I have to just go ahead and post this…(this has sucked the life out of June/July)…
I wrote this the last day of May (but didn’t get round to posting it), after our best friend had been missing six weeks. As we were to learn later, May 31 was shortly after he would have actually died. The awful circumstances of his death were far worse than I had imagined….(explained end of post).
Eulogy to the most beautiful Dog
I’m beginning to accept that he is gone for good. Dead, somehow, somewhere. Not just lost, misplaced, but lost, gone.
Devastating doesn’t really cover it.
It’s a terrible loss; he’s missing, everywhere, everything I do, since I used to do everything with him.
I haven’t really yet felt any grief.
I get to keep thinking, “but he’s so beautiful and friendly, maybe he’s ingratiated himself into someone else’s life and he’s fine. Someday he’ll escape and come back, or not.” I want to believe that he’s fine, moving on to another phase of life that is hopefully comfortable for him.
So far his dog’s life was a hard, difficult life, thrice rescued/rejected as unmanageable, and we did a good job with him, slowly. He was such a mental case at first that the first several, miserable (why did you want a dog?) months were just managing and controlling him, to establish his place as a dog. At the end, it was getting interesting, once we were mutually attached and he was content and secure in his place, teachable and proud of learning. We had come to a really good place with him. He earned some trust by being obedient and predictable, and he was much much calmer.
And the chives are making a bid for world domination.
Life carries on, driven to grow.
In the background these days, we are coping with the discovery that our beautiful dog, missing since April, died a long horrible death. He was a five minute walk away on our neighbour’s property, and I am in disbelief and pain that I did not find him while he was still alive. He was a good and sweet dog and deserved much better. I cry every day.
The winter is a blessed time of relative porcupine peace, but earlier in the fall, the dog got a mouthful.
I pulled them all out of his mouth, but he still had a lumpy face. That’s typical. Some quills escape under his skin, and dissolve eventually, or work themselves out.
Many days later, I felt a little prick on top of his nose.
It’s a quill! Worked up from inside his mouth, poking out the top of his muzzle, right where he had a lump. It pulled out easily, and the lump subsided.
The horror stories of migrating quills are frightening. Someone told me about losing their Husky because a quill traveled into its heart. That dog’s first porcupine. What terrible luck. Our dog has been intimate with maybe 11 porcupines now. Apparently, they are irresistible.
The snow is deep, but the voles should not feel relaxed.
The Mighty Vole Hunter rests not in the winter.
I don’t know if he hears them mousing around or smells them, but without warning, he will suddenly leap in the air off the path and come down, plunging his head into the snow and sometimes snuffle-plowing around for a while.
Depending on the surface of the snow, he may smack the crust with a paw to crack it, and then thrust his head in and burrow around.
If he’s lucky, he comes up masticating ostentatiously with disgusting crunching sounds, tails or feet hanging out the side of his mouth. EWW!
If the vole’s lucky, he comes up only with a face full of snow.
He is really very good at hunting voles. As good as a cat. He gets one almost every day, sometimes two. In the “grassy” wasteland adjoining the Walmart parking lot, of all places, he caught the vole of voles, a trophy the size of a squirrel! Proving some things are flourishing around Walmart.
Sometimes the vole escapes. Yesterday he flipped the tiniest of voles out of the snow next to the path. Somehow, it escaped between his back legs, flopping around while he was looking under his front paws- Where’d it go?
Barely two inches long, it righted itself and darted to take refuge- under my boot, where I stood behind him. I saw the tail slip in under my foot and was standing there thinking Seriously? Is it hiding? Under my foot? Yep. I lifted my boot and it dashed away a second time, while Snowy snuffled around mystified. It was right here. I had it!
What we want to know is: Does he keep his eyes open under the snow?
Today the dog hauled his blanket out of his house and tore a lot of it apart, as well. It was unusual behaviour for him, but I didn’t hesitate to scold him.
Then, I discovered that there had been a mouse nest. In his blanket. There were mouse babies, quite recently born, now dead. Hence the uncharacteristic destruction. Gah! Vermin! Get it out! In my house?! How dare they?
Not the brightest mouse in the maze, that one. No mouse parenting awards. Let’s have babies in the dog’s house. We’ll live in the blanket, right underneath the dog! It’s warm there. Not a mensa mouse.
However, under the heavy guilt trip/awareness that we would be the last chance for this challenging, thrice-rescued dog, and with the help of Cesar Millan (dog god) and his sage advice (Exercise first, then discipline, then affection), we managed to keep him. Cesar’s insistence that any dog can be reformed (it’s just a lot of work), didn’t hurt either. He wasn’t kidding about the work.
He took up so much time, he set back some of our projects. Exercise, for a husky in young adult prime, is daunting. We tried an hour a day (Cesar’s minimum). It wasn’t enough. A 20km trail run, 3x a week, is enough. Just. And that’s a run, pacing with a bicycle at trail speed. Not walk, not jog. It’s a ride that wipes me out, and I’m on a bike (I don’t look forward to when I have to do the dog run). It tuckers him out until he’s content to lounge around for a day, and then he’ll be full of dog beans, ready to go again.
Thankfully, he has grasped from day 1 how to run with a bicycle, always attentive and respectful. It has made it possible to exercise him adequately.
Somewhere along the way he became a reasonably good dog.
He’s not as embarrassing as he used to be.
One example of a lot of other charming traits he exhibited at the beginning: he had some phobia of the leash around his legs. The lead simply getting looped under his “arm” would inspire him to suddenly hurl his body in all directions at once, thrashing and flailing around on the ground while shrieking insanely about it; on the whole, behavior appropriate to being attacked by a swarm of hornets. This was a mesmerizing spectacle, especially because it often wasn’t clear what provoked the scene.
It was effective, to a point. Usually he came untangled out of all that thrashing.
Now, he gets a foot tangled and he hops along on three legs, waving the hooked paw around to free it with a resigned look on his face. Again? Like a normal dog.
When I see him running around smiling, and greeting me, and wagging, and running to me when I whistle, I found you! and otherwise being a “normal dog”, I remember the contrast. We did not take receipt of a normal dog. It was months before we saw flat ears (a relaxed submissive indication).
I think he gets satisfaction now out of being obedient, and having a job to do (stick around, smell things, run with the bicycle, occasionally chase or herd things).
He definitely knows the meaning of several commands and phrases: Where’s the dog? Get out of there! Get over here! Is it time for a dog’s breakfast? What do good boys get? Come, let’s go, eat it, ok, sit, stay, down, drop it, bring it, get’em, high five, heel. Heel was a real game changer. I think it may be the most important thing to teach a dog. To switch from a dog yanking up ahead or just being too rambunctious to quietly walking behind you, wow! Sometimes he takes it too literally and walks on the heels of my shoes, like we’re in elementary school. That’s super annoying, but I don’t think it’s deliberate. And the occasional damp nose or furry head bump on the back of a bare leg is kind of nice.
I am glad that he is totally unfazed by thunderstorms. He talks about everything else; I’m glad he doesn’t freak out during storms.
I am not glad that he has not learned from the first 11 porcupines. *However, we have had some dead porcupines around these days, and although he is fascinated and compelled to investigate them, he approaches a porc corpse like it’s a bomb. Tiptoes, neck stretched out to maximum length, inquisitively twitching nose at a careful inch and a half remove. His last encounter was a tail slap, not a mouthful, so perhaps this is progress??
I am glad he’s a brown-eyed husky.
I am glad he grasps the concept of leashes, and trees. I’ve known many dogs who completely fail to grasp leashes in conjunction with trees, stop signs, etc. He very quickly sorts himself out when he wraps around trees, unless he happens to get double wrapped, which seems to be too much to deal with. This reminds me of the classic intelligence test for animals with the tether and two poles. Will the animal walk around the pole to reach the food?
I’m glad he hardly ever barks. Almost never. He barks at bears in the night, which is handy. And oh, does he bark at porcupines. More than once, I’ve heard “that tone” in his bark and set out at a dead run towards it, hollering in vain hopes of interceding. This always ends with meeting him running towards me, as fast as he can with tail tucked and almost crouching, yelping and crying and writhing in pain.
I’m not glad he’s the world’s lousiest guard dog. Anyone can walk right up to him and he’ll jump. Whoa! Didn’t see you there. You really snuck up on me. He sleeps like a log through the night. He’s not terribly useful yet.
I’m glad he is a vegetable dog. Such a vegetable dog. Crazy about vegetables, from the first time he started whining when I was feeding the hens lettuce, and I realized he was not salivating for a chicken, but eager to eat the lettuce. Tomatoes are his number one, ranking on par with dog biscuits. Carrots are dearly beloved. He’s crazy about cukes. Snap peas are an unconquerable temptation. He has a spot he is allowed to lie just inside the garden gate, which he loves to do (he catches beans I toss to him). I’ll park him there and be absorbed working, and every time I glance up at him, he’ll be still lying peacefully gazing at me, but he’ll be a few inches nearer to the bed with sugar snap peas in it. Lettuce, kale, beans, squash…I haven’t fed him a vegetable yet he hasn’t eaten.
I’m glad he’s come to terms with the chickens and now knows he may not put them in his mouth. He’s actually not bad at responding to their alarm cries and even herding them. The Silkies are another story. He wants them in his mouth, bad. But I’ll give him a pass on that. They just too much resemble wind-up stuffed toys, and don’t resemble the contraband chickens at all. It would be hard to associate.
I’m glad he talks. So strange, how really only huskies and Malamutes vocalize like that, and it can only be called talking. He’s conversing; there’s an exchange. It’s just like talking to someone with another language. Neither of you understand a single word, but the meaning can be communicated.
He’s been encouraged to talk (we talk back to him), and I think I’m coming to understand some of his “speech”. He’s got an awful lot to say, and it’s just wild how he will make a particular (complex!) set of sounds exactly over again, sometimes louder, or slightly faster or more intense. He’s clearly saying the same thing again, deliberately. Like, are you hard of hearing? How many times do I need to repeat this?
Smokey’s got a funny thing going on. His undercoat hairs are trying to fall out/shed, but only in one spot, on each side. The guard hairs are fine and shorter there, and you can feel his skin right underneath them, as opposed to somewhere deep under a thick fur blanket.
The ground hairs come out in clumps with the brush – but only in these two spots, each side of his hips. Elsewhere they resist coming out. It gives him a funny, patchy look, like he’s got mange.
Maybe by the end of summer he will have lightened his coat, just in time to grow it again. He’s such a hot dog in the hot summer, always slinking into the shade and sprawling out. When HW rousts him out for more walking around, he gives us the aggrieved Must I?Really? gaze.
For months, our primary feeling about him was What were we thinking?
Closely followed by It’s a good thing he’s cute.
He was pretty troubled when we got him, a huge handful, and he introduced himself by killing one of my chickens. It was a bad beginning and it didn’t really improve.
Any progress was swiftly followed by equally dramatic backsliding.
Oh, and the porcupines! He couldn’t get enough of them, and usually had uncanny timing for hitting a particularly hard day, late return home, or only one of us home for the night.
But HW persevered (I washed my hands of him around the three month mark- “He’s your dog now. I’ll dogsit by prearrangement”).
And this winter, the dog turned a corner from trying dog (very very trying), to good reasonable dog. He settled down, as though he’s finally adjusted. He knows what to expect from each day, and what we expect from him. Now he’s content and relaxed dog. A big upgrade from psychoses potpourri dog. (Finally). It’s been nearly a year.
He actually gives us more pleasure than grief now, which is saying something.
He’s always been funny, but a dog needs to be really funny to compensate for being such a case for so long.
But now, we see flat-ear dog smiles all day, and we adore him right back. He’s HW’s constant sidekick.
Thankfully, he was always decent at running alongside a bicycle, because this dog is made for mileage.