Deep Breaths

Last year, I wrote that there was more to having sled dogs and running a kennel than broken hearts and tears following the loss of another beloved dog and constant trips to the vet. It is a statement I’d like to withdraw.

Obviously, it’s not all heartache, emotional pain and worry. It can’t be, otherwise why would anyone do this to themselves. In the midst of yet another period when it seems like we were beset with serious illnesses to some of our faithful companions, it is easy to lose sight of the bigger picture and allow the concerns, stress and grief to overwhelm us. The loss of Ruya last month is so raw and yet at the same time, we have been unable to fully grieve as we have had to be positive caregivers to a couple of others who have had their struggles this summer.

Our senior girl, Wink has had a torrid time over the past few weeks. She had a major vestibular syndrome episode that lasted several days, and caused her issues for weeks. Whilst still recovering from that, she developed an eye ulcer that despite treatment progressed into a descemetocele, and that required enucleation. All this for a dog that is nearly 15.  But, Winkie is a stubborn old gal, and she has bounced back, and is actually brighter and more vibrant now than she has been for quite a few months. Caring for her was easier than I could have imagined – she didn’t want any fuss or attention, she just got on doing things her own way at her own pace.

One of our youngest girls, Bella,  has been back and forwards to the vet as we try and diagnose a mysterious ailment that has troubled her for a long time, but seems to be getting worse. We’re working our way down the list of possible problems with their corresponding treatments. Start with the easy and obvious and as each option has failed to solve to “cure” her, we at least have the next step already planned. It is a slow, frustrating business – but hopefully, we’ll get to the bottom of it.

One of the more routine, but still worriesome issues we are beset with each year is abcesses. The dogs all seem to take great delight in chewing on grasses, sticks, their houses, until someone gets something embedded in soft tissue and develops an abcess. This year hasn’t been too bad, only Tiree is guilty and I managed to treat her first one without it requiring surgery. Unfortunately, or stupidly, she refused to take the hint, and developed another abcess behind her eye just a few days later. This did require a trip to the vet and an operation. Happily, she seems to have made a full recovery.

Far more seriously, and harder to accept, was the news we got about Cuchi. She is everyone’s favourite,  and although there are not supposed to be favourites here, we take the Orwellian approach – everyone is special, just some are more special than others. I say that Cuchi is the dog that makes everything alright – she is the most affectionate, loving, cuddlesome dog I have ever known. To be told she has a tumour in her nose was hard to process. The news that nothing could really be done was even harder. At the moment, she is doing well, and aside from a rather raucous snore, she seems to be in good health. There never needed to be a reason to spoil Cuchi, but now, if I could, I would  give her what ever she desires. Being Cuchi, all she desires is to be close to us, and that, we can happily deal with.


Still trying to make sense of this summer’s dramas, one morning, I noticed that one of my best leaders, Kaz, had developed a lump on the back of his head. By the evening, it was noticeably larger and fearing the worst, I once again made the drive to our vet. Normally, our vets have a fairly good poker face when giving you the diagnosis. With Kaz, I already knew it couldn’t be anything simple and one look at the vet as she came back into the room confirmed my fears. Kaz has a large mast cell tumor. Apparently, I can look quite calm whilst losing the ability to think rationally. Last week, Kaz had his surgery and his tumor was removed, leaving him with a couple of large scars across the back of his head. He came home and decided he’d rather be back with his buddies in the Happy Crew, than sitting about the house with a bunch of girls.

It’s been 3 weeks since I wrote the first part of this post. In that time, we got the news that Kaz’s tumour is a high grade, super aggressive one, that although our wonderful vet managed to get clear margins when she removed the mass, the outlook is not good. We will, of course, continue to care for Kaz and give him every chance we can, but there’s an ache in our hearts that just continues to make its presence felt.  Kaz has been transferred from The Happy Crew into the House Dog gang. So far, he’s less than impressed by that transition, but one upside, at least for him, is he gets to hang out closer to the intact female pen.

That is an especially enticing prospect at the moment for all the boys, as we have 6 of our girls in season. In one way, that’s a good thing, it means it will all be over with reasonably quickly, but the downside is that with so many girls all flaunting their “come get me” aroma,  the boys are being driven a bit mad.  Apparently, the appropriate response for a frustrated dog is for him, and the rest of them, to howl, whine and yip all night long. At some point soon, hopefully, I will be so tired I will be able to sleep through the singing.

I obviously tempted fate with my report that only Tiree had succumbed to an abcess, as we are now on Dog 5. Bushka and Cali had to have the full surgery, drain tube procedure, Trouve managed to burst his on his own and Kaz, just to be different, has a retrobulbar abcess, up behind his eye.  In amongst all of that, Davaar decided to start mutilating his tail. It turns out that he was likely bitten or stung by an insect of some description and the subsequent skin infection was driving him mad. Another trip to the vet, 2 weeks in the house, wearing the “cone of shame” and a heavy dose of antibiotics seem to have cleared it all up and he has been returned to the outside world, healed but with a poodle type tail. Hopefully, the fur will grow back quickly, as he looks rather odd.

As summer draws to a close, we are hopefully about to starting training for the season soon. It would be nice if we had no more vet visits for a while and could spend our time running dogs rather than driving up and down to Wasilla.


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