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.
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I was up way past my bedtime last night for the arrival of these 14 loves - 8 adults and 6 puppies. Some had been kept on heavy chains connected to frozen urine encrusted wooded boxes. Some were in pens.
All were living outside in northern Canada up until a couple days ago.
Think that's cool?
It's really f-ing cold.
The sled dog tour industry isn't all it's hyped up to be. I've been documenting the post-working lives of sled dogs for over 10 years and every time I meet a new group into care, I take a moment to tell each one that it's going to get better.
The arrival can be very scary and everything they've known, whether it's good or bad, is thrown out the window and it's back to square one.
But the one thing I've learned is that sleddies are resilient and do their best to make sense of our seemingly random human world.
Welcome to a whole new world: Ying, Yang, Yale, Watsit, Keni, Baloo, Blue and her 3 pups and Willy and her 3 pups!
This time I made a video of their arrival... it's about 5 mins long so grab a cup o' tea.