Nivvy poo, NivNiv, Big Seal Eyes, passed away this week.
One of the original Whistler sleddies, this girl has led quite the retired life with her adopter Erin. But it wasn't the slow down and garden kind of retirement, it was learning how to have a life. Adventures in the woods, camping in the middle of nowhere, getting lost, and found. Romps and runs. Big days and big naps. Naps were very important to Niv.
When she wanted something from me, it took one look from her huge seal-like eyes, and I was ready to give her anything! She was a mooch of the highest order, and I was always happy to oblige! Most of the time I got to see her out on adventures, but one time she came over and it happened to be time for 8-sies (the 8pm treat time for any and all dogs at my house) and once she was done, she trundled over to the sofa and hopped on it. Right next to my husband. She didn't really know him and she hadn't really been in my house before, but she clearly just wanted to nap and watch some tv, with whomever was there. It was so cute.
Often Niv would be the one dog in a group photo who wouldn't stay in one spot - she'd prefer to wander around the group or come say hi to me (febuary 19 | twenty two dogs take over the beach)
I remember first meeting Niv in September 2013. She came running down the path with Erin (her adopter) and sibling Siku for our first sleddie reunion. Over the years, we started hanging out more and formed a little dog-dork group - mostly sleddies, but a few "littles" too. In those early years our sleddie gang consisted of Niv & Siku, Question, Daffy, Cola and ChiChi. Siku was the first of our gang to pass away in Nov 2014, and the others followed. And this week, Niv has bookended that group.
And though Niv's time working as a sled dog was far in the past, what that life did to her body slowly caught up to her so earlier this year Erin got Niv some wheels for her back end and Niv could toodle through the forest trails or around the neighbourhood much more easily. And she caught on quickly!
Niv was a survivor or the 2010 Whistler sled dog cull, and because of that, she helped form this great supportive sleddie community here on the west coast of Canada. She was an ambassador for sleddie adoptions and just an all-round cool dog and friend.
I got to visit Niv the night before she passed and for that I'm thankful to Erin. Niv ate some treats, got some loves on the lawn in the summer evening sun, (and she and I had a private little chat) and then followed me to the gate when I left. Of course I couldn't leave her looking so alone, so I walked her back into the house... but the sentiment stuck with me.
Sweet Niv, leaves behind an adopted sister, Cedar, and sooooooo many human and doggy friends.
Rest in peace and love dear friend,
Below are just a handful of photos... explore my site to see more.
The sleddie support team came together this evening for Tiger. Tiger came into care back in May extremely fearful... and she's still very fearful in her foster home. There have been some baby steps, but she's still super nervous of humans - a common trait I've seen over the years.
So in the yard of a school away from the city, a small group assembled to meet, say hello and let the dogs have a romp... or nap... or whatevs.
I also got to meet my 225th sleddie - Louise! She's a former Whistler sleddie and is just a wee thing! She's super friendly, loves to play and run and hang with her family.
Have I mentioned just how cool it is to see dogs who I've only met on their arrival into care, post adoption? Today I got to see Toledo, Jack and Angel again and it was beautiful to seem the settled and happy. Jack's had some health issues, but his adopter is so in love with him, that she's making sure he gets whatever he needs.
Kayou and Tiger are still in foster. Kayou is such a sweet velcro dog! He just wants to be close and get massages and pets and he'll stand on you or meet you at your level, just to make sure you haven't forgotten about him. He was also a big fan of Louise. They did come from the same kennel... I wonder if there's a history there?
Tiger isn't a fan of most humans but she's found friends in shoes and bits of clothing at her foster's! She just brings them into her bed with her and just sleeps amongst these special 'found' objects. Adorable.
I'm not sure how the support team worked for Tiger in the end, but I'd like to think it helped in some respect. She did sniff and trundle around and check out her surroundings a bit and then chilled out next to one of her foster moms, so baby steps it is and baby steps it will be.
What a cool, supportive community.
Sleddie roll call: Angel (recently adopted!), Jack (recently adopted!), Kayou (adoptable), Louise (adopted), Tiger (adoptable) + Toledo (adopted). Also along for the romp were Max (Louise and Toledo's brother who looks like a sleddie, but isn't) and l'il Sam (Tiger's foster sibling)
As they rolled into the parking lot, it was just before 6pm. A long day. A long drive. Ferry rides.
And summer had decided to finally arrive. So it was still pretty warm.
I heard three more sleddies were coming into care... retiring. But when the front passenger door opened there was a fourth dog, curled up on a blanket, resting his head on his mom's lap. I recognized this guy right away. It was my old pal Apex and he'd gone along for the ride.
The new arrivals, Kayou, Oscar and Sweetie were securely in their kennels. Their foster homes were on hand, ready to whisk them away into learning of new places and lives.
First out was Sweetie. At about 8 years old/young, she was all smiles. Friendly, took some treats from me right away and said hello to everyone there. She lived up to her name in spades. With each new sleddie, I see sleddies of days past. In Sweetie I see Daffy and Cane, and at Deb's suggestion, I do see a bit of her old Cally Cally.
Next out was Kayou. Again, about 8ish and the “Gentle Ben” of the group. He's apparently a bit a velcro dog, which we'll see more of once he settles, but he was eager for attention and pets and loves - even more so than treats. If you stopped petting him, he would oh-so subtly move closer to you and maybe even gently put his paw on your leg. You know, just so you'd remember he was there. His very shepherd-y ears go back alot, but it's more when he questions things, seems curious - you'll see in the photos below. As I'm often crouched or down at face level, I haven't had a new sleeddie seek out my face for a nuzzle in a loooooong time, but Kayou did. In Kayou I see Whitman, Bruno/Mr B and maybe a touch of Stevie and Sparkle/Sparky.
Oscar was the last friend out. He ran circles and circles and woudn't stop. This poor fella (also about 8ish) also has some allergies. The first guess is to straw as his underside and inside legs are red and almost raw in spots, but it could also be diet or other environmental issues. Yes, sled dogs can have allergies -- to straw, the most common type of bedding for sled dog houses or for chicken or dust, or a multitude of other things. And allergies doesn't always show up on skin, they can show up in breathing problems too. And if a kennel has hundreds of dogs, who's watching for the sometimes allergy symptoms and troubleshooting them?
Having fostered a dog some years ago who had paws like raw hamburger, open sores on her body and red, rough skin, I saw first-hand how extremely uncomfortable and painful they can be for the dog. She'd leave little blood tracks on our floors and on the towels on the couch. But she still wanted to do her dog things - walk and eat. Two vets had chalked it up to seasonal grass allergies which seemed far-fetched even for a newbie into this kind of care like me. Plus it was early February and it was clear this had been going on some months, years even. Once she got seen by a vet well-versed in allergies and a new foster with lots of experience helping dogs with skin issues, it cleared up to the point where she could lead a mostly normal doggo life. It took almost a year... and it wasn't cheap, but it cleared up. And she was adopted and kept healthy until the day she passed away at her favourite beach.
I guess I'm just trying to paint the picture that this is one more thing that can happen to working sled dogs.... just like our non-working dogs. Individuals. Allergies in dogs can be very difficult to diagnose, treat and medicate. All three can take time and money - something not if prolific supply at most kennels... if the kennel even chooses to treat it. If they don't, then what?
If they do, how does that treatment fit into the life plan of the dog?
At this point, Oscar is out and into a new kind of life. In Oscar I see Angel and Missy mostly but he's also got a bit of a cute, spotted blocky head, kind of like Stuart had.
Oscar (floppy ears) Kayou (brown coat) and Sweetie (pointy ears) will get vet checks and any concerns will be addressed. In the meantime, Oscar will get a medicated bath and start him on some new food. I've heard Sweetie and Kayou are already super-nappers... not surprising with all the "new" they've had in the past 24 hours.
Welcome to retirement my friends.
Welcome to coverage under animal protection laws.
Welcome to soft beds, new friends, big lives.
Thank you to their chauffeurs Deb and Jill and Apex and to their fosters for being their path into a whole new way of life.
When Oscar, Kayou and Sweetie are ready for adoption, you'll see their profiles come up on the Victoria Humane Society facebook page.
Is there an Echo (in) here?
Why yes there is?
Echo arrived from Manitoba over the weekend, so by the time I got to meet him yesterday evening, I was told he was coming out of his shell.
When I arrived, he had just settled down for a nap, but thankfully he came to the door. And once he smelled the treats, he was in!
It's believed that Echo is related to Clyde (who came into care in April), and if you see the two of them side by side, they're almost twinsies.
Now, let's talk about Echo's ears, right? I saw them as antennae, trying to dial in the world around him. The right ear is pretty much "sticky uppy", though he somehow lost a big chunk off the tip. His left ear is more "floopy", and it has a big rip in it which may be why it can't stand fully at attention. Neither ear injury is uncommon in sleddies unfortunately. Between frostbite, altercations with other dogs or injury while tethered or pulling, the ears take a lot of abuse.
Echo was neutered before he was transferred here so you will see the IV shave on his leg. Not surprisingly he's got some arthritis and maybe sight issues as well, like Clyde. They both have these small white lines in the inner corners of their eyes. At first I thought it was a reflection, but as I went through my photos, it was always in the same place. The vet didn't see it as an issue with Clyde, so hopefully it'll be ok for Echo too.
I still don't have much background on them, but what I can tell you is Echo is sweet. I nicknamed him the 'nibbler' as he would nibble ever so gently on my fingers to investigate for treats, or remnant of them. It's the softest little nibble with his lower teeth (that are pretty ground down) and whatever he's got on the top. It gave me goosebumps it was so cute and gentle. I managed to capture it on video (see end of photo gallery), but you have to watch to the end to see it!
Whatever his backstory is, it's gonna be a good story going forward. His foster - who's always been more of a cat person - is totally smitten with him. She was hesitant about fostering a former sled dog, thinking he'd be too high energy, but Echo is showing her the ropes of sleddie life which so far has consisted of: Eat, nap, walkies, look out the window from the table next to the sofa, eat, walkies, sleep in her bed, repeat. Next up is a wellness exam at the vet, and if all is well, Echo will be adoptable through the Victoria Humane Society.
Thanks for checking in,
Note: While I would love to see Echo as a free spirit - without all the accessories - the photos were done in his un-fenced yard, so safety first! And who knew one leash would match the beautiful rhodos!
Along with the joy of sharing stories of sleddies here, there is another side to that joy.
It may not be the full opposite, but it's a sadness that inevitably shows up once one of our community passes away.
Whether you believe there's a rainbow bridge or a dog park in the sky, or just an end and nothing more, i like to believe that when one of my sleddie friends passes, they join those who've gone before them and they continue an existence somewhere, playing, running, napping and doing whatever their sweet, sleddie, souls desire.
Maybe it doesn't make sense, but it works for me.
A few of my buddies in our community passed away in the past months - in fact I started writing this on April 1 and had to put it aside for all this time because the weight of coming up with something to write for each of them that may come close to conveying my thoughts and feelings about knowing them as individuals, was a big weight. I know it’s not about me, but the reality is, it’s just me here doing this thing and being human.
So, I suppose as some kind of a procrastination measure, I shared a collage showing 54 of the sleddies who helped me with Part One of this project, along with an ode to those of them who’d passed away since. Perhaps I foolishly considered it might buy me some time while I collected my thoughts. But by doing so, I got messages about some of my other sleddie friends who’d passed. Almost 2 months later, more friends have passed. And now I'm here, getting further behind a self-imposed 8 ball, wondering "now what"?
I've met each and every one the dogs I share. And because of that, I want to then share my individual experiences with them and what I remember about meeting them, one last time. But that’s not going to happen today. Today is recognizing that I want to share them here and now so I can ease the pressure I'm feeling and then down the road take the time I want to share more. I recently discovered I could add a Search button on this site, so between that and just perusing my archives, if you have some time, look up each dog and see how they touched just one life - mine.
To the families of each of the sleddies below, thank you for opening up your home and your heart.
May you rest in peace and love my friends, wherever that may be:
Fiddle (seen also in our blog header above xo)
Angel, Snickers and Tiger.
Three new sleddies who've come into care.
Three new sleddies who are no longer exempt from animal cruelty laws because of what humans have made them do for a living.
Three more dogs who, once they get time to decompress, let us humans learn more about them - likes, dislikes, what gives them comfort, if they like toys, what their favourite treats may be, etc - and get a vet check, will be looking for a soft, permanent place to rest their head and curl up into sweet little sleddie donuts.
The intake experience is different for each dog.
Angel (light colouring) - Hopped out of the van, sniffed around, found me and my treats, and in no time was jumping up on me, paws to my shoulders, for treats. This wee one wasn't shy at all, of me or my camera.
Snickers (shades of brown/white) - Hopped out without issue, investigated, seemed pretty chill, took most treats, a little shy, reminds me of Gretzky, a Whistler sled dog I met in 2013.
Tiger (dark brown/black/white) - petrified, had a hard time getting out of her transport kennel in the van, let alone getting out of the actual van... she just wanted to hide in there. If she could've hopped out of her own skin, she may have tried. She came out for a bit, but then went back in.
As I write this, it's been about 10 days since their arrival and Angel, Snickers and Tiger are settling into their foster homes, learning about changes of flooring, finding their comfy, safe spots and having some biiiiiig naps.
Not pictured is Missy, who was dropped off at her foster before I could meet her...
Harness + collar? Check!
Double leash? Check!
GPS tracker? Check
ID tags? Check!
Welcome to retirement my friends!
p.s. who's the other dog giving Angel a sniff? That's Stevie!
Clyde, aka, the Shadow.
He'd arrived the evening before on a flight from Winnipeg. Upon arrival his GPS tracker was attached to his collar, and he was chauffered to his foster home where he spent the first night without any issue. The next afternoon his foster family had some things to do so instead of leaving him on his own in a new place, he got to hang out with some local sleddies! And then I got to meet him!
He followed... his nose, his ears, Apex, Deb... all the newness. And found a friend in Apex.
Not much is known about this fella at this point other than: he was transferred from Lexi's Rescue Relief in Manitoba to Victoria Humane Society here in Victoria. His age is noted as 6, but after watching him for a bit, it could possibly be more like 8-10. He's got signs of arthritis in his back end (spine, legs, hips?) and he's got a couple white spots in his eyes which may or may not be part of the reason his sight seems to not be all there. He's been neutered and had a dental. He has a sibling named Echo that could also come out if a foster home can be secured.
He's very sweet.
He's a gentle treat taker.
He's got floopy ears.
Once he's decompressed a bit and had his visit to the vet, Clyde will be ready for adoption. He's going to be a great companion as he's still got lots of beans in him and seems to be cool with other dogs as he just wants to follow them around and maybe get in some playtime. He's quite hand shy which could be partly due to sight issues (he reminds me of my own little dog who's only got one eye that doesn't work well at all), but once he knew I was there, he was very content to get some loves (see vid at end of photo gallery) and he may have even given in to his tiredness if it weren't for the music of the live band coming from the nearby park.
As always, I've shared many photos in the gallery so you can see the nuances of Clyde's movements and personality. Photographing new sleddies for me is just about sharing them as they are. There is no 'sit' or 'stay', because even if they knew those words, this is not the time or place for it. But in the case of Clyde, if they happen to sit in front of the flowers, I'm stoked and the shutter will click!
Who's the goodest boy?!
Also pictured in this gallery are Apex, who is notoriously camera-shy with me, but for some reason allowed me take photos of him at this visit - even looking at me sometimes (!), Mary Kate (with the springs in her hind end) + Roo (singularly focussed on treats).
Welcome to the west coast little shadow, Clyde! I can't wait to see you continue to flourish!
Remembering the Whistler sleddies today.
12 years ago today the infamous Whistler sled dog cull began and over the course of two days - April 21 + 23, 2010 (depending on confirmed vs. unconfirmed reports), 56-100 dogs used for pulling tourists around Whistler, BC, were killed.
Out of that tragedy, however, this community formed. A community made up of adopters, fosters and advocates sharing knowledge, providing support and handing out lots of sleddie love.
What happened can’t be undone, but for those first sleddies from Whistler who became ambassadors, they, along with their adopters proved that the old way isn’t the only way. And by forging a new path, the opportunity for hundreds more former sled dogs to make their way into warmth, comfort, safety and love has been created. It’s been pretty extraordinary to watch this group grow and evolve over the years as well as see the ripple effect it’s having.
In honour of the Whistler sled dogs, I share with you the faces and names of the 216 former sled dogs I've had the privilege of meeting and photographing over the last decade.
Rest in peace and love Whistler sleddies, you did not die in vain.
Your memory is being kept alive by everyone here.
In the wilds of Victoria, a small group headed out for some forest bathing. Clearly, some took that 'bathing' part quite literally by 'bathing' in some dead animal on the side of the path and 'bathing' in the mud. But clever Stevie actually did some bathing (and drinking) in the stream.
This small group included new arrivals Jack and Peach, along with more experienced retirees, Stevie and Portia, and the fella who's known the ropes the longest in this gaggle of sleddies, Jasper. The group was intentionally small this time so that new-into-care Peach could meet up with a friend from her working days, Jack, as well as hopefully some new friends... and she did.
Before we even got started on our walk, a familiar face showed up in the parking lot - it was Penny Stone, who heads up the Victoria Humane Society (VHS) and has been helping sleddies into care for over 10 years. VHS is the rescue that has made it possible for these 5 sleddies and many, many more, come into care. They cover the food, vet care, meds, as well as spay/neuter surgeries, dentals and whatever else is needed to help these sleddies along. And even though Jack was recently neutered, he still wanted to say hi to Penny.
Across the road and down the hill we went into the woods. Leashes came off for Jasper, Portia and Stevie. Off-leash time for Jasper and Portia meant they ran circles around us and put on a lot more milage than the rest of us. Stevie, though off leash, stays pretty close to his human and the rest of the crew. Jack and Peach were pretty jazzed about it all, but their leashes (and GPS trackers) stayed on, with off-leash time saved for another day when the humans get to know them a bit better and they get to know the humans. In the meantime they got lots of loves and treats as both are VERY snuggly.
Words that came to mind when editing this photo set: Jack's ears, Stevie the sentinel, Peaches the snuggler, Jasper the zoomer, Portia the smelly (after rolling in the dead stuff), digging, happy, adventure, brave, love.
Some new friends were made along the path, photos ops were had and when it was time to go, Jack said farewell.
Jack is currently reviewing his potential adopter applications and once Peach will be doing the same in the near future.
Thanks to the humans J, G and J for letting me tag along, once again and of course to Jasper, Portia, Stevie, Peach and Jack for being so perfect.
Peaches arrived into care last night. I couldn't be there so arranged to meet up today at her foster home and boy oh boy is she a sweetie. And she's a teeny, tiny girl too!
Not even 24 hours in care and she's reportedly making herself quite comfortable in her foster home and patiently allows her eye drop regimen to happen.
We went for a walk along their street and back, keeping it short and low stress. But once we got back to the house, Stevie put on the brakes while passing the car, so the door was opened for him and he hopped in and Peaches was right behind him. The rest of the photo op will have to happen another day, because a walk in the woods is Stevie's happy place. So, sporting her best harness/collar/double leash/ GPS tracker look, Peaches had her first walk in the nearby woods with her... and she apparently said hello to everyone she met!
In the photos, you may notice she's only taking treats on the right - that's because her two main teeth (from what I could see) are a canine and molar on her right. Because of her eye problems, she seems to be quite vision impaired as well. Her sibling is Pumpkin, who came into care last January and had a lot of eye issues, which have since been sorted out and he's been adopted and living a fantastic life. So we're hoping the same will be true for the sweetest little Peaches.
Peaches is in the care of the Victoria Humane Society. Once she's seen the vet and had her medical needs met, she will interviewing for her adoptive family... unless one of our sleddie community scoops her up first!
Here are a few more photos from our walk...
Thanks to Deb for chauffeuring her into care and to her amazing foster family GP and Stevie.
p.s. AND YES, there are extra photos of her EARS... because THEY'RE THAT CUTE!!