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!