresponsive.  Todd rushed her to the vet where she was immediately put on fluids, steroids and a host of other things!  It turns out that Tehya has Addison's disease, but she didn't show any consistent symptoms until she was in a full blown Addison's crisis.  Her potassium levels were so high that her kidneys had failed and her heart was shutting down.  If it had been an hour longer before she got treatment, this would be a memorial post!  I expect to lose several more dogs in the not so distant future, but I can't comprehend losing the Babydog yet!
Fortunately, Tehya survived the crisis and while Addison's is incurable, it can be managed.  Tehya will take at least two medications for the rest of her life to replace what her adrenal glands no longer produce.  The change has been quite astounding!  She's back to her happy, hyper, playful, sweet self.  She's full of energy!  We're working on finding the level of activity she can tolerate and learning what stresses her out.  Stress could trigger another crisis or require her dosages to be increased if we know it's coming!  She's a pretty well adjusted dog so hopefully she won't get stressed too often. 
A life threatening crisis is really more than enough for any dogsitter to handle!  But my dogs had more in store for Todd.  Like a porcupine that somehow got into the yard...through the game fencing or blown out of a tree or stupidest porcupine in history!  He did not survive to get back out of the yard and 5 of the dogs spent the day at the clinic getting de-quilled!  2 more had quills pulled at home! 
 Hobo, who is pushing 17 years old, had a seizure while he was at the clinic.  He recovered and it seems no long term damage was done, but it added to the chaos!  There's little as stressful as being thousands of kilometres away and completely unable to help your furry kids or your dogsitter!
The chaos did not end when I returned home!  Chum had surgery to remove a mass scheduled last week.  That all went as planned, but he's put on quite a performance about wearing a cone collar and having a drain removed from the incision site.  It really shouldn't take over half an hour, three people and a muzzle to clip one little stitch and pull out a little tube!  But if you're Chum, you assume anytime someone touches your legs, they are planning to hack them off! 
One day after Chum's surgery, the dogs had their first fight in several years!  I had thought we were passed all that crap!  Pacer, as always, got the worst of the battle. I wasn't at home when it happened, but I think it was small battle, mostly Antare and Pacer.  No other dogs were injured.  Pacer's injuries weren't serious, just some facial punctures.  Any blood on a solid white dog looks like the dog has been in a war zone though!  Pacer is healing well. 
Today, the big dog, Heyoka, visited the clinic.  He's had a hitch in his gait for a long time and a couple years ago he had some trouble with a compressed nerve in his back end.  The limp suddenly got worse and his back end was weak again.  Given how things have been going around here, I was expecting a terminal diagnosis!  It's not that bad though!  Heyoka has spinal stenosis, his spinal canal is narrowing and the nerves don't have enough room anymore.  The messages they send aren't getting all the way through to his legs!  He's not in pain.  Heyoka is a miserable, nasty dog when he's hurting and he's acting like his usual goofy self, just with a wonky gait!  We have a treatment plan, a new course of drugs to try; again it's not a curable condition, but hopefully we can manage it for some time yet.  He does have a bit of arthritis in his front leg too.  He's a giant dog and is at least 12 years old, very old for a dog of his size!  Arthritis is to be expected!
I am deeply grateful to our dogsitter for handling everything, for saving Tehya's life; to our neighbour who helped out with getting the quills out of everyone and especially to our vet, the remarkable Dr. Candace...for saving Tehya, helping the others and always having a smile for their neurotic owner!

Monday, July 29, 2013


She arrived here almost 10 years ago, a timid little dog, intimidated by those already here who were so much bigger than her!  But she was smart and she adapted quickly.  It rarely takes a sled dog long to learn to love the comforts of the couch after a run.
She indulged her border collie herding dog side by chasing tennis balls and the occasional mountain biker! 
Her husky side thrived as a lead dog in my little team.  She was not a command leader, although she knew all the commands.  Her gifts lay elsewhere.  She was the finest trail dog I have ever known. If she balked at an ice crossing, it wasn't safe. If she refused a trail, even after I raised my voice to give the command, there was a moose on that trail.  She could pick the most solid trail out of a dozen crossing a lake, the fastest way home, the easiest way through overflow.  She may not have always turned where I told her, but she was smarter than me and her way always got us home safely.
For every minute of the ten years we shared & I suspect of the 6 plus she had before she came here, she was a good dog.  She never escaped, never wandered off.  She never fought, in fact, she hid under the deck at the first growl.  She accepted all the newcomers after her without a snarl.  She didn't dig, she didn't bark unless there was a very good reason.  She was mellow, laid back and an easy keeper.  She never caused me any stress and incurred big vet bills. She was simply a good dog.
In her last months, her hard working body began to fail her.  The back that strongly lead a team for a dozen years began to stiffen and ache.  The mind that remembered every curve in every trail began to forget why she wanted outside.  Good pain medications and cushy bed in the living room kept her comfortable until just a few days ago.  She didn't seem to be in any pain, but she was weak and wobbly.  She couldn't chase her beloved tennis balls.  She couldn't get in her favourite dog house or up on the couch. 
We tried and hoped for one more rebound, but it was not to be.  Earlier this evening, Pingo was released from a body and mind both no longer capable of keeping up with her spirit. 
In harness, her favourite command, the one she never ignored, was "Pingo-Pick-A-Trail", when she got to decide where we went.
Wherever she is now, I hope Pingo-Pick-A-Trail is the only command she ever hears. 
Run free, my pretty girl. 

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Half a pack...

This afternoon our pack numbers just half as many dogs as it did a few years ago.  At our highest number, 26 dogs called this place home.  This morning there were 14; this afternoon just 13 remain.
This morning began like any other, with Reggae yelling at me from his pen!  This happened every morning as soon as Tehya came outside.  He wanted Tehya in his pen right now!  After a little while of listening to his complaints, I went to put Tehya in with him.  Reggae didn't come to the gate to greet her.  I found him a short distance away, laying in a patch of fireweed, alert & yelling but unable to move on his own.  The yelling stopped as soon as I got to him; he wasn't yelling for his girlfriend this time, he was yelling for help. 
He was less responsive and much quieter by the time we got to the vet clinic.  His gums were grey and his breathing was ragged.  An x-ray showed a large tumour in his chest cavity, pushing on his vagus nerve and likely his heart and lungs too.   Reggae had a senior check up about a couple months ago. He had recently gone blind in one eye, but other than that, he had no serious health issues. He turned 14 in May and seemed to be doing quite well.  The location of the mass in his chest meant it caused no symptoms until it caused major symptoms.  There was no choice but to release Reggae from a body that had suddenly and dramatically failed him.
Just last night he was yelling at me through the fence when I was too slow bringing him a bone.  Today it is oppressively quiet here.  My neighbours likely won't miss his racket, but I will miss my noisy, happy boy. 

Sunday, June 23, 2013

First Half Marathon DONE!

It's done!  I crossed the finish line under my own power and upright!  I was a few minutes slower than I had hoped to run, but let's keep that in perspective...I ran just over 21 kilometres(13 miles) in 2 hours & 39 minutes.  8 months ago, when I started this running thing, a single kilometre left me gasping for air and I was taking an hour to get 5km finished!  So all in all, I'm pretty happy with my first half marathon!
This is where my time went off track!  Kilometre 19 and my legs decided they had done enough!  I was well prepared for this hill at the start of the race. It's an out and back course so this both near the start and the end.  I do lots of hills running around my neighbourhood.  Going up was no problem. I was not prepared for how difficult it would be going downhill with legs of lead! 
In hindsight, I don't think I drank enough on the course.  I had way more water left in my bottles than usual & I probably should have grabbed an orange slice or two at the turn around spot.  Lessons learned for next time!  There will be a next time!
The Mayo Midnight Marathon is really a nice event.  Besides being well organized and putting on a killer breakfast feast the next morning, everyone was really friendly.  Somewhere on that hill when I was obviously struggling,  a guy running the full marathon, at about kilometre 40 of his race, slowed his pace long enough to give me some words of encouragment. 
A couple kilometres earlier, a lady told me I had a "beautiful pace" and referred to me as "steady eddy" every time she saw me for the rest of the weekend.  She may have a strength as a runner is never going to be my speed; I am not a sprinter, I'm never going to run a Boston Qualifer time, but I am steady!  I settle into my happy pace and I stay there!  My split times are almost always within seconds from start to finish! 
Oh, next time.....I just registered for another half marathon in Victoria over the Thanksgiving weekend!

Monday, April 29, 2013

Not a runner...

I'm not a runner; that's what I've said for most of my life.  Athletic, sure.  I've played all kinds of sports and even excelled at a couple.  I was a very competitive downhill skier in my younger days.  My coach, who was one of the most influential adults in my life who was not related to me, made me run several times a week.  I adored Scott, but I cursed him with every step.  I hated dryland training more than just about anything! I never got any connection between my performance on my skis and running around a park at 6am!  In my early 20's I went through a stage of working out obsessively. I could squat hundreds of pounds repeatedly, weighed less than was healthy for my frame and avoided the cardio equipment like the plague! 

A couple months before my 40th birthday last fall, I did a couch to 5km program and didn't hate it.  I bought some really good running shoes and fancy running clothes.  A girl can spend a lot of money in a running store!  Then I got sidetracked with holidays in Costa Rica, losing Glacier & Deuce, Christmas and a bout of  pneumonia.  I kept running but it wasn't nearly as often as it should have been. 

Once I got back on my feet, I started running more and more.  I started getting bitchy on the days something kept me from running.  My husband started encouraging me to run as I generally came home in a better mood than when I left!  I still avoid cardio equipment as much as possible.  We have a lovely gym quality treadmill in our shop. I have all the technology to distract me while I run on it...ipad, netflix, still makes me want to cry with boredom! 

If it was above -15C, I ran outside all winter in a pair of trail shoes with ice spikes...I love those spikes!  Sometimes accompanied by Tehya, the only one of my dogs who has the energy or interest in doing much anymore!  The road through our subdivison is a 6km loop, ending with a massive uphill climb.  No matter what direction I go, I have to climb a big ass hill to get home.  Over the winter, I took 12 minutes off the time that 6km takes me.  I started wandering into the next subdivision to add a bit of distance.  I got farther up the hill before my lungs begged for mercy! 

Last week, I blew part of my tax refund on a Garmin Forerunner 210.  What a fun toy!  It tells me far more than I really need to know, but it's just fun to use! 

Sunday, I went into Whitehorse and ran a 10km loop around the Yukon River trails in just over an hour.  Not terribly fast but I was pretty damn happy about it, especially when I couldn't run a single kilometer not that long ago!  I could have gone farther; I didn't feel like I was dying, I wasn't begging for mercy.  That damn hill has had some benefits...a flat course didn't feel so bad at all!

Today, after some discussion with a cousin who is an elite runner and fitness coach, before I could remember that I'm not a runner, I registered for the Mayo Midnight Marathon!  I'll be running the half marathon, 21km or 13.1 miles, on June 22!  That's right about my favourite day of the year, when the light is at it's height and it never gets truly dark.  The half event starts at 9:30pm.  Eight weeks to train! 

So apparently, over 40 years later, I am a runner!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Etsy Store updated

I have been neglecting both this blog and my Etsy store of late! 
I did manage to get a few new items in the store tonight though! 
This is one of my favourite sets ever! 
More items will be listed in the next few days!
I'll try to get better at updating here too! 
Clearly it's been a pretty quiet winter!  The dogs have been behaving! They do that more often now that they are all old!  An aging pack has it's benefits!