Welcome to the retired life Camino, Casey, Millie and Splash!
I have so much to say about this arrival - things that go much deeper than the images - so I'm going to ask you to not just look at the dogs as 'cute'...which they undoubtedly are...
As you click through the gallery, I'd like you to stop along the way and look at the dogs as individuals... and as sentient beings who made a big journey this day.
They left what they knew, to be shuttled in cars of people they didn't know. They went on a 95-minute ferry ride and ended up somewhere they'd never been.
Along the way they were curious, nervous, scared. Some gave kisses, watched out windows, wanted to meet new people along the way. They sniffed, wagged tails, leaned in for pats, took treats.
When they arrived, they met more new people, then were separated and taken into new home environments.
And through it all, the humans had to keep their distance from the other humans so they zig-zagged and ping-ponged around. doing their best to be calm, yet quick in the transfer so as to limit stress on the new arrivals. The dogs got fitted for new collars and harnesses and had ID tags and GPS trackers attached. They chatted with a volunteer who's very experienced in fostering former sled dogs so they could be provided with background information on what may appear to be odd behaviours. There was a group photo op, then the humans grabbed a big bag of food, and headed out to their respective homes for their new fosters to sleep off the day... and they did.
I followed one dog, Splash, across town to her foster home to end this part of her day's journey.
What I've learned from following the post-sled pulling days of sled dogs is that they are individuals with their own likes, dislikes and personalities. They are resilient, adaptable and ready to be more a part of this world, than they had the chance to. That no matter where they've come from, what they've lived, they will try.
This crew arrived with only some verbal history and one-page vet records, so they'll live in foster homes to learn the sights, sounds and smells of all that is new. And the foster homes help them along the way and will report on what they've learned, because adoption is the goal here. They will visit the vet for checkups and receive any extra care necessary. In this group, some have poor teeth, one has a lump that needs looking at, and two haven't been spayed. VHS will make sure these get attended to, and likely put out a call to their supporters to help with donations... something that's not taken lightly, and even harder to do at a time when financial pressures are high for many people.
It's time for the retirement leg of their journey to begin.
And from April 17, 2020 onwards, these four will finally be protected under the same animal protection laws as the pets we share our homes with.
Thank you to the volunteers Kim and Bobbie who helped get them into care, and to Debra for sharing her wealth of sleddie fostering knowledge to the new foster homes. And extra thanks to the foster homes who are waiting in the wings to help, taking in dogs who may be adults - seniors even - but may act like puppies learning the ropes of potty training and living in a house.
Amidst the COVID-19 global pandemic, things have not slowed down for rescues like VHS. In addition to all the other animals they're helping (they also brought in two more dogs, a cat and a bunny who went to foster homes and the executive director's own dog was called upon to do an emergency blood donation last night), they know the need is great for the dog sled tour operators who are scaling down. Not only is it the end of their touring season and the usual time of year when the 'herd gets thinned' in a number of different ways, but there is also an uncertain future to face, which means even more sled dogs will be in need of patient, caring homes. The work will continue as the love begins.
If you're interested in adopting, please contact The Victoria Humane Society directly through their website or facebook page.
Coming up in the next issue of Wunderdog Magazine... I Was A Sled Dog!
~ with photos and words by me and a cover for our girl ChiChi!
I get incredibly invested in my subjects and am very protective of how my sleddie images are used, what they're associated with and in what context, so I haven't really put this project out any farther than this website and corresponding social media pages. I've spent a lot of time musing and poring over dog publications over the years, but something didn't sit right or maybe I wasn't ready. There is an emotional toll that comes along with this work and although it's not about me, it had to feel 'right' to me. So when I happened upon Wunderdog on Instagram one day, within minutes of looking through their site I felt a kinship and decided that if I was going to reach out to a publication, this was it... and it was time.
The timing on this is also important as April 21 + 23, 2020 marks 10 years since the Whistler sled dog cull.
And with the world in a global pandemic and travel at a standstill, now, more than ever, it's important that these stories are shared.
The annual post-long-distance race dump of sled dogs to northern rescues is underway and operations who rely on tourist dollars to exist are now left without tourists. With no customers, no spectators and sponsors for the races, will happen to the dogs?
What usually happens after a season, will continue, but probably on a larger scale. There will be culls that we will never hear about. Dogs will be given away, sold, or abandoned. And some will end up with rescues and shelters who will then be tasked with getting medical needs met. From the basics like spays and neuters to any number of untreated physical issues- and they will have to foot the bill.
And then the dogs will need homes.
Those lucky enough to adopt a sleddie will need the support of other adopters of former sled dogs to understand that although it could take seven hours to seven days to seven years even for a former sled dog to learn new routines, new worlds and ultimately, how to be its real dog self, it's possible and we humans owe it to our canine companions to be there for them and help them along this next part of their life's journey.
Wunderdog Magazine is out of the UK and unfortunately isn't sold here (in Victoria, BC), so if you'd like to purchase a copy, I've ordered a few to help save on shipping costs. With the exchange it will be about $20(ish) CAD and I'll deliver within the Greater Victoria area.
I'm also going to be doing a draw (or two) so stay tuned!
Check out Wunderdog Magazine here!: www.wunderdogmagazine.com