There's always that excitement at the beginning of a sleddie walk. Anticipation. The hurry-up-and-wait.
It's pretty much hard wired into them from their days of pulling sleds.
Some of today's crew know the drill well having been on many walks over the years. Gather, wait, sniff, wait, photo ops, wait... and then let's go!
For others, this was pretty new and maybe a bit scary.
With 14 sleddies in today's group, it was an almost 50/50 split of experienced retirees to newbies.
The weather held, though fall is starting to arrive with leaves falling and a crispness to the air.
I had no idea who was all coming so when I realized that a young pup who'd stolen my heart back in February was prancing my way, my heart skipped a beat. This fella is now known as Yukon. He's 10 months old and has the legs of a giraffe, the silliness of a puppy and the speed of a sleddie. Back in February, he arrived as a wee little one who wasn't doing very well. He arrived late at night and I remember holding him and trying to feed him bits of food. It was a win when he finally took some. When the time came for me to put him back down with his siblings, he just looked at me with big puppy eyes and tried to hold on with his paws.
I'd heard a few reports that he started thriving (yay!), and I was delighted to finally see it for myself!
I've said it before, but seeing sleddies who have settled into their new homes is just the best. And since it's hard to stop at one sleddie, his family is fostering Yang, who arrived in that same group and the two of them are fantastic playmates. (BTW, Yang is adoptable!)
Black and Robbie arrived together back in June. Robbie (who is now Raspberry) led the way so I didn't get any action photos, but she did give me some good faces once we were done! Black (who's rumour has it is all but adopted), got her first taste of being off leash and, well, let's just say that she's going to be an on-leash sleddie for a while longer. Though she and her foster brother Twister (of the floppy ears) are close, Black's still learning about this whole retired life thing.
Sweet Ying just couldn't mentally get herself out of the truck to join on the walk - even with some friends and her foster sister Benga on hand. It just wasn't to be, today. I'm told she does really well generally, but maybe the pre-walk energy was just been too much for her. Her foster family are patient and let her find her own pace, so they'll try again another time.
Along the paths the younger dogs ran and ran and ran, and the older ones kept a more moderate pace with brief moments of zoomies. Yes, Jasper I'm look at you!
Portia is back to her pre-lost dog adventure self from earlier this year and is doing so well! She took treats from me which she never did before, and just seemed more relaxed in general. She's still pretty silly though!
Argus is another one whose true self is emerging. He's super chill at home and on today's walk he was much more relaxed than I've seen at previous ones. With age catching up a bit he's losing a bit of vision, but his mom was gushing about him and what a bright spot he is in their family. Also, he LOVES being brushed so he got lots of finger brushing before the walk and even along the way!
Biggie is still the happy-go-lucky guy he's been since I first met him back in April 2021. He motors along, stops for treats and has some of thee best head tilts around!
My old friend Apex donned his best bell. It's now a fixture on him on walks and comes in handy when he trundles behind a bit or heads off the path... or decides to head off on his own like he did today. Mary Kate + Roo got their zoomie time too, but with a big group like today, they stuck close Deb.
Some of the dogs on today's walk were so fearful when they arrived into care it was best not to look in their direction, or they'd want to escape. To see them loose and happy and adventuring, something they may never have had the chance to experience, is something that isn't taken for granted by their families. To have the support of a patient human who will go at their pace to help them build confidence, experience the world safely and spend time with other dogs who are just cool cucumbers. Who will also be there to support them as they age and slow down, is how it should be.
These walks are important for the dogs as well as the people. While the dogs do their thing, the humans talk about all things sleddie... and no topic is taboo!
Along the walk, we met an adoptee named Duncan. His mom was expecting to meet another dog group for a walk but couldn't find them, so they ended up joining ours. Yay Duncan!
At the end of the walk a few of us stayed to chat. This is usually the best time for photo ops -- the dogs are tired, the excitement has worn off and everyone just chills out. Shi (formerly Shining) took the opportunity of the smaller group to get treats, LOTS of loves, drink water from my hand (!), pose for me, then nap. She and Idefix arrived into care not even a month ago, but she's settling really well, spending days napping in the front yard of her foster family's home and getting all the love she wants.
Thank you to today's crew for allowing me the photo ops! You are all ambassadors for change!
Sleddie roll call:
We had 14 sleddies on today's walk!
Apex, Mary Kate + Roo, Argus, Biggie, Jasper + Portia, Raspberry (formerly Robbie), Shi (adoptable), Twister + Black, (adoptable) Yang + Yukon (foster brother), (adoptable) Ying + Benga (foster brother).
Please click through photos in gallery to view photos full size.
To see all blog posts about a particular sleddie, please click on their name on the right side of the page.
Our second meet up of the year was a great success!
17 sleddies along with one honourary sleddie came out to the woods to run, romp, trundle and get their paws muddy.
We started with a group photo, and then met up in the woods with some more friends and another photo op. Some were off leash and weren't too happy with having to stop the adventure so soon after starting, so it's a bit of a group-photo mash up with wayward dogs wandering in all directions!
In addition to old friends reconnecting, some new friends joined in! Twister, who came into care in March 2022 got adopted last spring so came for his first group walk, and Spinner, who it turns out is Jasper's brother! They have the same cute snouts and soft, floofy-ish coats.
With so many attendees it made for a long line of humans and dogs on the forest trails so I tried my best to capture everyone along the way. Some gave me lots of chances as they ran from the front of the line and back, likely putting on 10x more mileage than the rest of us and others made me work a bit to find them along the way.
All in all, it was a great little adventure and I'm so glad were 2 for 2 with groups walks this year!
As usual, I include a whole host of photos so you can join along virtually and share in those split-second moments of head tilts, facial expression nuances and body language changes... all without getting your feet muddy.
Thanks to all who came out... I'm looking forward to March's meet up already!
Sleddie Roll Call: Apex, Mary Kate + Roo, Argus Arwen, Clyde, Jack, Jasper + Portia, Samwell, Sparky + Buddy, Smokey, Spinner, Stevie + Peach and Twister... and honourary sleddie Tica, who was a great little sister to ChiChi.
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!
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
The window opened up and the weather held. Just pockets of sun and a brisk chill in the air. The ground was saturated from the deluge of rain we've been getting here on the we(s)t coast which made the moss extra green, encouraged little mushroom families and created delicate droplets of water which hung from the lichen. But the dogs paid no mind.
They got to romp, run, trundle, and saunter over trails and bridges and throughout the forest.
They got to see old friends and meet new ones.
And Apex didn't run from me and my camera... a first in the 7+ years I've known him.
The regular sleddie walk schedule has been difficult to keep during Covid, but sometimes the last-minute plans are the ones that work out.
That was Sunday's walk.
Sleddie roll call: Apex, Bear, Biggie, Bruno, Calli, Flash, Jasper, Mary Kate, Portia, Roo, Saturn, Stevie + Sparky
... plus Tica (Bruno's sister while he's in foster) and Bear's new floofy siblings (Abby + Lola)
It's official!!!! Our dear Mary Kate and sweet little Flashy pants now have an official home for life!
And even more great news is they’ll be staying right where they are; Where they’re most comfortable, know the routines, don’t try to escape from (anymore) and with those who know them both the best… their super duper foster mom, Debbie and adopted siblings Apex + Calli!
(Handsome Roo (last pic) is still part of the crew while he awaits his perfect match to come along and whisk him away to a life of fun times, love and complete devotion to his adorable ways. Know anyone?)
Thanks to the Thunder Bay SPCA and team for rescuing Mary Kate back in 2018 and to the Victoria Humane Society for bringing Flashy into care and continuing to be such dedicated supporters of our sleddie friends.
Before I went to meet the new arrivals on August 9, I stopped off at Deb's place to say hi to her crew... and her.
This group always makes me smile -- so many personalities amongst them.
Calli, who I'd seen recently is so damn sweet and was first to greet me... with a big smile. I'm not sure if she's really 'smiling' so much as she's excited for a visitor... whatever, I'll take what I can get! Flashy I know has heard me pull up. And even though she won't take a treat from me (she did once a few years ago, but never again), she stands where she's knows I can see her so I toss treats her way that she promptly gobbles up. Roo and Mary Kate - who I haven't seen for a bit - were a bit slower to the game, but once they remembered, they were ready to accept the cupboard love. And Apex... well he just does his thing knowing I'll come to him when things have settled down.
We also had a little brush session because it isn't always about treats. Apex and Roo LOVE being brushed and with the warm weather, there's a lot to brush! Then it was time to head out to meet the new arrivals, Cally + Ice.
Here are a few pics from a short, but sweet visit with Flashy, Roo, Mary Kate, Calli and Apex, including Apex taking a treat from me... while I was taking photos with my phone... a first in the 7 years we've known each other.
It seems like a lot of posts lately have been in memoriam.
I guess it's part of what all this is- this project following the lives of a group of dogs over the course of many years- some for almost eight years now.
But amidst the farewells, there are successes and celebrations. Today was one of those days.
My friend Deb has been involved in the sleddie group since adopting Question back in 2013. She then adopted Daffy, then started fostering sleddies. I have no idea how many she's fostered over the years but I'm guessing it's close to 20 or more. Along with fostering she's also opened her home to sleddie sitting on occasion. Currently she's got five sleddies in her care- adoptees Apex and Calli and her fosters Flash, Mary Kate and Roo.
I've met them all many many times over the years. We've been on walks together and they've come for photo sessions as well as to participate in I Was A Sled Dog, the project.
Today they came to hang out at the studio- the whole lot of them. There was some initial fear because they don't often go visiting people in their homes, but they did splendidly! Once we sorted out the bed situation and made sure everyone had a comfy spot to chill out, they found where they wanted to land and that was it... until Deb had to use the restroom and then a few got concerned because she closed they door and they couldn't go in with her (it's a teeny room), but it all worked out.
None of these dogs spent any significant time (or any time at all) in a home while they were working dogs, so we celebrate (on the inside, taking care not to scare them) when we see them settle into new indoor environments.
Thanks for the visit gang!
I played around with some treatments on these photos. I don't usually process them much, but I think it's interesting to see how a filter or treatment can change the mood of the photo and can make someone look at that image differently.
The game is called "pick out the sleddies"!
An annual walk with some friends and their dogs- some being former sled dogs, some aren't... can you figure out which is which?
[Hint: the sleddies are named below the photo gallery- click on their names to learn more about them as part of the I Was A Sled Dog photo project]
It was more of a forest bathing mud bath after a big rain and wind storm yesterday... but nevertheless, big thanks to ChiChi + Tica, Trixie + Penny, Niv + Cedar, Mary Kate + Roo, Sassy, Fiddle, Jasper, KC, Chester, Falen, and your amazing humans for coming out today!
Please click on the first photo and then scroll through the gallery- there are 70 photos including multiples of similar images so you can see the change of tail wags, facial expressions and what the dog is interested in. There's a photo bomb, some blurry ones and some of the dogs just standing and looking around (there's always some of that).
This is all intentional as I want to help you feel as close to being there with us as I can, because it's that magical!
Three of the dogs on the walk today are survivors of the Whistler sled dog cull and 2020 will mark the ten-year anniversary of that horrific event. And even after all that happened, there continues to be sled dogs that need help. Animal protection laws for working sled dogs here in British Columbia, Canada and beyond are atrocious and it's incredibly sad and unfair that working sled dogs are exempt from animal protection laws in Canada, just because they're classified as sled dogs. But sled dogs aren't a breed- they're a mix of any number of breeds, and you can see the diversity in the photos below as well as in I Was a Sled Dog, Part 1 + Part 2. The fact that, for example, "Dog A" is classified as a working sled dog on a Monday and therefore exempt from the same laws that protect the animals we share our homes with. But when "Dog A" gets adopted into a home on a Tuesday, suddenly- as if by magic- he's covered by those same laws he was exempt from the day before. It makes absolutely no sense. The dog is a dog is a dog.
I could go on, but right now I want to enjoy the memory of today's walk with these remarkable dogs and their wonderfully compassionate humans who love to celebrate them as much as I do.
Happy New Year sleddie family!
Today, it was a reunion of old mates from Thunder Bay. TJ, who was adopted in 2017, got to visit with his friends from his old foster home - Roo (his almost twin), Mary Kate, Apex, Calli, Flash and his foster mom Deb! Things were a bit intense at first - especially since all the dogs were on leash, but there was some good sniffing and a chance to hang out in the cool shade.
It was hot day here in Victoria, BC so there were a lot of long tongues and not a lot of running around, but TJ had some off-leash time which he was pretty stoked about!
TJ was adopted by the Umbrella Society and lives in a group home setting with one of the residents as his primary caregiver - in fact you can see TJ pop up on some of their blog posts! - and it's a beautiful thing to see a dog who has been so wronged by humans, learn confidence and know that he can trust again.
To see TJ's portrait from I Was A Sled Dog, please go HERE