As has been my pattern, when life dictates, I take a side trip from writing about cakes. Such is the case now……although, even here, when I’m writing about my sweet husky that recently died, there is a cake involved.
My sweet old husky, Saboo, was 13 years old and I’ve had her since she was 8 weeks old. Anyone who is looking to adopt a dog needs to know what they’re getting into. You need to research the breed and figure out whether their personality and behavior will match your lifestyle. I didn’t take my own advice when I brought home my husky puppy. I learned early on that huskies love to run. It’s what they were born to do. Many times I felt that it was unfair to make her live inside a house rather than in the wildness of an Alaskan winter. But she came to be with us as a puppy and was destined to have a life of ease rather than one of pulling sleds. Because of having to survive in some pretty intense situations when pulling sleds, huskies function at a very base level. They can be hard to train because they are driven by instinct, rather than commands. That was often the case with Saboo but she was such a gentle, old bear that we forgave her for not always following orders.
Because she loved to run, she would bolt anytime she saw an open door. We learned that the hard way. We would spend hours chasing her if she got away. So we would be careful going in and out of the house and we would ask people to be careful, as well, when they visited us. No matter how we tried, she would always manage to get out somehow and we would spend the next hour chasing her through the neighborhood. I used to think, “Saboo, don’t you know how good you have it? Don’t you want to find your way home?” One Sunday afternoon, she was gone for two hours and we thought she was gone for good. After several hours of driving/walking/calling our way through the neighborhood, we came home to find her standing in the yard. I guess that she had decided that she knew her way home after all.
As she got older and the aches and pains of age set in, she would run away less and less. I would take her on walks with me and she no longer held my arm at a 90 degree angle, pulling on the leash. When she was younger she obviously thought that there was a sled at the other end of the leash instead of a person. She would always pull as hard as she could and as fast as she could, leaving me breathless and panting. If I wanted a leisurely walk I would leave her home. If I wanted a work out I would take her on my walk with me.
She hadn’t gotten away or had a really good run, though, in years. Her arthritis bothered her and most of the time, she just wanted to sleep in the sun. Two weeks ago, however, we were busy working on my grandson’s birthday cake. It was his first birthday and we had big cake plans for him. Bethie and Jeremy were here with Thatcher and we were getting ready for the party. Megan and I were working on the cake. We were all laughing and having a good time. It was a lovely afternoon. We were stressed about the cake, as usual, but things were going pretty well in spite of being behind schedule. I had to go outside for something (I don’t even remember what) and I realized that Saboo was not on her lead. Because we couldn’t trust her outside, we would tie her to a 40 foot lead and let her lay on the deck in the sun when the weather was nice. The clasp on her lead had broken a few days before and I had to get an old cable out of the shed. I didn’t realize that the clasp on that one was loose as well and, apparently, she had wandered off right in the middle of our cake-making/party preparations.
Saboo was 13 years old. In her glory days she was a striking black and white husky. She had a wildness about her but she was gentle as a kitten. In spite of her fierce looking face she would probably have run if someone tried to break into the house. She loved people and if you came to our house, she would want to smell your breath to get to know you. Countless were the times when she would shove that fierce looking snout into the face of a visitor and sniff at them. We would reassure people, as they nervously backed away, telling them, just let her smell your breath and she’ll leave you alone.
She loved her family. She was never a cuddly dog but she would tolerate hugs for a brief moment and then pull away. She was always at my feet. She wanted to be with her family wherever we were but everyone knew she was my girl.
As her eyesight and hearing began to fade. She became more and more dependent on me. It was maddening sometimes. She was a husky and if you think you have a dog that sheds, well, you’ve never experienced shedding unless you’ve owned a husky. We would strip her and strip her until the yard looked like snow in July. When she was in the middle of a bad shed, I would keep her crated anytime we had people here so that they wouldn’t go home covered in dog hair. As she became more dependent on me she would howl anytime she was crated. I would try to be patient with her though, knowing that she was an old lady.
A few years ago she developed a fatty tumor behind her front leg. It was fine for several years and then it started to grow. My beautiful husky still carried herself with elegance and dignity in spite of the monstrosity on her side. The vet said it was probably benign and we could remove it if we wanted to but it probably wouldn’t take her life. Because of my husband’s job losses, we just couldn’t afford to have it removed. Even though it was unsightly, it really didn’t seem to impede her movements. She was still spry and happy, in spite of her age and disfigurement. Another wonderful personality trait about huskies is that, no matter their age, they still act like a puppy. There were days when she was feeling good that she would clear all three steps to get up onto the deck and look at me like she was saying, “See, I can still play!”
And then she had one last run.
When we discovered that she was gone, we joined forces and I took off on foot while two of my daughters left in their cars. We all started praying, because that’s what we do, no matter how big or how small the situation, we pray. I don’t know how God feels about our animals, but I know that He cares about us and when our hearts are hurting, He hurts with us. When you spend 13 years with an animal, you want to be the one to care for them when the time comes for them to die. I didn’t want my old, sweet girl to get hit by a car or worse yet, wander off and never see us again. “Please Lord, in spite of my frustrations with this dear old dog, please let us find her….please let me be the one to care for her at she nears the end of her life!!”
Not to mention the fact that we were already behind schedule with Thatcher’s cake. I had 75 people coming to my house the next day and we were chasing a husky.
After what seemed like an eternity (more like an hour) Megan called me and said that she spotted her in the other end of our development. She was trailing part of her lead behind her so it wasn’t hard for Megan to catch her. In her heyday, you wouldn’t have gotten close to her but the old lady was ready to come home. I ran to where Megan was and walked the old girl home.
She was exhausted from her adventure but as we walked up the hill toward home I almost thought I saw her smiling. It seemed like she just wanted one more run……as I said before, huskies were born to run. I don’t like to humanize dogs but it felt like she was saying, “Mama, I just wanted to have one more run. I’m ready to come home now.” Little did I know it at the time, but she would be gone in less than two weeks.
Two weeks later, the fatty tumor started giving her problems and she went downhill rapidly. We didn’t have to make that horrid decision that all dog owners are faced with at some point. She was in pain and suffering and she had lost all the things that make a dog a dog, so there was no decision to make. It was time.
And so, in times like these, I wonder why I allow this heartbreak into my life. Several times I’ve opened up my heart to let a dog in. As much as the grief hurts, I’ve never been sorry. My life would be empty without having the unconditional love and loyalty that I have received from my dogs. I’ve always wanted to be worthy of them, to be, as the saying goes, “the person that my dog thinks I am.”
And, yes, for those of you who have been reading our blog from the beginning, you will know that it has been less than a year since I lost my little chihuahua, Gypsy. And, also, for those of you who love dogs, you will understand when I tell you that, in many ways, I am still grieving my sweet Gypsy. I know that they are not people but they are family just the same and my life has been richer for knowing them, caring for them, and loving them. My dogs have helped to shape my sense of caring, patience and understanding.
This past weekend, my daughter, Bethie, adopted a puppy. It is a rescue dog and in the packet of paperwork that she was given was the “10 commandments of owning a dog.” I sobbed as I read it and thought of my sweet Saboo. It seems appropriate to post it here as a reminder to anyone who is thinking of opening up their heart to a puppy. It is written from a dog’s perspective.
“1.My life is likely to last only 10-15 years. Any separation from you is likely to be painful.
2.Give me time to understand what you want of me.
3.Place your trust in me. It is crucial for my well-being.
4.Don’t be angry with me for long, and don’t lock me up for punishment. You have your work, your friends, your entertainment. I have only you.
5. Talk to me. Even if I don’t understand your words, I do understand your voice when speaking to me.
6. Be aware that, however you treat me, I will not forget it, but I will forgive you.
7. Before you discipline me, remember that I have teeth that could easily crush the bones in a hand, and yet I choose not to bite you.
8. Before you scold me for being lazy or uncooperative, ask yourself if something might be bothering me. Perhaps I might be ill, or in the sun too long, or I might be feeling old and tired.
9. Please take care of me when I grow old. You too will grow old.
10. When it is time for me to go, touch my face one more time, and know that I have loved you so.
Thank you my sweet, old girl. I’ll miss you forever.