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)
I like to think Fiddle is reunited with all her old sleddie buddies <3 Thank you for loving them and sharing their stories.
I'm usually the observer on sleddie walks.
Following along, assessing my movements, planning shots, all while doing my best not to startle any of the dogs.
But I'm also a participator as I come equipped with treats and sleddie-appropriate affections when requested. I chat to different people along the way to learn about their dogs and catch up on life. And I chat to the dogs too.
But today was different as I was a guardian to one of these super-special-sleddies, my friend Bruno!
And that meant I was going to try and do double duty -- guardian and photographer.
For fearful sleddies, one of the toughest things to work on is helping to widen their circles and socialize them to the world in a safe manner. Our human world might seem very arbitrary to sleddies (chew on this dog-specific toy, not on my slippers/shoes/furniture; you must pee and poop outside on a schedule, not whenever/wherever you feel the need; eat from the food dish on the floor not on top of the dining room table/counter where you've always eaten and hung out; sit, stay, come when I call you because I'm asking, yet you have no idea why; don't be afraid of me, I'm being nice to you) so bridging this gap between trusting humans and learning about home life, can help make their world a bit easier to navigate.
And today's walk was a perfect opportunity to help Mr B in this area.
Having met and photographed so many adoptable sleddies over the years, one must figure I've adopted one too.
Alas, I have not, and that's another story for another post.
However, because of our close-knit sleddie community, I've been fortunate to be a part of their lives - through not just walks, but sleepovers, afternoon sleddie sitting, walks, hangouts, vet visits and lots of adventures.
And since Bruno's mom is a friend, he and I have started up a what I like to call (with crossed fingers) a friendship. Bruno came into care back in October 2021. Although his history is not totally clear (sled dog kennels don't keep the best records), we do know he spent time in a specific kennel in the Whistler area where a lot of the most human-fearful dogs have come from. I once called his baby steps "blink-and-you'll-miss-them-steps" because they are so little, if you weren't watching, you probably wouldn't notice them.
So although he's familiar with me, we've never had one-on-one time, and this outing would be new for him. But because we were going on a walk with his 'people', it was safe and familiar to him.
To be honest, I was very nervous before picking him up and was second guessing it all. Would he be ok? Would he get startled and try to escape? Would this be too weird for him?
But I took a deep breath, I knew it would be ok. I had a community who would help us.
Shannon had him ready before I arrived and he was wearing his collar (with tags) and a well-fitting harness.. as well as his fully-charged GPS tracker.
He came outside with me no problem and tolerated me lifting him into the car (he's a bit too arthritic to jump). Once in, he laid down - sort of like he's afraid or nervous. Sadly, this is 'normal' for him. But once I got in and started the car, I saw his little head pop up and he was ready to see where we were headed. Off we went and even though it was chilly out, I opened the back windows so he could turn his sniffer on. I felt like I was driving extra careful - and I guess I was - I had special cargo after all.
About 10 mins later we were almost there.
Stopped at a light on the highway, waiting to turn left.
I could see him in my rearview mirror turning around a bunch... and then I smelled it. Yup. He pooped.
And there was nothing I could do about it right then.
He was secured so he couldn't jump out, so all the windows came down for the final part of the drive.
On the way to last week's walk he pooped in Shannon's car and stepped in it, so when they arrived, it was a bit of a mess. Last week and today, his morning poops were taken care of before the car ride, but it still happened. Nervous poops or just when you gotta go, you gotta go?
Either way, I guess it gives a different meaning to the title of this blog 'double duty'?
We arrived and Argus and Ally were there and Ally hung on to Bruno while I cleaned up the back of the car. Everyone else arrived and greetings were made by the dogs and the humans.
The gang got together for a group photo, with Jillian hanging on to Mr B as well as her two, Jasper and Portia. Then we were off for a walk.
It was a lovely day with lots of people and dogs on the trails. And though I was more focussed on my time with Mr B than photographing the walk, I did manage to get a few.
There were some new faces out this time - Millie, Batman, Biggie, Rio and Samwell along with some more familiar faces - Argus, Jasper, Portia, Arwen, Stevie and of course, Mr B.
When the walk was over, I got Mr B into the car and off we went. We made a pit-stop at my house so he could meet my husband (widening Mr B's circle) but he seemed more confused about why were were hanging outside and not going inside. He made moves to my front steps and would've been very happy to walk right in, but my little Mr Coco (who only has one eye that doesn't work very well) was very confused at what was going on, so Mr B and I headed back to his home.
As we got closer to Shannon's I could hear the sniffer working extra hard. And when we pulled in, he was ready to be home. I opened the door, dried him off a bit (hoping any remaining poop on his feet had washed away on the walk) took off his harness and off he went to his bed, his most favourite spot in the world right now. I gave him the kong filled with treats that Shannon had prepared to help bide his time until she and Tica came home. Then I said my farewells and told him he was a very good boy.
I know the perfect home is out there for him. A home that will provide sanctuary to him, put his needs first and gently help him along this journey. It's in him to connect with people - maybe not everyone - but even if it's just one person who can give him that time, I have a feeling it'll be a pretty amazing relationship. Each time I see him, I see that progress and one of the coolest things of today was the pit-stop we had in the forest. Bruno's not great at asking for attention, but he's good at moving away when he doesn't want it. Today, he let me give him rubs on his shoulders, chest and cheek. I stopped and he looked at me, took a step towards me and let me give him more pets and tell how handsome he was.
What did I learn? Bruno's a champ and it's really great to know that if you're feeling stuck, that there's such a supportive community of sleddie adopters around to commiserate with.
Thank you everyone who came out!
I would like to extend extra thanks to Millie + Batman for coming out. Along with age (Millie's 16! and Batman's getting up there) these friends are dealing with some other medical issues so they only joined us for a little bit of the walk, some sniffs and a couple treats. Thankfully they have veterinary care and caring guardians who are ensuring they get the help they need.
I did my best to get individual photos of each dog, but with a different priority this walk I may have missed a couple. Sincere apologies to both Arwen + Portia - thankfully I did get some snaps of you at last weekend's walk!
Sleddie roll call: Argus, Arwen, Batman, Biggie, Bruno, Jasper, Portia, Millie, Rio, Samwell, Stevie
Sleddie friends: Deacon (Rio's brother), Jo (Bruno's former foster sibling) and Zoe (Millie's floofy sibling).
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.