A special sleddie for many reasons including being the 200th former sled dog in my this project!
Although I will admit, Centurion, who also retired today and arrived with Toledo, is just as special being #199.
... and, well... so are the other 198.
Both dogs arrived at VHS HQ after the trek from Whistler. Upon arrival they got some treats, more water and were fitted with new collars, harnesses and GPS trackers. They also got a few moments to chill before heading out to their foster homes where they'll get to decompress, learn about life living in a home and get to know some new humans. They'll get vet checked (and neutered), and when they're ready, adopted.
This vein of animal photojournalism, specifically documenting newly-retired sled dogs is not without its challenges. There generally aren't 'smiley' dogs, or cute "adopt me" photos. I have no expectation the dog will look at me, at least not at first. Sometimes they do, most of the time they don't. In fact I don't expect the dogs to do anything when I first meet them. It's left up to them. In today's gallery, you will see the missing tip of Centurion's ear and the bit missing from his tongue. You'll see Toledo's stress panting and him looking at the doorknob and out the window for possible escape routes. You will see fear, uncertainty and, inquisitiveness upon arrival into a new way of living. But you'll also get to see Centurion offer a perfect head tilt when I made a cat meow noise and his bum as he walks to the car with his new foster home and Toledo's jump right into Jill's car and into the crate - what he knows as a safe space. It's all part of sharing their story, no matter how small a chapter it may be in the story of their life.
And when the time came for super sleddie chauffeur Bobbie, to say farewell and head back home, she had a hard time leaving these fellas. In the few short hours she spent with them today, they filled her heart. But that's always the way. Once you've met and spent time with a retired sleddie, they stay with you. It's probably why I've continued to share their stories over the past decade - they're so dang easy to fall in love with.
I know in time they'll settle and this new life will get easier on them. I've seen it over and over and over again. Centurion, who bears not just physical, but emotional scars from a kennel he worked at long ago, could already be considered a "cuddle puddle" as he wanted loves from all the volunteers he met today. And Toledo, who may have escapism on his mind, well, I've already heard that he found his bed at his foster home and planted himself firmly in it.
Thanks to the Victoria Humane Society, Bobbie, Jillian, Deb + Penny and the sleddie foster families and volunteers for making this all happen for these two super special guys.
And to everyone who's been a part of helping the 198 sleddies transition into loving homes, thank you!
Welcome to retirement Centurion + Toledo!
There's a huge group cheering you on and ready to support you and your new families, when the time comes.
p.s. not sure who's who? Centurion is brown with golden brown eyes and Toledo is black + cream with piercing blue eyes.
Knikity Knik Knik Knik.
Is what I called her both in her presence and in my mind whenever I heard her name.
She was brave, she was fun, she was resilient.
Knik passed away this week at 14.
Her family fostered somewhere in the neighbourhood of 180+ dogs and cats over the last few years and Knik was one of the ones who just had to stay.
Knik participated in I Was A Sled Dog, Part One, so you can read her bio from March 2018 here.
We all know she'll be in good company with all her sleddie buddies... wherever they are.
Thank you to VHS and Lise and family for providing a retirement suited to her being her doggie self.
Rest in peace + love.
I weirdly don't have many photos of Knik, but here are a few.