oman, serabe + sparky2
It seemed fitting that today I got to meet and photograph three more Whistler sleddies who have become official retirees and will automatically assume the roles of ambassadors of change.
Because, nine years ago this weekend I spent three days on a mountain just outside of Whistler, BC meeting and photographing 43 survivors of the 2010 Whistler sled dog massacre.
(dig into my 2013 Archive Gallery for those stories and photographs)
The myths surrounding the adoption (and post-working lives) of former sled dogs are many and after doing this for over ten years I still hear the same things from people when they hear about my work or just the subject of sled dogs is brought up. "They're born to do it/it's what they're bred for", "it's their job", "it's all they know", "they love to run", "they pull too much", "they're not suited for living in a family/in a house/ in a city/ with other dogs/ without other dogs/ with cats"... the list goes on. And while some of those points may be true at some time in each dog's life, it doesn't make up each dog's whole story.
I'm pretty confident in this.
Because with the help of 228 former sled dogs, I've learned that they are not the label we humans have put on them.
All you have to do is read through previous posts on this blog to learn about post-working life and what fosters and adopters have learned along the journey. Because learning about their past helps the transitions into adoptive homes. It helps us understand seemingly odd behaviours like wanting to stand on furniture and countertops, preferring inside to outside (or outside to inside), fear of fireworks/loud noises, flinching when putting on collars or harnesses, chewing behaviours and even just being couch potatoes.
Once we know, we can try to 'speak their language', translate it into 'human' and find the place to meet up and continue to build a relationship built on trust.
Like ANY dog who finds themselves in need of a new home, this transition can be easy, or it can be challenging. But ultimately it's up to us humans to do our absolute best for the animal friends who become entrusted into our care.
Speaking of trust, some may wonder if I have adopted a sleddie. The answer is no... not yet! Over the past decade I've had a series of small dogs who, although are very friendly and have been on outings with sleddies as well as shared their home with one for short spells, they don't want to actually live with one. This holds true for my current "low rider" Mr Coco, who joined me on today's outing. Bubbins (one of his many nicknames) is a one-eyed, 12-year-old crooked-legged little man who would likely pack up his stuffies and head to nana's house if a big dog camped out here for any length of time! This little dude was picked on in his previous home and a subsequent injury is the reason he lost his eye. So the trust we've built over the last 9 years includes me helping him with confidence, but also keeping him out of situations where he doesn't feel safe, thus he supervised from the passenger seat of the car.
So, today... I introduce:
While in foster, their families will get to learn a bit more about them and then once they get their clean bill of health, they'll be ready for adoption, through the Victoria Humane Society, so keep watch on their facebook page if you think you'd be a good match for one of these sweet sleddies.
Thanks to Jillian, her mom and sleddies Jasper + Portia who went along for the day trip to greet their new friends!
a mr b update
"Wanna see Mr B on Friday at noon at Macaulay?"
"Ah, yeah I do!"
So it was settled... I was going to get to see Mr B - for the first time since he'd been adopted back in March 2022!
As I've mentioned on this blog before, Mr B is one of my heart sleddies. He captivated me from the first moment I saw him, but I can't pinpoint the one thing that drew me in. Clearly others felt it too as both his foster homes as well as his adopters feel something extra special about him.
Bruno was adopted into a home with two other adopted dogs - Murphy + Goose. Both have helped show Bruno how sweet life can be, with Murphy being his direct guide.
It was a beautiful afternoon of sunshine and warmth, along with that tiny touch of fall coming in with the ocean breeze. So Bruno, along with Murphy, Goose and his adopters as well as Shannon + Tica and myself, wandered to the grassy area of the park taking turns holding Mr B's leash and sharing treats with him. He and his foster sister, Tica even touched noses along the way.
When Bruno was being fostered by Shannon + Tica, we would come to this park almost every week for a walk, so it was really cool we met up here.
hint: you can search 'Bruno' on my site to see our adventures!
We stopped on the grassy knoll and while I chatted with Mr B's new family, Shannon and Bruno had their own chat.
(yes, that's Tica and her tail in the foreground of the top row of photos!!)
I turned my camera onto Murphy (border collie) + Goose (sweet grey muzzle) and though they were interested at first, I made a sound that seemed to unnerve Murphy...
A few more attempts were made at getting all 3 dogs in a semi-posed photo, but they were getting a bit anxious and I don't see any use in stressing dogs out for a photo op, so here's where we ended up... (Goose knew who was holding the treat!)
A few more snaps of Bruno, looking, not looking, looking again, unsure...
Then he re-set and stood in his safe spot...
It was time to head out so we all walked back to the car, and Mr B walked up his custom steps and into the back where he has his own pillow to enjoy the ride.
It was great getting a chance to talk with his adopters - his mom was convinced he remembered us and I kinda think he did too. Bruno isn't one to show excitement, but if he likes the loves or treats you're providing, he'll very stealthily inch forward for more... and that's what he was doing at this meeting... it was just as sweet as I remember.
The road for Bruno and his adopters hasn't been without some challenges, but the more they learn about where he came from, the more they understand him and his needs. Most importantly, he's given space to just 'be'. He can hang out outside or inside, he gets fresh cooked meals (look at how beautiful his coat is looking), and adventures with his family. He's wandered off once on a walk, but he had just gone back to the car. He doesn't pull (he's like walking a balloon) and often just trundles along, getting ear rubs and the affectionate nickname of 'Bruni' from his mom.
I wish this fella and his family a life full of more naps and adventures and hope we can visit again soon!
p.s. big thanks to Shannon for the pics of me + Mr B! Being behind the camera all the time, along with having a big ol' touch of 'camera shyness' there aren't many pics of me and my sleddie friends, so I'm thankful for those that turn up!