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.