11 January 2014 3.00 PM 17 F Overcast
“Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like. – Lao Tzu”
I will confess to having struggled with the acceptance of my fate and circumstances over the last few weeks. One of the main reasons for our move to Alaska, was the desire to run our dogs greater distances and to explore new trails. Generally, we’ve made steady progress each year and I feel that we’re developing a good solid base on our dogs from which we can build and improve.
Things were going well this Autumn/Fall, mileages were up, the dogs were looking good and we even managed to get onto sleds in mid November. And that’s where it started to go in a different direction. In Alaska, we usually get a horrible, warming rainy spell for a few days in January. This year it came early and the trails got a bit treacherous and exceedingly icy. When the trails are like this, my major worry is hurting dogs so we usually take a few days off until conditions improve. It was right around then that Takeo became ill, followed by Junior. As previously blogged, Junior died after a short but severe illness but happily Takeo continues to amaze, astound and grace us with his presence. He gives very little indication of just how serious his condition is and if it wasn’t for his frequent power naps, you could easily be forgiven for thinking all was well.
Emotionally, I found it impossible to think of running a team and leaving him behind when at any moment, he could pass away. Logically, I was aware that there was nothing I could do that would change that, but knowing it and dealing with it, are two very different things.
It was a difficult period, I wanted to run the dogs but felt that I couldn’t. I felt frustrated but also guilty that I could feel like that. Our aim here is always to take the best care of all our dogs that we possibly can. It took a few days for me to come to an acceptance that contrary to Spock’s statement, the needs of the many do not always outweigh the needs of the few. The reality is our dogs have a full and happy life, they get free exercise every day and they don’t “need” to go for a sled run. They might enjoy it, they might love going new places and meeting new teams, but they don’t need it.
Of course, my serenity was almost immediately put to the test as no sooner had my wife left Alaska to fly back to Scotland for Christmas, than Seven decided that she would need some vet attention after arguing with a stick, resulting in a large hole in her gum, a swollen face, a drain tube and several stitches – which meant she had to come into the hospital ward, otherwise known as our house. Introducing a new dog to the existing horde that live indoors can be a little daunting. Dogs like Hop and Oak are not always the most welcoming which has created a degree of tension in the past. Fortunately, as they have matured, and possibly (hopefully) as a result of our behavioural training with them, they are much more forgiving now. With Seven safely established, my next drama involved Dawson, who developed an infected sore on his throat, which was weeping and causing a pretty horrible matted mess on his neck. Of course, the freezing temperatures didn’t help this either – so the obvious solution was to bring him inside too. Cue much rumpus and playing around, Dawson is a very boisterous young lad who still needs to work on his manners and learn that just because he can reach things, that doesn’t make them his. Fortunately, I was able to clean up his wound, dry it and get him on the mend and back outdoors before he stole everything that wasn’t nailed down.
As we are fond of saying here – it’s not that hard a life here looking after 50 dogs and living in Alaska, until something goes wrong – and then it’s really hard.
With other minor dramas thrown in, like no power for 4 days, temperature swings from – 35 F to plus 33F and a few snowfalls that required some digging leading to my old man back syndrome rearing it’s ugly head again – I did my best to recall the words of Lao Tzu and let things just flow.
Now, my wife is back home, Takeo is still wonderful, Seven is fully healed but somehow hasn’t quite been removed from the ranks of the house dogs yet and there are still many weeks of snow for us to get those dogs out on the trails and go exploring.