Posted by: arcticpacksiberians | March 8, 2020

Little Vixen – 25/04/07 – 18/01/20

My Little Angel.

all smiles and happy after a run

I still cannot believe she has gone, or even begin to come to terms with her not being here, curled up on the couch with her friends.   Vixen was an incredibly special dog.  For many reasons, and her passing, especially so soon after our beautiful, Dancer, has left me quite numb.  I try not to think about the two of them as I feel like i may just totally lose myself.  Dogs find a way into your soul that no other being can and their loss is an immense sea of grief, that often overwhelms.   It’s a loss only those who have lived with, loved and worked with dogs can understand.

Vixen was a tiny little dog.  A dog of polar opposites and a complicated little soul at times.  A beautiful girl, but incredibly difficult to photograph.   As a result, I have very few pictures of her at home.   The minute she saw a camera, even a phone camera,  she would immediately shrink into herself, ears all low and wide and generally behave like she was suspicious and feral.  The trick was to catch her off guard, so she didn’t realise you were looking at her through a lens.  She never liked being what she considered ‘under scrutiny’ and that is the main reason she never saw a show ring in her life.  She hated strangers even looking at her, let along touching her without her permission and would have equally hated the show ring.  The flip side of this seemingly anti-social part of her personality, was that if she liked you, she would come over for a fuss, on her terms of course, and just totally melt into you.  She was incredibly affectionate and you could lift her, cradle her like a baby and she would just put so much trust in you.   If she liked you.   Most people she met, she wasn’t too bothered about getting to know, but was tolerant of them being around her. Some people she loved and a handful of people she met, she just did not like.  At all.  If they came to visit, she would be on edge, uneasy and often bark at them from across the room if they moved or spoke in a certain tone.   These people always turned out to be, well, not the best people they could have been.  She was a very smart dog.

 

Vixen came to us in 2010, just short of her 3rd birthday.   She came with her wonderful Mum, and up until that point they had never been separated.  As a result they were incredibly bonded.  When she arrived she was screaming, manic and in need of an outlet for her pent up frustrations.  It took a lot of time to get Vixen more confident on her own, without her Mum beside all the time, but once in a good routine with plenty or regular exercise, she calmed down and became a different dog.   Our dogs were fantastic and welcomed both girls.  Sadly, her Mum had to leave us and go back to where she came from.   Vixen never really got over that.  Neither did we.
Early life experiences meant she was a dog who relied on other dogs.  She needed to be around other dogs, close, but usually not touching.  We often joked and called her ‘Little Miss Mardy’ as if other dogs lay down next to her and touched her, she would grump at them, often getting up to go lie somewhere else.  In contrast, other times she would curl up next to someone and use them as a pillow.    And with young puppies she was a dream.  She loved them.  They could crawl all over her, chew her tail and ears.   She genuinely seemed happy and relaxed around puppies.  It’s a real shame she never had any of her own.

 

She was playful with the others, but only in smaller groups.  If everyone was tearing about the pen, she would usually hang back a bit.  One to one she would chase, leap about and generally behave like a puppy.   She loved a ball and would roll it about so she could pounce on it.  When outdoors she would get really annoyed at wood pigeons and pheasants sitting in trees above her.  She would bark and shout at them, stamping her feet so frustrated she couldn’t reach them.   She had the same, annoyed, angry bark for the shooters when they were in the fields shooting birds. She could be a proper disciplinarian when she needed to be and not many youngsters tried it on with Auntie Vixen without getting put firmly, but fairly in their place.   Even wee Crazy Face Grace who answers to no one, had some semblance of respect for Vixen.

As easy to live with at home as she was, harness work was where she really came alive.   She loved and needed to work.  It was almost like a drug to her and it was when you got to see this tiny dog’s immense and indomitable spirit. And hear her voice.  She would scream and shout until the snub was released, with a disproportionately loud amount of noise considering how little there was of her.    Vixen was never happier than when she was running and would be airborne, screaming with excitement until the team was allowed to go.  She continued to shout and jump about after a run too.  A few minutes and a quick drink was all she needed before she was antsy to go again, often riling everyone else up.   Despite her tiny size, in her younger years she would easily shove and haul dogs twice her size around turns on the trail if they were getting it wrong.   Her harness gave her a confidence you would never of thought she had if you only ever met her at home.   And it’s where she forgot about a camera.  I have hundreds of pictures of her in harness, happy and not caring at all about being looked at through a lens.  She was a lead dog.  That is where she liked to be.  Up front.  Taking us where we needed to go, seeing what was around the next bend.  If you put her anywhere else in a team for more than a couple of runs, she would be a total menace about it.  Biting lines, deliberately getting herself under the lines, stepping over lines and generally reminding you that she didn’t run here.  She ran up front.   She spent many years leading our bigger teams in training with her brother and was equally happy running single lead.  Wee Joe loved to lead with her, and the two of them would caper about at hook up together.    When her friend Betty lost her sight to glaucoma, Vixen stepped up and helped her continue to lead teams in harness.  She would move Betty about the trail if she was veering off course and would also move her out the way of bushes etc at the side of the trail.  She was quite an amazing little dog and a very good friend to Betts when she needed her.

Vixen slept indoors overnight for many years.   For no reason other than she was Vixen.  She moved indoors full time in the last few years and was generally trustworthy.  Unless a phone was ringing.  For some reason, she hated phones ringing.   If you left your mobile indoors with her while you were out and it rang, there was a high percentage chance she would eat it.   She couldn’t reach the landline to eat it, so other things got trashed instead.   And sponges for the dishes.  She ate them too if she could reach them.  My perfect little weirdo.

Throughout her life Vixen suffered from an autoimmune condition that affected her lungs.   It was quite debilitating for her until we got it under control with medication and in all honesty, she lived a longer life that I thought she ever would.   It was still not and could never have been, long enough.    At her core she was a loving, kind soul with a good and generous heart.  I miss her.

 

She had to retire late last year and her last runs in November.   I think that was the beginning of the end for her.  There was a sadness about her, coupled with her watching her best friend Dancer decline steadily I think her being unable to run allowed her tiny body to be overcome by her illness.   When Dancer left us, Vixen went downhill very quickly and despite medications, it seemed her spirit was broken and her heart just wasn’t in getting better.  All her fight had left her and two short weeks after saying goodbye to Dancer, we let her be with her friend she missed so much.

Thank you for coming into our lives, Vixen.  I’m sorry we couldn’t do more for you, but I hope you know how much you were loved x
Sleep tight My Little Angel.   We will love and miss you forever xx

 

 

Posted by: arcticpacksiberians | February 24, 2020

Snopeak’s Paranoidz for Arcticpack 06/12/2008- 03/01/2020

Dancer.

Dancer Prancer, Dancing Dancer, Little Pretty, Little Pudding.  Just some of the names for our wonderful girl we lost on the 3rd January.   Not only did we lose a very special dog, we also lost another of our best friends.

 

Dancer was one of those easy dogs.  Easy going, easy to live with, easy to work with, easy to love and one you never had to worry about in a team or in the pack.   She was accepting, adaptable, trusting and kept herself out of trouble.  She loved me, but adored Cam and was very much, his girl.  She was a beautiful soul, inside and out.

An absolutely gorgeous little puppy, she came to live with us along with her brother, Arko when they were 8 weeks old, from two of our longest and dearest friends in the breed.   They were teeny tiny little people and I remember there was snow on the ground when we arrived home.   Both of them slept on my lap the whole 4 hour drive back from Livingston.  We knew her mother, Kinny from a puppy and Dancer and Arko were hoped for even before their litter was properly planned.  They were both very much worth the wait.   Dancer had just the right amount of shy, inquisitiveness we like in puppies.  Not too bold, overpowering or bolshy, but quiet and thoughtful.   Once exposed to a situation she quickly gained confidence about it.  She became a very outgoing girl and a great dog for relying on to relax and teach others who were unsure about working in harness.

 

8 weeks old

9 years old

 

Dancer had a fascination with bugs and on more than one occasion I would find her in a dog box with a collection of earth worms.  Unharmed, all in a little pile.   She loved to chase moths in the dark and would leap about, catching them.  She had so many little quirks that I miss a lot.  The thing I have found I miss the most is her voice.  She always had something to say with her distinctive woo- woooo  and made a very specific little yipping noise when she was waiting to run in harness.   I didn’t realise how much i missed hearing her until I watched a training run video from my facebook memories the other day.  Dancer wasn’t even visible in the video until the very last part of it, but the minute I heard her off-screen in the background,  I just started to cry.

A decent enough leader for us, she loved to work in harness. She often ran single lead and was always, always at her best just before and during her season.  Once she had pups, and especially after she was spayed around 8 years old, she lost a bit of drive and much preferred to let the youngsters do all the grafting. (sensible!)  Even though she  did slow down a bit, she still missed working when she had to retire due to her illness.   When Pirate and Betty came to stay, she was instrumental in helping Betty become confident, happy and to actually enjoy being in harness.   She was a steady, sensible, cheery companion for Betts to learn from and taught her to enjoy what we were asking her to do.   I still remember those early runs with me, Dancer and Betty.   Betty would trot along, not pulling much at all, looking behind her and worried about the whole situation.  Dancer would slow down to her pace and just work away, pulling me on her own, steady and calm.  Sometimes she would lean over and kinda gently poke Betty in the face as if to say, ‘come on!  this is fun!’  With Dancers help Betty went from an insecure, unsure dog to a screaming, excited working sled dog who came to love her harness and everything it meant.

 

teaching Betty the ropes

 

leading the team with her brother Arko

 

Whether Dancer was indoors or out, she almost always slept curled up in that classic husky pose.  Even in summer.  She had a favourite spot out in the pen, in a little hollow between two tree roots. I often look at it and think of her.  Nobody else lies in her spot. When she wasn’t curled up, she would be lying with her legs crossed, looking ever so elegant.    In contrast to her chilled out persona at home,  when out and about, she was hard work to walk.  Usually always on two legs, dancing about or diving into bushes after some small furry thing that could be lunch.  She always loved going to the beach.   Vixen was her best friend and the pair of them lived together, indoors and out,  most of their lives.  She was a very playful dog, and her favourite game was a game of chase around one of the trees in the dog pen.  She especially loved doing this with her brother and they were always fun to watch as they chased each other and played with no boundaries the way only littermates do.

 

In her favourite spot

 

out for a walk

 

In 2013 she had a litter of 7 puppies.  Before they were born, Cam jokingly asked her how many pups she was having.  He started counting, and she just kept looking at him, tilting her head side to side.  He got to 7 and she woo’d at him.   He went past 7  and she went quiet again.  We did laugh when she actually had 7 puppies.  She was a lovely Mum and did everything she needed to do while they were tiny.  She was so sweet and she really didn’t want to discipline them much at all, so once they got bigger and got teeth, she was quite content for the Riot Police Aunties, Squeaky, Betty and Vixen to take over on that front.  When the pups were about 4 weeks old and meeting the other dogs, we would let her decide who she was happy with meeting them.  It makes me laugh thinking about it as the only dog she wouldn’t let near them for weeks was her brother, Arko.  She did love him lots, and they often spent a lot of time together, but she also knew he wasn’t called Asbo Arko for nothing. He got the ‘back off’ lifted lips teeth treatment for a while until she decided her puppies were big enough to cope with him.

 

with her gorgeous puppies

 

She remained very bonded with her 5 pups we kept, still washing faces and ears and sleeping with her daughters all together in a dog box.   It’s so sad to see Neeta and Olivia tucked up together without their Mum.  When she became poorly and moved indoors, even her loutish sons would barrel into the dog pen, chasing each other about, but when their mum came out to see them, they always had a gentle ‘hi mum’ lick of her muzzle for her, before going back to charging about being louts.

tucked up with her daughters

 

the tree game

 

In spring of 2019 she started to become unwell.  Pancreatitis was the likely culprit.  Lots of tests, meds etc and several months later, she had declined so much and was a shell of herself. Given her family history, I strongly suspect cancer was involved somewhere.   She weighed just over 13kgs and although she seemed happy enough to potter about and just be with her friends, she quit eating anything at all and what we were asking of her became unfair.  It was very obvious she wasn’t going to get better and we had to make the call to let her go.  It was one of the hardest, most difficult decisions we have ever had to make about the dogs.   We all miss her so much.

Thank you Dancer, for everything you gave us.  I’m sorry we couldn’t make you better.
Sleep tight my Little Pretty and say hi to everyone for us x    We will love and miss you forever xx

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted by: arcticpacksiberians | August 13, 2019

Navajos Shishaldin of Arcticpack 13/03/04 – 17/06/19

“And I was told
That the streets were paved with gold
And there’d be no time for getting old when we were young”
The Dying of the light – Noel Gallagher

 

No talk of it. Not even a thought about it.  But a dog lifetime seems to pass so quickly, too quickly.  The excitement and anticipation of a lifetime of new adventures together seems like only yesterday, but suddenly, old age and all its frailties is upon our canine friends.  And then we have to say goodbye.

We said a sad goodbye to our wonderful old friend, Norris nearly two months ago now.  With the help of our vet, he slipped away peacefully in our arms,  the summer sun bathing him in light and warmth.  Norris lived a good, long life surrounded by many canine friends.  He enjoyed a lifetime doing what he loved, got to dig countless holes, spent many hours on the couch, went many different places and enjoyed a lot of off lead time in his elderly years.  He was a best friend to both of us and even though we know that he did indeed live a good and full life, it doesn’t make his passing any easier or any less painful.   I miss his gorgeous face so much.

 

Norris came to us at 8 weeks old, settled in quickly and grew rapidly.  It was apparent from a very young age he was going to be a big dog.   For a long time, it really did seem like he was all legs.  As he aged, he grew into his large frame and he matured into an incredibly, handsome, well-built dog.  He was a grafter in harness and loved his ‘job’ very much.  He would often run next to his best friend, Mohceh.  They were born about 3 months apart and grew up together.  They became very much like brothers.  All our other dogs loved Norris.  He was such a playful, easy going big lad.  He never started a fight in his life, nor did he look too get involved in any, but he had such a size and presence about him that everyone had a lot of respect for him.  The monkey puppies especially loved him and even as a 6 year old, Neeta would be all over him, ears back, respectful, licking his face and so excited she would be trying to jump all over him each and every time she saw him.   Many of the dogs continued to look in the van for him for days after he was gone.   Gracie was especially sad to watch, as each time she walked past the van, she would look in expectantly, then look at me with her wonderfully expressive face.  If she could talk, she would absolutely have said, ‘where is Norris?’.

 

baby Norris

Gracie giving some love to a not all that impressed old man, Norris

In harness he was hardworking, powerful and was excellent for teaching unruly youngsters some manners at hook up.  He did shout a lot about running, but when hooked in would stand and not leap about or bite lines or try and shove his running mate around.  We missed him a lot for training when he retired.  He was a good, honest dog.

leading with his best friend, Mo

 

Norris moved indoors to live permanently with Hexie and Betty when he was about 13.  Several others also slept in at night, but those three lived in.  They became very good friends and Betty took to looking after him whenever he wasn’t feeling so good.  The three of them spent many afternoons in the fields together, just free running around.  Always coming back for those all-important biscuits.  Norris loved his food.  He never missed a meal, not even when girls were in season.  He was also a menace for eating non-food items though and although it wasn’t the reason for his passing, he still had a cycling glove he had eaten in there when he did.   When he was relatively young, we also discovered he had a totally irrational fear about paintbrushes.   Like, absolutely, run out the room terrified of them.  No idea why.  This was clean, new, dry paintbrushes.  For whatever reason, he seemed to think they were the work of the devil.  I was painting some wood yesterday and it made me smile thinking about Norris and his distrust of all things paintbrush.

he three amigos. blind dog, shouty dog and geriatric dog. 🙂

 

 

 

As he entered his elderly years, he was able to be off lead in certain places.  The fields at home as I mentioned above, but also on the beach if it was reasonably quiet.  He loved the beach and quite liked to swim as a younger dog.  Paddling in the waves was just fine for him as an old person though.   He had one of his last walks on the beach and even though his mobility was very poor and his heart was having a hard time with the exertion, his face was so, so happy.   It is incredibly hard to watch their old bodies slowly fail them.   And as it is with losing all old dogs, your routine is changed greatly once they leave.  That is always a constant reminder they aren’t with you anymore.

 

Thank you, Norris.  You were such a wonderful friend and companion.  I’m sorry we couldn’t do more for you and I hope you know how much you were loved.   We hope you found Mo and the rest of your friends who left before you.  Remember to share the biscuits x

Sleep tight my magnificent old boy.  We will love and miss you forever xxx

 

 

 

Posted by: arcticpacksiberians | January 2, 2019

The first run of the new year.

Ok, so we ran in the dark on the 1st of January 2019.  That means no pictures.   But it was a nice run all the same.  The 9 dog team was led by 5.5 year old Lester and his 10-year-old mum, Dancer.   It was around 6 degrees, windy and as it is a lot of the time where we train, about a million % humidity.   The weather seems to get worse each year with no consistent winter temperatures.  It was nearly 12 degrees on boxing day.  Depending on the dogs you run and what they can cope with, it does make it more difficult to train with any sort of goal or consistent mileage in mind.  That said, we are pretty lucky in that we can usually train every month of the year here.   Last year was also much drier than usual which meant hardly any training at all in rain and mud.   We even got a few rare snow days!  Coldest run from the pictures was January at -4.   The warmest was July at 12 degrees.

2018 training

At the beginning of December, Little Vixen was quite poorly.   She ended up running a high fever and was pretty miserable and lethargic.  After some bloodwork, she was started on antibiotics and is now back to her old self.  She had some enforced time off from running, but has started back and did a nice, steady couple of miles with her brother early doors on new years day.  Vixen has now made herself a permanent house dog and has taken over Betty’s role in keeping old Norris company.  She certainly isn’t as ‘motherly’ as Betts was, and Norris often finds himself getting bossed about instead of looked after.  Poor Hexie is sometimes not even allowed in the door.  Hexie is our big, shouty GSD and it’s hilarious to see her pause at the steps and be worried about going inside  due to this tiny little Siberian Husky who is standing there with body language that screams ‘you shall not pass!’.  There is no aggression on Vixen’s part at all.  No hackles up, no growling etc, just a bossy look and posture that says ‘Nope.  Not until you pay the toll’.  The toll, of course is one of us telling her to pack it in and let the GSD  inside to her bed.

In contrast to our dark, new years run we had a rare daylight run for our last outing of 2018.  At this time of year almost all of our training runs are in the dark.   It was ridiculously warm for the end of December at 11 degrees and humidity in the high 80’s.   The dogs coped fine, but we did do a short stop so I could clear some branches from the trail and Cam gave the dogs who wanted it a little water.  I’ve posted a few pictures below.    It was a really nice run with 8 dogs and the two of us.  One of those runs worth recording seeing as it was daylight.  Of course, that only works if you actually take the lens cap off the video camera before you set off…..

Happy new year to all our family, friends and followers!  Best wishes to you all for 2019.

Pirate yelling hurry up

Posted by: arcticpacksiberians | December 18, 2018

Articmoons Betty Boo for Arcticpack. 15/02/08 – 13/11/18

It’s now over a month since we lost Betts, and I am still struggling to find the words to write about her.  Her loss is still so raw and my heart feels empty and aches.   I still cry when i think of her, or when i see people who knew and loved her as much as we did.   It is so very hard to lose our friends, and Betty was one of the best.

I first met Betty when she was about 7 weeks old, back in april 2008.  I was on a trip down south and went to visit her breeders.  Cam and I had been hoping to get a couple of pups from this gorgeous litter, but it didn’t work out that way and I knew none were coming to stay with us when i went to visit them.   Fast forward a few years and Betty and her brother Pirate found themselves in need of a new home.  We are still humbled and very grateful to those involved who thought of us and thought that we would be a good enough home for these two dogs.   So, in October 2011 Betty and her brother Pirate came into our lives, just a few months short of their 4th birthday.

 

 

Betty came with the advisory that she might not run in harness too well.  We had no issues with that.  If she came and ran, great.  If she didn’t want to run, that was fine too.  We just wanted to give them both a home.  It quickly became apparent that Betty loved people.  She was a dog so willing to please and seemed to put her trust in us pretty quickly considering her move to a new home and kennel.  She was social and friendly with the other dogs and made herself a part of the pack easily.  All the dogs loved her.  As she settled in she became quite the boss and mother of everyone.  Always washing faces and ears, and telling off youngsters who would get too boisterous.   She was always happy, waggy tailed and always had something to say about everything.  She loved her brother and they were often in a dog box together or curled up together outside in the pen.   Betty had such a free spirit and hated being contained.  She didn’t like being in a crate and if she felt she had been in one too long would start to trash it or pull things through the mesh to destroy in protest.  She was rarely in one for this reason, and only ever had to be cooped up when recovering from surgery.

with her brother, Pirate

Betty started off her life in harness here a bit unsure about it all and what was expected of her.  But she was so eager to please us and seemed to feed off the enthusiasm of her running mates that it made her very easy to work with and we felt it was worth persevering with her.  We took her right back to basics and with a little thinking outside the box about what it was she was actually worrying about, she steadily gained confidence and fitness.   She started off as a quiet, timid little thing at hook up.  Looking around her, standing still with only a very low tail wag as we spoke to her. While running, she did very little actual pulling and spent a lot of time looking around and behind her, as if worried about something.  We paired her with sensible (well, as sensible as we can get here at Arkham!) dogs who weren’t going to leap about and scare her with running too fast.  Dancer worked incredibly well with her and was happy to slow to her pace.  She was a steady, hardworking companion for Betty and encouraged her to enjoy what she was doing.  Within a few months Betty was transformed into a screaming, excited, line biting crazy person like the rest of our dogs are at hook up and earned herself the name, Betty Bonkers.   She just got better and better and the more running in harness we gave her, the more she wanted and the harder she worked.  She turned out to be a pretty decent sled dog and even helped train the monkey puppies when it was their turn to start working in harness.   Betty became a reliable leader and we were so proud of her when she ran lead on the 6 dog team at a race at Darnaway.   Her absolute favourite dog to lead with was her best friend, Vixen.   The two of them loved being at the front of a 10 dog team.   Back then in those first few months after she arrived, she firmly cemented herself not only in the pack at home and the team when working, but also in our hearts.   She was such a special dog.  A dog with endless trust and an eagerness and enthusiasm for living life to the full.   She certainly needed those qualities when life decided to throw her a curve ball.

 

her first time leading at a race

 

In 2015 Betty developed glaucoma.   I still remember the day.  It was a Sunday and the dogs had been a run early morning.  As luck would have it, Betty was one of the dogs who got to come indoors that day so Cam noticed her eye pretty much straight away.  She had one pupil slightly larger than the other.  The usual eye assessment ensued and the pupil was still reacting to light, but sluggish compared to the other. This was her only symptom.   We talked for a bit about whether we remembered her running close to gorse on the trail that morning, or whether she had knocked her head, but really, we both knew this was going to be glaucoma.   We called the out of hours vet and took Betty in.   By this time, her eyeball was slightly enlarged compared to the other, and a tentative diagnosis of glaucoma was made as without a tonometer (it was at another branch) we couldn’t measure pressure and be sure.   She was started on eye drops straight away and we agreed to test her pressure the next day once the elusive tonometer could be delivered to our vets.  Glaucoma for those who don’t know is a horrible disease.  It causes extremely high pressures to build up within the eye which leads to irreversible optic nerve damage and blindness.  It is also incredibly painful.   Her eye pressure on the Monday was 48.   We made an appointment for the Thursday to see the eye specialist.  That week Betty had some pretty horrible pressure spikes where her eye would go cloudy and she would be in obvious pain.  Tramadol and metacam helped a great deal.  Normal eye pressure is between 10-20.  Her eye pressure was only down to 33 by the Thursday after 4 days on an aggressive treatment plan.  We had her eye removed the next day.

Despite just having had surgery to remove an eye, Betty was visibly happier the day after.  She looked horrendous, with a sutured up, swollen eye socket, but she genuinely seemed to be far less painful that she was with the eye still there.  She rapidly healed and got back to life as normal.   She was neither up nor down about it and just wanted to be back out with everyone, making sure faces and ears were clean.   Sadly, she only got a couple of months before glaucoma struck in her remaining eye.   She was asleep on the couch and when she woke up, it was obvious she was blind.  Her pupil was totally blown and as we had drops here, we called the eye specialist and got drops in straight away.  In the end, as is most often the case with glaucoma, we couldn’t save her sight and she became totally blind in a matter of days and eventually had her remaining eye removed.   We were totally heartbroken for her and those first couple of weeks, watching her trying  to understand and grasp life in the dark were incredibly hard.  For the first week, she gained a lot of confidence just by us taking her everywhere on a lead.  It was a link to us and a security blanket for her.  She didn’t need it long and Betty quickly taught us all about determination and resilience.   She suddenly ceased to be scared or worried and instead became bold and curious about her new world.   Instead of walking beside us on the lead, using our leg as a guide, she was hauling us about the place at the end of the lead, straining to find the source of that smell or sound.   Her senses went into overdrive and absolutely everything had to be investigated.  She drooled like a Newfie for a couple of weeks until she got a handle on her newfound superhero senses that made everything smell, taste and sound that much more exciting than they had been previously.   She would spend ages ‘mapping’ the dog pens.  Going backwards and forwards and in circles with high-stepping motions so she could ‘feel’ her way around.   She determinedly worked out where everything was and was soon trotting around the pen like she could see.  She actually became a bit of a risk to herself as she was so sure of herself and very gung-ho in her approach to finding her way around.  We taught her ‘easy’ as a word she could associate with something she had to be wary of, like a bench or tree or whatever else she was in danger of walking into.   But Betty never wanted to take it easy.  We were in total awe of her ability and willingness to get around and get back to her normal routine.   She continued to be outside in a pen while i was at work.  She continued to leap about and shout for her dinner when getting fed with everyone else.  She jumped on and off dog boxes with no problems and went for walks happily, played with the other dogs and loved going to explore new places.   We had both been so sad for her and Betty taught us not to be.   We found ourselves working with her, coming up with ways to help her adapt more quickly and to make sure she was going to be able to live a full life.   I especially was so worried she wasn’t going to be happy.  But she was.  Her super smiling and surprisingly expressive, eyeless face was all the evidence I needed to know she was indeed, happy.   It was and still is so dreadfully unfair she had to lose her sight, but it quickly became something we didn’t worry about, or feel sad about.   Betty wasn’t sad, so why should we be.

 

 

making sure Lester’s face is clean

up on the dog boxes with everyone

 

We would have been more than ok with her just living her life as a dog going for walks and sleeping on the couch, but Betts had other plans.  She got incredibly frustrated when we were training the other dogs and she didn’t get to run.   So, we spoke to some people we knew had run blind dogs in harness and armed with some advice from them, we got to work on a plan of action to get Betty back in harness as a blind sled dog.   She loved it.  She loved being part of the team again, she loved all the excitement of hook up and most of all, she just loved being able to do what she had been bred to do.   Her fearlessness and enthusiasm to do her job was a joy to watch.  She had to adapt a  little to running blind and our other dogs had to help her a lot in the beginning  with keeping her on track.  Being blind, she had a tendency to veer off to the side sometimes.   Vixen, Joe and Dancer seemed to be tuned into this and knew she needed moving back to where she should be.  Others like Olivia, were happy just to veer off with her on a new adventure into the woods!    Vixen became an incredible running partner for her, so much so that she would actually move Betty out the way from things at the side, or on the trail she may have run into.   This amazing relationship allowed Betty to still lead the 10 dog team with her friend, despite the fact she was blind.   Betts even ran a couple of races blind too.

 

on my veteran team at a race in feb 2017

 

Leading with Vixen

yelling about running. she continued to love it, even blind

Within a few short months of going blind, Betty proved to us that losing her sight was never going to be an issue for her.  We certainly ceased to be worried about it, and often we would forget she was blind. She continued to do everything she did before and enjoyed life to the full.  She especially loved the beach and paddling in the waves.  She would listen intently to the roar of the sea and sniff the wind for all the scents it brought her.  The one perk of being a blind Siberian, was that she could be off lead.  She actually had a really reliable recall.    As she was so enthusiastic about running about, we did have to be careful where she got let off.   An empty beach was perfect as were the stubble fields we are surrounded by after harvest time.   You couldn’t help but smile at her when she free ran around the fields.  And she did run.  Proper, free, flat-out running.  She always looked so happy.  And she always, always found something to roll in!

 

 

 

out relaxing in the sunshine with everyone

Towards the end of summer 2017, Betty started to become unwell.  Nothing serious, just a bit ‘not quite right’.   After xrays and various other diagnostics, she was eventually diagnosed with lymphoma.   I cried for weeks.   We decided on steroids only for her, and allowing her to be a dog, doing what she loved without all the treatments, vet visits and everything else that chemo would have entailed.  For a long time, i looked at her each day and wondered how long she would have left.  How sad it was to see her, living on borrowed time completely unaware of the fact next week could be her last.   But she made it to christmas that year.  And to her 10th birthday in feb 18.  Steroids definitely suited her.  Her only side effect was peeing every 5 minutes when she was on the higher doses at the beginning of her treatment and she quickly gained the nickname, ‘pissy-pants’.    Her lymph nodes shrunk a little, but never went down completely.  She ate much better on the steroids, she felt better and started to put on weight.   As the weeks went by, the constant thought of losing her eased.  She got back to working in harness on the scooter with Squeaky as her running partner.  We got her weaned down to 10 mg of preds a day.  Betty was just being Betty.   Happy, excited to go new places and being a menace stealing food off the worktops.   Before she was diagnosed, she moved indoors to live with Norris who is currently our oldest dog.  She washed his face and ears every day and when he wasn’t doing too well, would go and lie beside him to keep him company.  When Joe came in each night to sleep and rumbled about the couch like a mad thing, she would shout at him until he stopped behaving like a nutcase.  She was always first in line for bedtime biscuits, or any biscuits for that matter.  She would shove her way through the hoard of dogs until she was in pole position.  Then she used her nose to sniff out everyone else’s and steal bits off them if they hadn’t finished.  She would shout at me each morning because in her opinion, I wasn’t making the food bowls up quick enough.  If you opened the fridge she was there.  Cheese please!   She would lie curled up beside me on the couch during the day.   She was just always there.  My constant companion.  It’s the absence of all these little things that somehow amplify how quiet it is without them.  How much they are missed from your daily routine.

 

 

 

 

Betty lasted over a year after her diagnosis.  She went lots of new places in that year and did all her favourite things.  Towards the end, she didn’t want to do as much.  Stayed in her bed longer.  Her mobility declined quickly while her need for pain medication increased.   I honestly thought she would live forever.   In the grand scheme of lymphoma life expectancy, I know we were incredibly lucky.   But i still feel robbed of more time with our beautiful girl and that she was robbed of her time to grow old, here with her friends.  I still can’t even begin to come to terms with her not being here.   I miss her so much.  I know Cam does too.

Dogs can reach a part of your soul that nothing else can.   Those who live and work with them understand.   When they leave, a part of us goes with them.  It doesn’t get easier with each loss, but harder.  Much harder.  Thank you to everyone for your messages, cards and beautiful words about Betty.  And thank you to everyone at the vets who helped us take care of her when we needed you.   She was truly a remarkable dog.  A larger than life character with such fight and spirit.  Knowing she was so loved by so many and that you all knew how special she was too, brings us some comfort.  Friends wrote that she was a bright, shining star.   That is exactly what she was.

Betty I hope you were happy with us and I hope you are now at peace.  Thank you for being the incredible dog you were and for coming into our lives.   I’m so sorry we couldn’t do more for you.
Sleep tight Betty Bonkers.   We will love and miss you forever xxx

 

 

 

Our beautiful girl, painted by the very talented, Lesley Howarth. You can find a link to her website on our blog links.

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