Archive for July, 2009

Summer Swimming

Saturday, July 25th, 2009

With summer reaching its peak we have been swimming the whole kennel to keep them in shape and mentally stimulated. Sitting around for months on end is not an option in our kennel. We had gotten to where each dog was swimming for roughly 30 minutes every other to every third day, but a recent cool weather trend has made it difficult to stay in the water longer then 20 minutes with each dog. Any longer than that and their teeth start chattering and our skin turns blue. In this picture is Waylon and Cyder.
Cole swims with Cyder and Waylon.
JOseph goes a few laps with Hank and Hildy.
Hildy moves in for a close-up.

Still thinking about our baby girl

Sunday, July 19th, 2009

It’s been more than a week and we’re no closer to getting over the loss of Snickers. We reminsce about the good times, which at times makes things better, but also makes things worse. For me, Joseph, Snickers was the most constant thing I’ve even had in my life. I first met Snickers 14 years ago while working at a no-kill animal shelter in Jupiter, Florida. She came in as a tiny puppy and her life got off to a bad start. Rescued from a puppymill by two hippy teenagers, Snickers was brought into the clinic with no hair on her entire body. She had such a severe case of mange, and had been so thoroughly neglected that she had become this tiny, pink creature covered in sores and scabs. She looked more like a mole than a puppy. Every week the hippies would bring her in for treatment and I would give her baths and medicine. Despite her hardknock life, she was the happiest little dog I had ever seen, and I always looked forward to her weekly visits. After a month or two, she was nearing the end of her medical care and I told the hippys that out of all the dogs I worked with daily, Snickers was my favorite. She had a special spark and I said if they ever want to get rid of her to let me know first. They went outside and talked about it and came in and said she could be mine for $50. At the time I worked in an animal shelter were any dog I wanted to adopt, I could have taken home for free, so I told them I couldn’t justify paying for a dog. They went outside and talked some more and came back in and said I could have her.
At the time I was living at home and my parent weren’t real keen on me bringing home animals, but after just a few days Snickers had won over the entire family, even my grandfather who a bit crotchety to say the least. That was who she was though. Her happiness was almost contagious and she made many friends over the years in all the places I lived. She also went on many adventures. She was my companion. She lived in many states with me, and was a friend I knew several years longer than my wife. She was family when I was far from mine, either physically or mentally. And in her old age especially, she was like my child as I had to constantly look after her, protect her, and nurture her. I can’t find the words to describe all that Snickers meant to me, and saying she is missed seems like such a huge understatement that just typing the words are frustrating. I loved her and always will.
Snickers went with us everywhere, even to the tops of mountains.
After 14 years of having Snickers sleep my my side, night and mornings are the hardest times without her.
Snickers relished in every activity, and her enthusiam made anything she was involved in more fun, even chores like cleaning fish.
Snickers accompanied Joseph to work every day, and because of this, she often found herself in photo opportunites for some of his more interesting stories. Here she is on the largest pumpkin grown in the state.
Snickers loved many things, but playing with a ball or a frisbee was hours of entertainment for her and us.

Snickers 1996-2009

Monday, July 13th, 2009

Our baby.
Sleeping was never as good as when snuggling with Snickers.
Our two original girls. Their bond was incredible.
Our niece with her favorite dog.
Snickers was so fun to be around, she evn inspired her own line of pancakes.
From Colleen to Snickers:
Snickers death has been a loss we can not recover from.
The first night of the deafening silence was unbearable. Her snoring was a fixture of this household for years. Her warm body against my heartbeat, every night until we both fell asleep waiting for Joseph to finish up his nightly wind down ritual and tending to the rest of the gang. Even a week out I struggle to find my breath, let alone my purpose. Tatika checks on me more, and has been searching for several days for her little buddy. Bigs and Littles, together since 2000. Tatika goes to sniff the bed where Snickers should be lying, only to find her scent fading each day.
My heart has broken with the loss of Snickers. Our history has been written with her entwined in every thought. People say, “She had a good life, and you gave her that,” but they don’t get it… She gave us the good life.
Snickers really was the answer to a rainy day. No matter how tough life seemed to get, she was there, the world’s greatest ‘best friend’. She never just delivered the 15 minutes of fame every pet owner appreciates when they get home from work; she gave you 24 hours of it. Always ready to give you a lick, weather you needed a pick me up, or just a cleaner cheek. Every ounce of her was joy and love and the world is a much colder place without this little dog’s heart beating.
I could never attempt to generate a top 10 list of Snickers’ best moments because there are thousands worth mentioning, but in an effort to smile again I will do my best to remember a few:
Her favorite food was pizza. She was such a good dog, we could always leave food around and she wouldn’t touch it until given the command. When we moved from Georgia we drove our stuff to my parents house to store while we hiked the AT. During one of the stops we got a stuffed pizza and put the leftovers in the car and ran into a store for some pet food. When we came out the 1-2 pounds of stuffed pizza was gone and Snickers was as round as a bloated tick.
When we got into rock climbing the kids (T and Snicks) would come along and sit tied out while we would take turns climbing and belaying. During one of these outings Snickers raided the bag of grapes, while we watched but could do nothing as she was safely out of reach from where we were tied in.
On numerous occasions we took turns trying to outlast her fits of licking our faces. Joseph went 10 minutes once but Snickers always persevered.
After a 30 mile hiking weekend, Snickers was in deep sleep on the drive home in the back of the car nestled amongst the sleeping bags (of course). When Joseph rustled a bag of chips, in one bound she leapt all the way from her resting spot to the front seat. She then earned the nickname Superdog, which became her trailname. She probably has more miles logged that most dogs let alone dogs her size.
When we lived in warmer climates she was an avid swimmer. When we got to Alaska she preferred the canoe.
Her gas was something to be reckoned with. She was skilled at the “covered wagon” prank.
She was always willing to do the dishes, even in her geriatric years.
She was excellent at sneaking into hotels with us. She would hop in a gym bag and be still until we were at our destination, whether in the room or out for a pee break. Once she was in her bag while we rode the elevator to the lobby. A man stepped on the elevator with us drenched in cologne. We had to quickly start talking in order to cover the loud sniffing that was coming from our baggage.
Her super power by far was her cuddling ability. As she aged, this never changed except the increase in time doing this. She could snuggle anywhere, under a sheet, under a sweatshirt, under a couch pillow, and preferable with another warm body. Even if she couldn’t be with us, our sister in law would make sure she would get tucked in at night with our niece. And if you were ever cold she could always warm you up.
There are a million moments that are special to me. I can’t put them on paper, only see them in my mind. Countless pictures float through my head and bring tears to my eyes as I try to keep every one from slipping away. I am at a loss with knowing how to move through this grief, I just hope the hurt passes.
On this path called life, Snickers was here making sure we never had to walk it alone. It is so hard to take the next step now. I miss her so much, and thank her for being in my life.

My Soul Aches

Wednesday, July 1st, 2009

Doc, the patriarch of our kennel, gave up the ghost on Tuesday after a long battle with a stomach tumor. He was 13, and will be deeply missed.
Doc came to us as a retiree from another musher. We fell in love with him at his previous home. He was just a beautiful dog with a fantastic drive and personality. He had an all white coat and blue eyes which is extremely rare to see, but captivating to look at. After her turned eight, the musher gave him to us to live out his life, and he has been with us for the past five years.
His contributions to the kennel are many. Doc, along with Karma (who died earlier this year, and is in the photo at the bottom. Karma is in lead and Doc is in wheel in this shot), taught many of our dogs how to lead, including Doc’s own pups, all seven of which went on to be leaders themselves, and two of which finished the Yukon Quest with Cole last winter as two year olds. Apparently they had their dad’s strength and stamina, since Doc was part of the winning team in the 2001 Yukon Quest, and then went on the run the Iditarod just a month later.
The passing of Doc is sad on many levels. He was one of the most personable dogs we have even known. All the other dogs in the kennel just adored him for some reason, as was evident when they were loose. Most will run to visit one of their buddies, but that’s about it, but all checked in with Doc every time they were off. Doc was equally friendly and spent his last few months loose as a “Yard Dog”. He would wander around visiting each dog, even other males, and he enjoyed collecting bones and toys. Right up until his death he loved to play, and just 24 hours before he died, we snuck photos of him from the house as he played with a stuffed chew bone with the zest of a six month old puppy.
We have a lot of memories with Doc. He was the lead dog for Joseph’s first race, a two-day 40 miler back in 2006. Doc also served as the leader for several sprint races with Cole and even went with her brother Will in races on occasion. Although Doc’s history with the Kenai Morrow’s is sorted.
During a skijor race with Will once, Doc got startled when Will called Haw. Doc must not have recognized the voice and he immediately did a 180 causing Will to crash and the skijor belt to unlock. We stood in the starting chute waiting to see them both, when suddenly by himself we just saw Doc run by in a blur on his way back to the dog truck. Doc also left a lasting impression on Will’s wife Kristen. Two years ago Doc had to have a toe removed, but we had an appointment in Anchorage that day, so Kristen agreed to pick Doc up from the vet. We left a kennel there so she wouldn’t lose Doc, but it wouldn’t fit in her car, so she just had him ride along. HOwever, once home she attempted to take him out by the collar, but Doc, even in his old age and still half groggy on anesthesia, was way too strong for her. He pulled away, dragging her for a bit, and then ran off. He was on the lam for the whole night, but the next morning our friend Sara Armstrong helped get him back, not much worse for the wear surprisingly. he just had to have his toe stitches put back in.
Doc’s strength was always amazing. I remember another time we encountered an aggressive moose in the swamp. Joseph took out a pistol and went to the front of the team to fire a warning shot. Doc was in lead and the entire team of 12 dogs was hammering their harness to get at this moose, but when the gun went off, Doc proved stronger than all of them and turned the whole team around by himself to run from the loud band of the pistol.
Doc was always a good boy though, and he loved eating as much as running. He was one of only two dogs (the other is his brother Bashful) I have even seen eat an entire pig skull in one meal. We get them from the butcher annually and pass them out, and most dogs will eat all the meat away and gnaw at the bone a bit, but Doc, with his strong jaws, literally buzzed through the entire thing.
Doc was just amazing He was one of those rare dog’s that had it all: good looks, good build, good drive, good stamina, good appetite, good personality with other dogs and good feet. There was nothing he couldn’t do. he was the complete package.
He left a lasting impression on us and will forever be missed, but never forgotten. As a friend, a pet and a sled dog, a better dog there never was.