Archive for February 15th, 2011

R.I.P. Red Bashful

Tuesday, February 15th, 2011

The specter of death has returned to the kennel, and this time we were forced to say good bye to our beloved Bashful. Unlike last year at this time when we lost several dogs to untimely deaths, Bashful had lived a full life, particularly for a sled dog. He was 14 going on 15, which is amazing in some ways since he was not nearly as fit as his brothers and sister in the golden years. Yet he outlived all of his seven litter mates, named after the Seven Dwarfs from the Disney franchise.
Doc was his brother. They came to us as retirees when they were about 9 years old. Cole had worked with them both when she was a handler, before we started our own kennel. After we had starting getting our own dogs we offered to take the two of them when they ceased being race dogs for the musher who owned them. We said goodbye to Doc last summer after he succumbed to stomach cancer. Their sister Sneezy, another member of Cole’s race team in her earlier handler days, stayed with the musher. We heard she died at the beginning of winter.
Bashful was always a good boy, a big strong dog in his younger days, and if I have one regret from Bashful’s life it was never getting to see him as a puppy. He was part of Cole’s first winning race team. He never led for the other musher who owned him, but Colleen was able to bring the best out in him and he led for us many times in his late years. We even put together an all old man team for one of the smaller races a few years ago and Bashful led the way with another old dog who belonged to a friend of ours. He also helped us teach many of our younger dogs how to “line out” when we’re hooking up dogs or after we’ve returned to the yard from a run.
Bashful was also a red dog, which all of our red dogs are special to us since this color pattern is so rare and often shunned by other mushers due to being linked to hard-headedness in some dogs. He also clearly had some strong hound dog in his lineage. He looked the part, but sounded it even more. We could pick out his deep howl with no problem even when all 40 dogs were singing together. And perhaps it was his age, but the other dogs seemed to look to him to start the evening chorus after dinner.
Bashful also had beautiful eyes, and other than his sweet personality, I think it is not seeing his sensitive eyes daily that I will miss most about his passing. They were a light powdery blue, but unlike a lot of our other blue-eyed dogs, he had black, rather than pink, skin surrounding them. It made his eyes standout even more than they already did against his rusty red coat color. They could look right through you.
If there was a mean bone in his body, we never saw it. We routinely let him free while we cleaned the dog yard or did other chores. He would visit his friends, check in on the ladies nearing their spring heat cycle, and occasionally collect old shoes and bones which he thought we didn’t know he was stashing under a tree not far from his dog box. Bashful was always sweet to Snickers when she was alive, too, even though he could have probably eaten her in one bite. And even on his final day this part of his character showed through as he had an interaction with our cat.
He had been living in the house for several days, since it has been minus 10-20 outside and we didn’t want to complicate his condition. We hoped with some TLC, he might find himself on the mend and make it a few more months to see another warm summer day. We had him set up in front of the wood stove on a big, soft egg crate and blanket He had been resting for days, eating a little fish and meat here and there, and shuffling over to the water bowl when he got thirsty.
Bashful had never seen a cat, so we were worried that he could try to hurt our kitty, but on one of his water breaks, the cat ran over to him before we could intervene. They stood nose to nose and Bashful’s eyes got wide and his silly little half-curled potatochip-looking ears went up as best they could. He had been so tired and weak he was barely making it to the waterbowl, but he took a deep sniff of the kitty and then found the strength to wag his tail very quickly in small little snaps. While we knew he wasn’t long for this world, it was so warming to see such an old dog still experiencing something new – and enjoying it – on his last day on Earth.
A few hours after that incident, Bashful seemed to take a turn for the worst. He began losing his ability to stand up, and his breathing became labored. We sat with him for his last hours, petting him and telling him how special he had always been. Even Tatika, our old German shepherd who herself had a seizure on Saturday, came over and laid with her head on Bashful. Perhaps it was her animal perception of his condition, or perhaps it was her reading our suffering, but she seemed to sense he was starting to go and need to be by his side too, as a member of our family.
Bashful died peacefully in Cole’s arms, in the warmth and comfort of the house, and in the home where he had always been loved the most. Good bye Bashful, please say hello to Snickers, Kawlijah and all our other friends when you see them.

Bashful showing his hound side. He would howl before every run and after every meal.

Bashful excited to go before the start of an “old man” race.

Bashful, and his all white brother Doc, take their first step from the starting line of an “old man” race. I believe this was the last race both of them every ran.

Good-bye old friend. We’ll miss your companionship.