Posted by: arcticpacksiberians | December 20, 2016

Winter. A thing of the past ?

Well, in north-east Scotland it seems to be.  Over the last few years there has been a definite shift towards one long Autumn followed by spring, rather than any sort of defined winter.  Of course, in writing this blog I am hoping to be  proven wrong and that we get a huge, prolonged dump of snow….

In the uk the lack of snow is not an issue as we are well used to it and all the running in the wet and mud that goes along with ‘dryland’.  The dogs never really seem to mind but it is certainly a far more pleasant experience for all concerned when we are running on the white stuff in temps below zero.   The vastly fluctuating temperatures can pose a bit of a problem with getting any sort of mileage on the dogs and also for those holding races, as one day it can be -4 and 48 hours later can be as high as 16 C as happened fairly recently.  One of the good things about the uk is that we can usually run dogs all year round. (well, depending on which part of the uk you live)  During the summer months, a few people on facebook get their knickers in a huge twist about what others are doing with their dogs, leading to lots of bickering and arguments about people ‘risking their dogs lives’ etc etc because they are giving their  dogs a leg stretch in July.  As September rolls around and the temps start to drop a little,  everyone and their granny makes a mad rush for the forest and people forget about getting involved in what was really none of their business in the first place.  Temperatures in the uk can be hugely different on the same day from one end of the country to the other.  There is often a clear 10 degree difference between temps we get here and what our friends experience further south.  And it does make me chuckle when people vocal about running in the summer,  start training Aug/Sept time in pretty much the same temperatures as those who are out at first light in the summer. We don’t have a lot of space for the dogs to free run around in, so we much prefer to get them out for a run during the summer if the temperatures allow, which they often do. It helps keep their little brains occupied. (Sometimes it is just too warm though.  It’s not we like run them in 20 C or anything like that!) We run a lot less frequently in the warmer months as the temperatures are usually only ok around first light.  With work, we can only manage this on the weekends.  This year, was a bit exceptional in that we did manage a few summer runs in the late evening.   Others of course,  may feel differently and that their dogs and they themselves need a summer break or that their dogs cannot run in temperatures above 10 degrees etc.  That is ok too.  That is the point.  Just because someone is doing things a little differently from you, doesn’t mean they are wrong or indeed, endangering their dogs.  Different dogs need and can cope with different things. Different people run dogs for different reasons and have different goals.   Just know your own dogs, do what you and they are comfortable with and stop worrying so much about what others are doing.  Life is a whole lot less complicated that way.

This years facebook rants got me thinking about the temperatures over the last 12 months.  I took a random, dated picture for each month and looked back through the training log to see what we had recorded the temperature as for each run that corresponded with the picture.  The coldest run was February at -2  degrees C.   The warmest was June at 14 degrees C.  We haven’t ran on snow at all this year.  Perhaps January and February may bring some.   Maybe.

Not a drop of snow in sight.

Not a drop of snow in sight.



Posted by: arcticpacksiberians | August 6, 2016

No eyes, no problem. Leaky lymph duct, bit more of a problem.

Cam said I had to write a happy blog, as the last couple have been pretty sad.  Most of the time, life with dogs is very much fun and happy, but sometimes it is sad, stressful or overwhelming.  Especially when they have to leave us or when they are ill.  Dogs have a way of making the best of any situation and always seeing the positives.  I often wish i could be more like them in my outlook.  Anyway, under the instruction of husband, I will try my best to put a positive spin on this one!

It is now a little over a year since Betty Blind Dog lost her vision for good.  I was looking back through those cursed facebook memories a week or so ago and got to thinking about her journey and how we got to here.  If there is ever an example of ‘well, shit happens but lets just get on with it’, then Betty is it.   She is an absolute superstar in my opinion and I know people are possibly sick of hearing about her, but tough.  She is amazing and I will continue to shout it from the rooftops.   In the space of a year she has lost both eyes to glaucoma.  She has coped with two enucleation surgeries and having to adjust and adapt to life in the dark.  That in itself is often a huge undertaking for many dogs.  Not content with that, Betty has also gotten back into her routine including living outside during the day with a smaller group of other dogs.  Eating as normal with 12 other dogs, all fed together.  Playing, jumping on and off dog boxes, learning to free run off lead AND recall!  She has learned how to ‘map’ out new areas and she had re-integrated herself back into the pack even with those who are less than sympathetic to her blindness. (i’m looking at you monkey puppies!) The icing on the cake is that she still runs in harness.  She has ran a race blind, she has led a 10 dog team with her pal Vixen and she seems genuinely happy to be doing it.  The key word there is HAPPY.  She IS happy.  For a while last year I was quite sad about her losing her vision and wondered what life would become for her.   But Betty never seemed to be sad.  Yes, she was a little disorientated at first and a little wary, but each day she grew in confidence and had such a determination and desire to get back to ‘normal’ that we had little choice but to let her.  So you know, I look back at that facebook memory and at how well Betty is doing now and feel almost a sense of relief. Relief that she is actually ok without her sight and relief that we were finally rid of glaucoma for her and all the drops and meds and pain that went along with it. Although it took us a while to pluck up the courage to do it, we knew that night she went blind that she would lose that second eye and we would have it removed. Neither of us regret it. There is a sense of relief about that too. That we feel we did the right thing.  I still wish she didn’t have to lose her sight or her eyes, but the memory brought home just how little I worry or stress or feel upset about it now. We just don’t. It has long ceased to be something to worry or feel sad about.  I now feel there are far worse things could have happened to her. Something that would have cost her her life, not just her sight.  It has also been a very positive and interesting experience watching our other dogs adapt to having a blind dog around.  Some really do seem to realise she is different and have adjusted their behaviour accordingly.  Others either don’t notice or just don’t care, not sure which it is.  Mostly the older dogs have become more sensible around her, more tolerant.  The youngsters, not so much.  They still bounce off her and give her grief like they used to.  No empathy at all!  She sure is one happy, optimistic girl!

free running in the fields

free running in the fields

back from a in in lead with Vixen

back from a run in lead with Vixen


So, we move onto Ginger Joseph.  Since march this year, Joe has been accumulating fluid in his chest cavity.  Always the left side.  The first time he needed ‘draining’ the vet took off THREE litres of fluid.  Unbelievable.  Again, how stoic are these dogs? A day or so before he started breathing weird and we took him to the out of hours vet (why is it always out of hours?!) he had been off his food a little, otherwise he seemed normal.  We had bitches in season and they were right on the money so we put it down to that.  How wrong were we?  So, fast forward to August and after several xrays, fluid being drained (this has a big fancy name but I can never spell it) , CT scans, ultrasounds, blood work and shit load of money we are no further forward with regards to a cause or reason.  He has been diagnosed with a condition called chylothorax.  Basically, this is where lymph fluid or ‘chyle’ as it’s called leaks from the thoracic duct. The thoracic duct carries lymph fluid back into the chest where it is supposed to be circulated as normal and the good stuff reabsorbed back into the body.  This leaking is rather a major problem.  The fluid has nowhere to go and accumulates and presses on the lung, making it hard and painful for him to breathe.  The fluid itself is also irritating to the surface of the lungs, the walls of the chest and pretty much everything else in there. You may be thinking where is she going with a positive spin on this one, but there is one! Honest!  Due to all the diagnostics carried out by our own vets and the superb Aberdeen Veterinary Referrals, we have managed to rule out any really scary causes like cancer. Or a heart problem.   Of course there are no absolutes, but everything looks normal in there with regards to organs etc.  Infuriatingly, the vast majority of cases are idiopathic.  That means a cause is never found.  It can happen as a result of trauma to the chest and I am tending to think this is perhaps what happened while we were at work. Perhaps he slammed into one of his brothers a little too hard, at just the right angle tearing about the pen.  Anyway, whatever the cause it does just seem like some real bad, shitty luck.   There is a surgical option to try and fix the problem but it has pretty crappy odds of success.  But, given his age we are considering it.  It will take us a while to come up with the cash to go ahead with the surgery, so that will give us some time to see how Joe copes, how quickly he refills and how often he will need drained.  The surgery is pretty major and will involve him staying in hospital for a few nights afterwards.  I have to say I am really not comfortable with that! I hate leaving them at the vets during the day for surgeries never mind overnight,  but if we feel the surgery is in his best interests, then of course we will do it.  We could put him through the surgery though and it not work.  He would still need draining on a regular basis in that case anyway.  So it will be a hard decision to make.   For the time being we are trying to find him some level of exercise to keep him mentally happy but that he is able to cope with physically.  He has started back in harness for very, very short runs and we will just assess how he is breathing.  We are now armed with a stethoscope so can keep a better track of fluid build up and when to get him drained.  As is usually the case with Siberians, he is neither up nor down about it.  He actually trotted into the vets the night he had three litres removed.  These dogs are pretty remarkable with what they can and will cope with without giving many outward signs.   Of course the best possible outcome, but definitely the most unrealistic is that it just resolves itself.  Everyone keep all fingers and paws crossed and maybe, just maybe some magic might happen.


Joe with some of his brazillian bits.

Joe with some of his brazillian bits.

back in lead for a short run

back in lead for a short run

Posted by: arcticpacksiberians | May 11, 2016

Icynights Shadow of Arcticpack 6/10/01 – 10/5/16

Yesterday, with the help of our vets we said a sad goodbye to our oldest dog, Kai.   He went very quickly and very peacefully and I’m glad we could both be with him when he did.


Siberians are so incredibly, frustratingly stoic.  What they can live with and deal with on a daily basis, often unbeknown to their owners will never cease to amaze me.  The day before yesterday Kai ate his breakfast, even jumped about silly waiting for it, went for a short walk and did what he did most days, slept so peacefully the way old dogs do.  By the late afternoon he wasn’t doing so good and we took him down to the vets.  Although not looking too great, he walked and he was treated with some drugs to help him stop feeling so sick and a painkiller to make him more comfortable.  By the next morning he was very poorly despite staying up with him and giving fluids orally every hour.  I took him back down to the vets with the help of  very good friend and this time carried him in with a view to getting him on a drip.  The vets took a xray of his abdomen and that pretty much made the decision for us. His liver had enlarged to an unimaginable size.   Cam and I along with the help and advice of our vets, decided that giving him fluids would only make him a little more comfortable for a very short space of time.  So, we made the call to let him go.

It is always a horrible decision to make and it’s never easy to sign your name on that form.  But deep down, you know it’s the right thing.  It’s the last kindness we can show them.  Every time we lose a dog it breaks our hearts.  Each and every one of them touches your soul in a different way.  I miss his little face very much this morning.

Kai was a gorgeous big lad.  I still remember the night we went to pick him up.  He was a monkey as youngster and had quite the history of eating all sorts of inappropriate things from a bag of potatoes to socks and remote controls.  He had a cast iron stomach!  Kai was also a great escape artist in his younger days and taught us everything we needed to know about husky proof gardens.   We were very lucky he loved food so much and came back for a biscuit.  He absolutely loved the showring (most likely because he was getting fed to be there) and his tail would always, always be wagging.  Even as an elderly 14 year old with a liver and kidneys on the way out, and getting a bit senile, he never missed a trick about getting a biscuit.  He knew every time when we were going out and he would in the kitchen waiting, all bright-eyed and alert for those all important biscuits he would get before we left.  I will miss him and our little routine when I’m back at work.


Happy Kai at the Scottish siberian husky club show where he won BIS at just under 10 years old.    Thanks to Helen Wood for the picture.

He was never that keen on the working thing and was more content to go for a walk with his lifelong best friend Kifa.  The two of them really were great friends and were always together.  Both Kifa and Kai were our original two dogs.  There is a great sadness about losing them.  But lots of gratitude they came into our lives and that we have the life and dogs we do today because of them.  They paved the way for our passion about the breed followed by our love of mushing.

As is usually the case after losing a dog, it’s very quiet here today.  I miss his scuffing feet on the carpet and his eyes lighting up at the thought of his breakfast.

Sleep tight our wonderful old man.  I hope you find Kifa and an endless supply of biscuits xxx
We will miss you forever xx

Posted by: arcticpacksiberians | September 27, 2015

Acryse Senator of Arcticpack. 16/03/01 – 27/09/15

There inevitably comes a time in every kennel when you lose the first dog that you bought, that got you well and truly hooked on getting more.  For us, that day was today and I am typing through tears.

Kifa was our first dog we bought together and some 14 years later we now have a kennel full of dogs and lead a life that revolves around them.  We owe all that to Kifa.  We could never have imagined that such a gorgeous, cute, innocent little thing could turn out to be so much hard work and quite the little terror.   He was a rather possessive, wild little guy and taught us a heck of a lot about dogs in a very short space of time.  He grew up to be a real nice dog and with some understanding was no trouble as an adult.

Of course, being our first dog and totally new to the breed, we thought we could train him and let him off lead.  Which we did and it all went fine until he got past the puppy stage.  Then, as happens to the vast majority of them Siberian-ness got the better of him and things were too tempting not to disappear after.  He especially loved people and running after children in the park to say hello to.  Not all children were particularly happy to have a young Siberian launch themselves at them and try to lick them to death.  And although the woman whose car he jumped in was very nice about the situation, I’m pretty sure she wasn’t all that impressed either.  The toddler seemed pretty happy though and was giggling away while Kifa said hello. After the jumping in the first car he could find with a door open escapade, he was relegated to on lead exercise only unless in a properly secure area.   As a youngster Kifa was also incredibly embarrassing when out for a walk if he wanted something.  For example, we couldn’t walk past the local pet shop without him going in for a biscuit.  Otherwise he would stop in his tracks pull back on his collar and just scream like he was being tortured.   He would do similar on walks if there was a dog or people he wanted to say hello to.  He was a great dog for doing fundraising events with.  He loved everyone.

In less than a year along came Kai and the two of them became lifelong best friends.  As they aged and became elderly gents, they were much happier living together with just each other and of course spent a lot of time on the couch. As youngsters they ‘worked’ in harness but it quickly became apparent they much preferred the going somewhere aspect of running in harness, but not so much them doing the work part of it.  They did run a few races though and always got round.

with his lifelong pal kai. taken a couple of years ago.

with his lifelong pal, taken a couple of years ago.

In the last couple of years Kifa developed various health problems, some of which were worse than others.  Until this morning he was still eating everything we gave him and although slowing down quite a bit, still enjoyed his walks.  This morning he refused food and pretty much just didn’t want to get up at all.  Things went downhill from there and along with our vet we made the decision to let him be at peace.

It will be very, very strange and sad here without him.   He has been with us from the start.   I am so glad he came into our lives and that he opened up a whole different direction for our lives to go in.  We have both lost such a good friend and I truly hope he loved his life with us as much as we loved having him.   Kai will be lost without him.

Sleep tight our wonderful old man.  We will miss you forever xxxx

Posted by: arcticpacksiberians | August 22, 2015

Our dogs are trying to kill us….

Okay, so maybe not quite.

But the last month or so certainly feels like there is some sort of canine conspiracy going on to at least make my hair turn grey overnight.

Having this number of dogs is certainly a huge responsibility.  It can be a bit overwhelming at times when things aren’t going quite as planned and the dogs are poorly.

Following on from my last blog, our wonderful girl Betty, very sadly developed glaucoma in her remaining eye and went blind.  It is so dreadfully unfair that she had so little time left being able to see since having her first eye removed.  She did get quite a fright when she first went blind as it happened while she was sleeping.  How awful that must be to wake up and everything be dark.  We started he on glaucoma meds straight away and she had a couple of days where her vision would come back, then go again.  The day came when she lost it for good.   Betty coped superbly throughout and amazed us at how quickly she ‘mapped’ inside and out.   She was keen, eager to learn her way around and faced everything with an enviable enthusiasm.  She was happy to jump on and off boxes outside and could wander round the pens without bumping into anything.  She was so scarily good at getting around that we wondered if she could actually see.  When we took her somewhere she wasn’t as familiar with though, it was very apparent she couldn’t see anything.  She also had no blink reflex and couldn’t see a cotton ball dropped in front of her face.  It became quite obvious within the first week that Betty felt she should still be running in harness.   So we let her, and tried to help her as best we could to enable her to do what she loves.

A very smiley, blind Betty after a run in harness.

A very smiley, blind Betty after a run in harness.

Her willingness to continue to run in harness even totally blind was a major factor in having to make one of the most awful decisions we have ever had to make.  Given the fact she would need to be on meds, highly likely for the rest of her life, and that she would continue to suffer painful pressure spikes along with the probability of her getting poked in the eye from bushes while running, we made the decision to have her remaining eye removed.

11 days post op and she has stitches removed and is looking good.   It wasn’t all plain sailing though!  The second removal had a lot more swelling and definitely took longer to look healed.  It was also much more stressful this time round, as obviously she couldn’t see while she recovered.  We had to guide her everywhere to make sure she didn’t bump into anything and damage her wound.  This had quite a negative effect on Betty who had suddenly went from being pretty independent, to being ushered around, on a lead outside in the pen, confined to a crate indoors and us being quite worried and stressed.  Because we were worrying, so was she and she lost a little confidence.  Midway the swelling around her eye socket and wound went down (as expected), only to reappear the next day.  Panic stations and back at the vets for some reassurance that all was indeed, ok, which it was.    Betty is now very happy to be let out of jail (her crate) and is very much looking forward to getting back to (her new) normal and back in harness.  Her confidence is back and she is getting herself in and out, re-mapping her environment and turfing the others off the couch when she wants up on their spot.

patiently waiting to be let out of jail

patiently waiting to be let out of jail

While Betty was recuperating Omar decided to have a 5 second brawl with Pirate which resulted in a burst lip for Omar.  Idiots.   Girls fault as usual.  It was one of those small skin rips where you think, ‘hmm, wonder if that needs a stitch’.   But i was right, it didn’t and it is healing fine.

A few days later Vixen went one better and decided to eat a wasp.  This did not go well.  I just happened to look out the window and saw the girls looking like they were up to something.  I went out to look and was confronted with Vixen looking very sorry for herself.  My immediate thought was, ‘you’ve been stung’ so i ran back in and got antihistamines.  Once I had given her one i then discovered the various piles of fluidy vomit.  And a little bastard wasp crawling about on its last legs.   I made sure it was definitely its last legs!
Vixen rushed to vets where she got IV drugs.  That whole night we were awake just watching her and making sure she stayed hydrated.   Her breathing was so rapid and her muscles were solid.  She had a temp of 103.5 and she was very, very poorly.  By 4am her temp had come down to 102, which is still hot for our guys, but she was a little brighter and very hungry.   It has taken her a couple of days, but she is finally back to normal.  She is back indoors being guide dog for the blind dog.   I think we will have to make her a kennel run covered with mosquito netting! Of course, the next morning I caught Omar on the bench with a bee.  Like an angry tennis player i’m screaming at him ‘You CANNOT be serious!’, while he just looks at me as if to say, ‘what? it’s buzzing.  must eat it’.   Dogs! Stop eating buzzy things!

Blind Dog and The Wasp Eater out for a walk.

Blind Dog and The Wasp Eater out for a walk.

So, after two weeks of very little or no sleep, enough stress to cause an ulcer and grey hair, we are looking forward to some cooler weather, dying wasps and getting dogs back out in harness.

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