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.


Responses

  1. Utterly broken.. I see her ears and feel her fur threw your wonderful words. I am so going to give my dogs an extra tight squeeze this evening. Xxxx

  2. Wonderful eulogy Lisa.

  3. That’s such a beautiful tribute to her. Made me cry as usual.
    She was such an inspiration. xx

  4. Touching and beautiful . Your love and loss for Betty is so very much heartfelt and strikes a chord within us all. Not just dogs but yes amazing beautiful souls that remain with us forever


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