THE WAY OF THE HEART
It isn't often that I post news to our website news block, that have nothing to do with our dogs, puppies, kennel life, show and race results, training progress, etc. But in fact, this article I have decided to write (or have been meaning to do so for a while, but now found the right moment with two wonderful examples, described below) has, after all A LOT to do with us!
It started with Jen Frekking's tragic accident on the Iditarod trail this year. For those of you, who don't know who is Jenny and what is it that happened, I recommend you to read her website (go to "journal" and "race page") and the story of how her team of Siberian and Alaskan huskies was hit by a snowmachine during the race.
One of her dogs, a sweet girl called Lorne, was killed. Another dog, Aries was severly injured. The injury basically crippled him and no one knew if he'd ever regain "life" into his front leg. While Jen and her husband Blake still wait for miracle, the reality is that they may need to amputate his leg (or part of it). But they did not give up on Aries. He is fully recovered and runs around the kennel. He has FUN playing with other dogs and acompanying Jen on jogging trips. He will live a happy life in retirement with Jen's sister, as a pet and valued family member. Dogs CAN adjust to a different lifestyle.
Now, before I get to the point of writing this, let me bring you another story. His name is Zorro. He is an Alaskan husky, and happens to be a lead dog for two time Iditarod and four time Yukon Quest champion Lance Mackey. When Lance ran the unique race called All Alaska Sweepstakes, organized this year shortly after Iditarod, as a 100 years aniversary to this event, on which all time record stands, performed by Leonhard Seppala, his team was hit by a snowmachine.
I will again not repeat the whole story here, but will recommend you strongly to visit Lance and Tonya's website for a full coverage.
Zorro was injured so badly they were not sure if he'd survive, and then if he would ever walk again. He sustained several broken ribs, spinal and lung bruising, concussion, injured two spinal discs, suffered from internal bleeding, etc.
He had almost no feeling in his feet. The chances were 50/50 at most and a back surgery was considered.
Now, what's important to know, to understand where I am heading with this article is that if Zorro survives, he will never be able to run with the team again and will be retired as a sled dog.
What did Lance and Tonya do? Without hesitation, they flew Zorro all the way from Alaska to Seattle, Washington, to get him the best possible care out there. They prayed and hoped for the best. If you read the (latest news you will find out Zorro is headed back home, for a loooong recovery and retirement life.
And now, here's my story. First and foremost of all, I want to thank Jen and Blake and Lance and Tonya from the bottom of my heart. For showing the mushing world, but also to all dog owners and breeders, the right way. The way of the heart.
While there are too many people out there, who would put those dogs to sleep, and would be not blamed at all for that choice, perhaps with good intentions, there are also OTHER ways and other choices.
Too many times I have heard and continuously hear how the dogs "suffer" when not able to run with the rest in team, or how these decissions are the best for the dogs, when they retire from mushing or are unable to pull a sled for whatever reason. What's even worse is to be looked at like an insane, oversensitive woman, when I tirelessly explain about "other ways", second chances, etc. and treatment the dogs much deserve, not just when they are in their prime. People talk about how great regulations we have in some countries, that ensure the best possible dog care, such as strict rules about kennel dimensions, etc., but are they really serious to believe that this is the way how to measure a dog's happiness?
So my message is simple. While many will not blame others for euthanising dogs who can't run anymore, there is NO excuse whatsoever for taking the dogs' lives, without seriously giving a try to other options first. There are lots of retirement home options, families and older couples who have no time and energy for a puppy and an older, calmer dog will be a perfect companion for them. Active people who seek a hiking/jogging partner. And so on.
I know a mushing couple that operates a large kennel for giving rides to tourists. They have Alaskan huskies (that acording to some people have a "smaller" value, as they are not purebred registered dogs). Occassionally couple of their young dogs are not the best pullers or they have aging dogs who just can't keep up the work anymore. And these people put an enormous effort into finding the right homes for these dogs. And that's how it should be. Where is the will, there is the way.
I many times get a question, "How do you know the dogs don't suffer when they can't pull a sled anymore?", and here is my answer: "And how do you, guys know they do?"
While there is no perfect solution for every situation, my point is clear, I believe. We all should thrive for the best wellfare of our dogs. They give us all they've got and expect nothing back. They do it out of pure joy and love. And we all should commit ourselves to giving it all back.
So thank you Lance and Jen and all the others who set the high-end standards of taking care of dogs. You are showing us the right way and through your examples we learn to not give up and be better mushers, breeders and dog owners.
And remember, to really measure how a dog is taken care of can never be done through regulations. It is in the "unwritten" ethical code, which you either chose to follow or not.
With a wish for every dog to be loved and treated like Zorro and Aries,
Copyright 2008 K.Paleckova & Kipp d´Amundsen Siberian Husky Kennels