Ten sleddies plus a little Tica and a teeny, tiny Peanut (neither of whom are, or ever were, a sled dog!) came out with their humans for a walk around a lake.
Most of the group was familiar with each other, but we had a new addition in Argus -- a super sweet fella who made it out of the industry last year and was recently adopted into a loving home where he's since taken over the recliner. He was a champ meeting his new friends and he and his family were officially welcomed into the sleddie community.
Once again I share quite a few photos of this gathering. More than some would share in a photo essay. But I want to provide an opportunity for viewers to see nuances in the dogs - their ears, tails, eyes, body posture. See them greet each other, sniff, take treats. But also the moments of nervousness, tucked tails, ears back, the unsureness. Because for as far as some of these sleddies have come, there are still things that can rock them a bit.
And sharing a few extra photos supports my aim of telling the truth - in photographs and words - of what I take in when I'm with my sleddie friends. It's not all great leaps forward. There's good and not-so-good. There can be many mis-steps, steps back and breakdowns along the way. Baby steps when you see how easy it could be for them to soar, if only they let you in. It can be really hard, yet incredibly rewarding at the same time. It can be beautifully messy.
It can just be.
Any way you look at it though, it can change your life and the life of the animal relying on you.
So, for example: Stevie gets worried on leash, so he spent most of the walk (when it was safe from cars) off leash and forging his own path. Literally. He'd truck along adjacent to the path and then stop - sometimes seeming stuck or looking for his Geri - so I'd say "come on Stevie", and he'd start moving again. Champ!
And Bruno, (aka Mr B) trotted along and when we stopped he got some pets. It may seem like Mr B doesn't want them, but for him, if he doesn't want pets, he will move away. He's slowly showing his 'tells'. So today when we were stopped and he stood next to me I gave him some shoulder rubs. Then stopped. Then he'd look at me. So I'd rub his shoulder some more. He did this with Geri and his foster mom Shannon, too. Champ!
I hadn't seen Arwen and Pluto for ages! It was beautiful to see them continue to thrive! Their coats were shiny, their eyes were bright, and they were loose... just tearing it up off-leash as much as possible. Champs!
Roo and Mary Kate represented Deb's gang. (Apex, Flash and foster Troy decided to stay at home and have a party or watch tv or something...?) They trotted along politely, on leash the whole way. It felt weird to not have them zipping around, but them doing so well on leash further proves that they're dogs as dogs can be. Champs!
Sparky and Stevie came in together back in January 2021 and it's really, so cool to see the positive changes in them. Stevie literally hid behind Sparky when they came into care, but now, they're their own personalities! Champs!
Portia came into care in April 2021. Originally being fostered by Jillian, Jasper decided Portia was a-ok, so she stayed. This girl does not stop... she's a go, go, go... and she's a tough one to photograph. So at the end of the walk, Jill gave her a hug and I think I got one. Champs!
As for non-sleddies Tica and Peanut, well, Tica is my little buddy (and Mr B's foster sister) and she made sure I kept her fed and she showed up for bum scritches every time I crouched down to get a photo of another dog. As for teeny-tiny Peanut - she's a foster through Victoria Humane Society and was happy to be carried around all snuggled up, although at home, she has no problem telling foster sister Sparky what to do. Also included in the photos are a random family who wanted me to take their photo - they had cute dogs, so I said ok!
Wherever they're from - Whistler, Thunder Bay, Salmo, and beyond... and whatever their story - abandoned and left to starve, abandoned and pregnant, seized as part of a cruelty investigation, surrendered... this group shows the strength and resilience of former sled dogs and proves once again, that they are individual dogs with likes and dislikes and deserving of a life beyond the end of a chain.
Sleddie roll call: Argus, Arwen, Bruno (Mr B), Jasper + Portia, Mary Kate + Roo, Pluto, Sparky and Stevie
Thank you to the fosters and adopters for helping me share their stories.
p.s. and even though our old friend ChiChi passed away in 2020, she was able to join us in the form of a little purple glass stone. xo
Today I had the privilege of meeting Argus.
Like Troy, whom I met last weekend, this fella has made it out of the biz (thanks to the actual enforcement of some basic sled dog regulations) and is now taking up residence on his new family’s recliner where it’s soft, he’s cozy and warm and being doted on. It’s a bit of a learning curve for him and his new family, but Argus is showing that he’s ready for this new lease on life.
Today was his first walk amongst ‘his people’ (sleddies and their adopters) and he was a champ. He may have vision problems (a tough go for the fella named after the Greek God of Surveillance/giant with a hundred eyes) but his sniffer works aces and he sniffed his new friends, new surroundings and the treats on offer.
Welcome to your new chapter Argus!!
Argus marks the 210th sleddie photographed, named and given space in this world, in my decade-long work following the 'after' of former sled dogs.
For more, please visit my Archives!
(more photos from the walk to come!)
Today was it. The day I got to meet Troy.
As one of a number of dogs seized from an operator in the interior of BC last year in a cruelty case, Troy brings with him a bit of a backstory.
But I don't want to go into all that right now.
I want to share this new part of his life. The part where he's now covered by animal protection laws and is no longer beholden to someone for their livelihood and his life. The part where he now has choice and opportunity.
I don't know how fearful (or not) he was when he was first taken into care last year (about 340 days ago), but when he arrived today and hopped out of the van, he came right up my front steps to greet me. When I pulled out a treat, he sat down and looked at me. I don't really ask dogs to do much for a treat other than look cute -- which all dogs nail 100% of the time -- but after my surprised look at this sit performance, I was told Troy's been learning some new things while in care, and learning to sit* was one of them.
What's that saying you can't teach an old dog new tricks? BAH!
*Note: Although sitting is often one of the first things humans seem to teach dogs, in the sleddie world, this and similar movements are taught with some extra care, especially for the seniors. Not all dogs come with vet records, and if they do, they can be pretty limited so some level of arthritis is a given. But depending on the severity (along with any other undiagnosed joint and spine issues) sitting can be difficult, painful or even impossible. So if new-into-care sleddies aren't quite learning this new ask, it's not because they aren't smartie-pants, it could likely be pain related.
Before we headed off to the park though we took a moment in my yard to chat, I sat down and Troy came over and I gave him some scritches while he sniffed my face and head. I brought out the treat baggie and the results were: Dried fish snacks? Sure! Soft Milk Bones? Maybe. Stella & Chewy's Surf n' Turf? YES PLEASE!!
Golden Oreos? Nah.
Then off we went with Troy's nose to the ground.
Boy this guy likes to sniff. And rightly so... living life on a chain as a working sled dog meant his sniffing world was very small. But now, at 9 years old, this guy has the opportunity to sniff this big, wide world of ours and it looks like he's gonna make up for lost time!
During today's short visit, Troy eagerly sniffed the park pathway where all the dogs pee when they arrive at the park. Also, the walkway, the brambles, the grass by the rocks, the rocks, the top of ocean, the actual ocean (as he stuck his nose in the water), the otter in the distance eating a fish, the birds above and in the water, some new strange humans and dogs, and then once back at my house, a good sniff of my backyard where he peed on all my dog's favourite pee spots!
Today's adventure also included a blackberry thorn removal from above bramble sniffing (see photo 5) and scritches. Troy loves scritches. He loves them on his face, chest and even the top of his head, especially when you use your fingertips like an octopus (see photo 13).
I think though, the moment that best describes this outing was the one where he stood still and turned his face to the warmth of the sun, eyes closed. (photo 27)
Maybe I'm putting my human-ness on this action, but he looked pretty blissed out there for a moment.
I'm incredibly grateful that I got to meet this fella because although he's come from a different kennel than many of the 200+ sleddies I've met, he's yet another former sled dog proving that he's an individual with his own likes, dislikes, needs and personality. I can only imagine how big his world will continue to get now that he has the opportunity, along with a huge community of former sled dog adopters behind him, cheering him on. 100%.
Troy is in foster with super-sleddie adopter/foster Deb, but is adoptable through the SPCA in Victoria.
what was captured by camera on this walk:
- Bruno getting pets
- Bruno going up stairs
- Bruno going down stairs
- Bruno standing in the warm, morning sun
- Bruno getting treats (he's the gentlest of treat takers)
- Bruno meeting other dogs
- Bruno on the beach and not interested in the ocean
- Bruno watching the world
what was not captured by camera: (because sometimes it's just about being in the moment)
- Bruno following me (who he's always kept at arms' length previously) as we walked
- Bruno sniffing the pathway, then peeing (he's only recently learned to sniff on walks)
- Bruno taking treats from me as if he's been doing it for ages (he's taken them before, but not so easily)
- Bruno looking at me and not turning away when I looked at him
- Bruno jumping up onto a cement block because that's where I was... then taking more treats
- Bruno looking relaxed while getting loves (he's camera shy) and treats from his foster, Shannon
Bruno is such a gem. He asks for nothing, just follows along. He looks around to see the world and he is trying so hard to fit in. For some sleddies, it takes a bit to work through new things. For Bruno, one of the ways he does this is circling. He was on a long leash line on this walk so he had the chance to explore a bit more (which he did), but he does this sort of pace/circle action. In his past life, he lived on a chain tether so it's a very familiar action and without trying to decode his psyche too much, I've see it in countless other sleddies as they worked through new situations. Bruno did this action before he joined me on the cement block and he does it sometimes when stopped on the path, or something new is in his midst.
He's taking those steps though. And in the couple months since I first met him and started going on walks, it's so ridiculously beautiful to see his progress. In a previous post I likened his progress to not just baby steps as they were more like "blink-and-you-may-miss-them steps", but to know him is to see this new world unfold for him.
I know the perfect home is out there for him. Someone who just wants to trundle around with him, gently, at his pace. Who can provide sanctuary for him while he continues to heal and learn.
Thanks to Shannon and Tica (the costa-rican-street-pup-turned-Bruno-guardian), for a beautiful walk.
p.s. After the gallery, check out the two video clips!
Sweet Copper passed away.
In the handful of times I got to see her in real life, Copper was pretty shy for the most part (aside from being a bit of a treat-hound when the camera was not on her!). But I know she had her silly side, her soft side; her side that let her trusted humans in so they could care for her, stroke her face as she lay on the bed and tell her they loved her.
The photos I got to see and stories I got to hear of when she was out with her safe group -- the dogs and humans she felt most comfortable with -- were full of adventure, laughs, high jumps for treats, and even a few surprises.
My heart goes out to her sleddie crew -- Deb with Apex, Calli, Mary Kate, Roo + Flash, Jillian with Jasper and Portia, and all the others - sleddie and non-sleddie, human and non-human who she spent time with.
As I went through my archives searching for photos, I realized I only saw her a handful of times in person over the 5+ years she lived with her family. But because of this strong, supportive, sleddie community, we get to know each other's dogs so well.
And that's a pretty special thing.
Whatever Copper's first chapter as a sled dog had been, her second chapter was spent in warmth, peace and as a beloved family member. Loved for who she was.
Was it too short?
It always is.
My love goes out to her family.
Rest in peace and love Copper.
Who would've thought, all those years ago, that one day, Whistler sleddog cull survivors would wind up with their adorable faces on a tea towel?
Not me, that's for sure.
But it happened for not just one, but TWO sleddies - ChiChi + Fiddle - thanks to the amazing Wunderdog Magazine!
So today with the heaps of snow having melted and the incessant rain at bay, I took a drive to see Fiddle (also the cover dog of this blog) and deliver this cutie little tea towel to her in person. I hadn't seen Fiddle in real life since August 2019 when I went to visit her and meet her foster brother, Bran, but she gave me that same smile as she walked right up to me to say hello and lean in for pets. In fact, she was more interested in saying hello and burying the treats I gave her than any real present, but she took a moment to sniff the little package wrapped in the adorable custom Wunderdog Christmas wrap (also featuring Fiddle + ChiChi) with Fiddle herself on the tag! I have to say it's quite possibly the cutest wrapping on the planet!
Once this treat-hound realized it wasn't edible, she didn't have much interest, but damn if this 16-going-on-17 year old sweetheart at least took the time to give it a sniff! (video below!)
Off camera? Fiddle got treats, gave me kisses and stopped for loves while the humans had a chat. And then she took a little zoomie around the front yard before deciding it was time to head back inside.
I'm so thankful that Fiddle is getting to live out her life in safety, comfort and dignity... and lots of loves!
For more on Fiddle's story, visit her profile here!
Thanks for visiting!
p.s. correction to the above... I saw Fiddle most recently on January 1, 2020 on a forest walk... check it out!
Sleddie radar is a real thing and for me it's always on.
Books, tv, social media, or just walking my own dog around the neighbourhood. That familiar excited-like twinge I feel when it zeroes in on that which is so familiar to me. Sleddies. Even with the diversity throughout the dogs I've met, there's a walk, body posture, look, along with something I can't describe, that 99% of the time is unmistakeable.
Yesterday it picked up on a social media post of a missing dog. Not only did the dog look like a sleddie, but I thought we'd met before, but probably a long time ago. The dog's age was noted at 17, so it would likely be a Whistler survivor, which meant we would've met in 2012 or 2013.
But then I had a work call and got distracted for the rest of the day.
When my friend Deb reached out later in the afternoon with the lost dog post asking: "Oh my god is this Whistler sleddie blizzard????????"
My answer was "YES!"
I quickly looked her up in my gallery of all the sleddies I've ever photographed and found her right away.
I met Blizzard July 23, 2013 on her first day of retirement. She was a survivor of the Whistler sled dog cull in 2010 and she arrived into care with 13 other sleddies (Question, Eagle, Boo, Tuba, Cello, Owl, Ping, Mister, Muffin, Muselix, Bubba, Hopper, Griffindor). I managed to keep in touch with (or keep tabs on) a few of the sleddies from this group, but I always wonder what happened to the sleddies I've haven't been able to keep in touch with... who adopted them? How was their retirement? Did they get all that they needed? Time to run and play and just be the amazing dogs they are? As survivors of the cull, what effect did that end up having on their lives?
It was heartbreaking to see Blizzard was missing and even more so considering the pseudo-blizzard that blew into town yesterday afternoon. That twinge from my sleddie radar going off appeared, but felt a bit different this time. It wasn't excitement -- it felt more quiet than that. More like relief perhaps. Relief that a dog who'd suffered so much was still being loved and cared for, no matter what she was up to. And relief she was safe once again.
The workings of sleddie radar have been honed by lots of people in our community. Last week a sleddie adopter friend (Shrekkie's mom) had a sleddie radar connection with a new co-worker. During the 'getting to know you' conversation, they talked about dogs and discovered they both had adopted sleddies many years ago. Barb then got in touch with me asking if I remembered a couple sleddies named Comet & Holstein.
Did I? Absolutely!
And when I asked why, she told me of the connection!
It's a small sleddie world.
Although I never met Holstein, I knew the name through old records I've seen. But Comet, I met back in March 2012, around the same time I met Shrek. I remember having a hard time telling Comet and Shrek apart in my photos once I got home as they looked so similar - the tell for me ended up being the ears. Comet's stood up, Shrek's flopped over.
Comet has since passed away, but Holstein is still adventuring.
I absolutely love hearing these stories.
I have a hard time describing how it feels when I hear about these connections. As someone who generally only gets to see a dog when they're not themselves... scared, nervous, overly excited, shut down, unsettled... to find out that they've been loved and cared for all these years is a really unique and beautiful feeling that brings me some semblance of comfort and enables me to keep sharing stories.
Thank you for visiting,