Thursday, November 19, 2015

The Next Chapter

The Next Chapter Unfolds

We are all stories in the end.
~Doctor Who
This is the story of the Blue Kong, and how it changed my life.
Half a dozen years ago, I was found by an American Pit Bull Terrier. As I arrived back at my truck after walking one of my Siberian Huskies along a local rail trail, I found what appeared to be an old, ravaged and wounded, pit bull, laying up against my wheel. The invisible sign was on, “Come here, and you will be helped.”
This dog, who came to be known as Gar, took close to a year to fix through the dedicated and combined efforts of my veterinarian and myself. He was only a year old but had the worst mange she had ever seen, was covered with scabs and scars and had multiple infections. Although subjected to constant foot soaks, injections, pills, Gar never resisted, never growled, and remained gentle, loving and kind.
dog w toyInitially, we gave him a rubber toy shaped like a bowling pin, which he carried non-stop in his massive jaws for close to a year. The second pin never left his mouth and only lasted a few weeks due to the constant chewing.
Then came the “black kong number one” and “number two.” Gar would not move off his couch go outside or go anywhere without that black kong. Always in his mouth, or beside him as he slept.
Gar lives with my son, Will. One day while at the vet, we noticed they had a Blue Kong for sale! We had never seen those before, and I have been told, they are only sold through a vet. Seems, the blue shows up on radiographs. The Blue Kong looked tough enough, so I bought Gar a present.
Here is the crux of the story. That dog had never let his black kong out of his mouth, let alone out of his sight. But, when Will and Gar arrived home that day, Will took the black kong out of Gar’s mouth, and set it on the counter. Then he set the Blue Kong on the floor.
Gar hesitated, took one long look at the black kong, then picked the Blue Kong up, and never looked back.
dog toySuch a whomping metaphor for our lives!
Each new chapter is a Blue Kong. Yes, we have enjoyed, savored and loved, never wanting to leave the place where we are so happy.
Life moves on though, and we are presented with the Blue Kong.
Pick it up and enjoy the new flavor. Those memories, loved ones, places, stories that have happened, will never leave us.
But we must move on, and Living means Loss at some point.
If we are willing, the Universe offers us The Blue Kong and a new adventure awaits, where love, joy, inspiration, fun, and friendship will find us in a new way.
We need to be like Gar, put things away on the shelf, when it is time, and pick up the new 

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Running with Our Own Kind

Running With Our Own Kind

“Home is Where Your Rescue Dogs Are.”
Twenty four Siberian Huskies reside at the Stargazer Siberian Husky Sanctuary. This journey began over fifteen years ago, when my son picked out a Siberian Husky puppy, who came to be called Sparky. What happened next, is the stuff of legend.
My life revolved on that hinge that shifts us into a brand new world. That little blue eyed puppy turned my life toward a horizon I never imagined. In so doing, eventually he saved the lives of many Siberian Huskies that came to live with me, temporarily as a foster or permanently as a Stargazer.
I discovered dog mushing via bike, scooter, cart, sled, or ski. An extreme sport, is dog mushing, but the joy of running dogs is not to be equaled by any other activity. Most of all, I discovered the Siberian Husky. I was the ignorant beginner, knowing nothing of the breed.
Siberians are a special type of dog, with special needs. They need the Ft. Knox of security as they are the escape artists of the canine world. Up, over, under or through, they will try to get out and run, run, run. While running, if they encounter a cat, chicken, or any animal considered prey, the hunt is on. This being one of the main reasons they end up in trouble.
The love of the hunt, the joy of the run; they are incredibly smart, curious, watchful, mischievous, opportunistic, independent, aloof and social. In addition to this, they are strikingly beautiful.
huskiesI have learned so much from them.  First of all, like people, Siberian Huskies come in all different colors, with a smorgasbord of eye color. Yet, they are all purebred, and all lovely. All have four legs, two eyes, and a big smiling face. Loyalty, beauty in motion, they find joy in work, how to dig holes, deeper and deeper, persistence, living in the moment, live until you die, wariness, silence, watchfulness, work is fun, joy, playing with friends, roughhousing is fun, movement is good, naughtiness is fun, chewing is fun, athleticism.
Siberian Huskies enjoy being around their kind. Many people call this a pack. I don’t. I call it a group of individuals, whose dynamics are ever changing, ebbing and flowing on a daily basis. There is no alpha; there is this group, and that group. We play, we fight, we play again. We love to run. We love the snow. We love mud. We live in the moment, and that moment is forever.
This is what my Siberian Huskies have taught me. They are my friends, and my responsibility. I tend to the ones that are cast out, that have been damaged, that are ill or old. We run together, we live together, we love together. This is what I do, this is what I love. This is my light that shines out and welcomes them home.
I lost my Sparky at 15 1/2 years in September of 2015. Over the course of his lifetime, we ran hundreds of miles together, alone on the trails. We were a team, and both of us found it hard to say goodbye. The time came, and that moment came for both of us. He left me with the greatest gift of my lifetime. His legacy is the Stargazer Siberian Sanctuary.
We all have a need to run with our own kind, to know joy, to recognize ourselves in each other. We all need a place to call home that is safe, where we are fed, where we play, fight, work, and know joy. A place where we are loved and not alone.
For more information contact Susan at

Monday, August 25, 2014

The Empty Bowl

Twenty nine 2 quart stainless steel bowls lined up on the sunset  tiled kitchen island, awaiting their twice daily ration of kibble and water.
 Lined up in military perfection, aligned in order with how they will be stacked and delivered to the hungry occupant of crate or kennel.  Seventeen of those bowls will be delivered to the house dogs in their crates, twelve will go to the yard dogs in their kennels.  Prior to the laying out of bowls, preparations began with the kenneling and crating of the dogs.  This activity is accompanied by a great cacophony of howling, wooing, whining, barking, and anxious hunger sounds.  Often, the dogs are given a cookie to crate or kennel up, so most of them eagerly move to their appointed places.  Stargazers are not required to be silent at feeding time, so guests who happen to be present at this ritual, are warned, "that it will get noisy."  Prior to the kibble hitting the bowl, pills must be doled out.  Some time ago, I dispensed with the idea of wrapping the pills in some tasty treat, as the ever so smart Siberian soon figures out how to unwrap the pill and eat the tasty. Throw the pills in the bowl for some, and hand give the others.  Daisy, my IBD dog, takes 5 potassium, 1/2 magnesium, 1 Pepcid twice a day plus prednisone every 48 hours. She springs off the couch, on to the crate top, where I stuff the pills in one by one, followed by a cookie.  Daisy and I know the routine. Sparky, my 14 year old patriarch, fondly known as Snarly Growl Face, receives one half of a Carprofen, for his old joints. My favorite is never  friendly about taking his pills, but does like the after treat.  Throughout we are being serenaded by the sounds of the Siberian choir at full decibel.  Especially, once they hear me open the pill jars.  Very fine tuned ears, these Siberians. Next, the door opens to the dog food room, and the pitch jumps dramatically. Several types of food, filling the needs of all the special needs dogs.  As the food clatters into the metal bowls, anticipation grows. I turn on the kitchen faucet, fill up the pitcher with hot water and add to the bowls of food. Adding fluids is good for the dog, and slows down the inhaling of the chow.  At least I like to think it does. Who knows what the dogs think? Probably, more food, less water, Sue.

This is a routine practiced religiously, day after day, month after month, year following year.  I like doing this, feeding my friends, placing their bowls down for them, filling their needs.  I love their individual voices, and I especially love the dead quiet that follows meal time.  At least for an instant, until some anxious soul starts to sing the "dinner's over, I want out," song.

I have a pattern in my head and on the ground of how those bowls are laid out, and on it continues, until the awful day, when one of the dogs, in the case of this story, my girl Cloudee, has suddenly and violently left this Earth.  What happens at feeding time? The pattern is wrong, the names in my head no longer match the battered silver bowls.  What has happened to regular?  Everything is wrong, out of place, the pattern has broken.  Where is Cloudee's bowl? It is now the Empty Bowl in the dish drainer, never to be filled again as Cloudee barks in her double beat sing song bark, waiting to eat in the front of her kennel she has shared with her brother Wyatt, since they came to Stargazer in 2008. Cloudee died suddenly, or rather I had to have her put down, a very profound phrase, which means being the instrument of your friend's death.  Most likely Cloudee had Immune Mediated Hemolytic Anemia and Immune Mediated Thrombo Cytopenia. Her gums became pale, she was bleeding somewhere, she became paryalyzed, was rushed to the vet, and then she was gone, in a matter of a few hours. My dear friend, whom I had spent weeks  in settling and earning her trust when she first arrived at Stargazer with Wyatt. Cloudee was a lead dog, loved to run in harness, and with time and love, had become comfortable and trusting, no longer running and hiding when approached by a human.

That night of Cloudee's death, my heart broke, as I saw the Empty Bowl  waiting to be filled. Never again. The pattern had shifted, my friend was gone, and now there were only twenty eight bowls on the sunset tiled kitchen island.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Flowing, like water.

Siberian Huskies, running together in a group. Picture them flowing like water, as they spin, surge, stall, cut in and out, always moving together.  Dog dynamics are fluid, like water.  They ebb and flow on a daily basis, as bonds are formed and dissolved and reformed once again . The lead is taken, shifted, dropped, and picked up again.  The hierarchy of alpha-omega is a story of wolf packs,  not of dogs.  That story is of family bonding and established roles.  Dogs form community relationships and complex networks of interaction and mutual understanding.  Dogs want to get along with each other, which is why their vocabulary of gestures, movements and sounds is so complex. One speaks of a dog as well socialized, when, as an adult, it is able to recognize and participate in that multi leveled communication of eyes, lips, ears, tail, and body stance.  The dogs that I see at Stargazer which have come to me via the shelter, the street, abandonment by an owner, often do not know their own dog language, or have forgotten it, or pushed it away, due to their own extreme need to survive when safety and security have been non existent or have been taken away. They arrive distrusting, fearful, anxiety ridden, with their own internal compass disabled. My secret to helping these dogs heal, is to use the other dogs, who model the behavior, that I cannot. They teach these lost souls, the language of dog. The language that says this is a safe place, we get food, we hang out together, we are friends, Sue is good. The secret of a dog learning to be a dog again. This is the flowing, the organic movement towards health, towards trust, towards balance.

Brigit is my model for today. Already, she is beginning to flow in a new direction, as routine, food, kindness become part of her new paradigm.  This is not the world of clicker, or command, or authority. This is the world of flow, and of zen, and of dog.  The dog world, of taking the moment, and being in it 100 per cent.

Monday, June 10, 2013


Biking or scootering with your dog actively engages both of you in a fun sport. You train your dog to run out in front of the bike, wearing a special type of harness, while the dog is keeping a tight line and helping pull the bike along.  Most dogs relish this type of activity where they are allowed to pull and run.  Pull training clinics are offered throughout the region, which will help you and your dog gain the basics for this sport, but are not really necessary to get started.  What is important is having a dog that likes to run in harness.  Otherwise, find a different sport for your dog. The equipment needed for this sport includes a bike or a scooter, a helmet, a harness for the dog, and a 6’ line with bungee, water for the dog, and perhaps a bootie for the dog, in case of foot injury.  The items for the dog are available from a variety of outfitters, which make products for the pulling dog.  Dogs learn commands for turning, stopping, and ignoring distractions.  They learn to stay focused on their job, and develop a more inquisitive and confident nature as they get out and about in the world.  The working dog builds his brain and his body as his skill in this sport increases.  The relationship between dog and owner expands as they learn to run together.  One begins by taking their dog out on a short run, which might be a half a mile, perhaps 10 minutes or so.  You always want to bring your dog back with gas in the tank, and with energy left to burn.  Neither dog nor human enjoys working past their limit, coming in exhausted, and in the dog’s case, overheated.  Overheating is of the greatest concern in this sport. Overheating can take place even on a cold day. Hydrating the dog an hour before they go out, is the best thing you can do to help avoid overheating.  This is done by adding something tasty to a cup or two of water, depending on the dog’s size.  This is called baiting the water.  One must also keep a close eye on the temperature and the humidity.  Dogs can overheat easily at 50 degrees.

 The bikejoring adventure begins at home as you gather the equipment needed.  Do not feed prior to a run.  Once you arrive at your staging area, you will perhaps tie out your dog, while getting your equipment together.  Practice courtesy at all times, keeping your dog on leash, picking up poop, and staying out of the way of other bicyclists and walkers, Next, you will attach your line to the bike.  Some outfitters sell devices to hold the line above the front wheel to help avoid running over the line, which will bring the dog to an abrupt stop and can cause a crash.  Constant vigilance is required in this sport. Next, you will put the harness on your dog, check the fit, and see that all is well.  Lock your car, tell the dog to hike, and off you go for your fun run.  With a bike, you can help your dog by pedaling along, but a strong pulling dog will pull a scooter, and with these you have a much lower center of gravity and it is easier to get out of potential crashes.  Keep an eye on your dog and on distractions as you roll along.  Do not OVERTALK to the dog. Use your commands sparingly.  If the dog is performing well, let him do his job. Enjoy quiet time together as you roll along.   It is up to the rider to become aware of the nuances of the dog’s behavior, to watch the gait, and the body language.  Dogs prefer running on a trail compared to a wide-open area.  Wooded or paved, off road, or urban will all work. A well-trained bike or scooter dog can negotiate most environments.  One trains for attentiveness, calmness and enjoyment. Offer water mid run. At the completion of the run, offer water, food, and “job well done!”  Dogs of all sizes and breeds can enjoy this sport. Northwest Sled Dog Association and K9scootersNW are full of fun loving folks who love to scooter and bike with their dogs.  You can find NWSDA on the web and both Clubs are on Facebook.  K9scootersNW offers a titling program for the scooter and bike dog. Contact Susan Scofield for info and training.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012


Mikasa was a trash talker. Long and lean, she would have been a fabulous sled dog, except for one minor detail, she had hips that did not work. She made up for that with a lot of talk.  Kasa was my first foster failure.  In the late summer of 2002,  I received a call from Mt. View Veterinary Hospital. "Sue, do you know anyone in rescue that can take this sweet young Siberian with severe hip dysplasia?"  Kasa was not even a year old, and could not stand most of the time, due to that dysplasia. Her owners could not afford a surgery, and had reached out to her breeders, a puppy mill in the midwest, which, of course, did not respond.  No one would help this young female. She had 7 minutes to live at the time of that phone call.  Luckily, in those days, I lived less then 5 minutes away from my vet.  My son and I jumped in the car, drove the short distance, and met the dog. Our first words, "Ahhhh."  Which meant then, and still does, of course I will take her and fix her up. Which we did, by authorizing a FHO surgery on that left hip.  Next day, my son and I were headed to Maui for the first time, where my brother lived and where my brother was dying. This adopting of a rescue the day before a trip to Hawaii, became a pattern.  It happened three times in a row, and then there was no longer a need to fly to Maui. Kasa had her surgery the next day. I called from a beach bar in Maui to inquire as to her well being.  All of this being as brand new as one could possibly imagine.  Kasa said then, and continued to say, until her death on November 15, 2012, " I was third."  Third of the now 25 Siberian Huskies here at Stargazer, and third of the original four to cross the Rainbow Bridge.  Kasa always wore purple, and her purple H Back harness from Alpine Outfitters now sits on the island with the candle and the photos. She loved to run and she was fast, for about a mile.  On the way back, those wobbly hips would weave back and forth, but she would come in happy. She would have been the fastest dog in the yard, had the good Lord, given her a good set of balls and sockets. Or if some puppy mill breeder had  some sort of morality. Throughout her long life, she still used that bad right hip, more than the one that had the surgery. Like most Siberians, and dogs in general, Kasa was very stoic, and did not complain about her infirmity.  Oh, and as far as being my first foster failure, yes she was.  We wanted to keep her way back in 2002, and we did.  In 2010, Kasa began developing symptoms that were hard to diagnose.  Eventually, she was diagnosed first as Atypical Cushings, and then as a Cushings dog.She was never easy to manage, her values going up and down, and not managing stressors well, especially heat.  This last summer, she would always lay panting on the tile in front of her personal box fan.  In August, I lost my life partner and my world crumbled.  Friends came from all over, and in the midst of all the hubbub Kasa laid in front of her fan.  During the week preceding the memorial, it was obvious that Kasa was not doing well.  A trip to the vet determined that somehow she had licked up a sewing needle, and her tongue was abscessing, and her airway was closing.  An emergency surgery removed the needle, but the films taken at that time showed a large mass in her spleen, and her bloodwork showed something nasty going on in her liver.  Mikasa was not a good candidate for surgery, and so we took her off her Cushing meds and waited. On Halloween, Mikasa began to fail.  Here at Stargazer, we have had a virus, a serious virus that strikes the immune suppressed hard.  I do not know the origin of this virus, but it seems to reappear and this time it knocked out  three dogs. Mac was in hospital for several days, not expected to recover.  He came home, and did improve, but then Kasa went down. Diarrhea that got worse, no appetite, and movement became difficult.  Flagyl helped the GI tract, but she never regained her appetite.  For two weeks she still moved about, but then came the day she could not stand.  Her bright blue eyes looked at me, alert and conscious as ever, but that body was worn out.  I made the appointment and waited.  The last night, I brought her in from the porch, where she was in her Igloo, and laid her up on the couch.  I turned off the phone, the TV, while the other dogs and I sat with her and waited.  Mikasa was one of those Siberians that did not like to cuddle but here on this last night, she allowed me to hold her.  As the night deepened, her breathing became much more labored and I knew it was not long.  As I said good night to her for what was to be the last time, I whispered the secret Siberian words to her and laid myself down beside her, in  my clothing, as I thought we might have to go to Mt. View in the night. Later, I woke up, but Kasa never did.  She crossed over that Rainbow Bridge on her own.  I  awoke at dawn, and she was gone from me.  I went upstairs to tell my son, then once again lay down beside her and laid my hand on her steel wooly hair. When I awoke for the second time, I wrapped her in a special blanket and went outside to dig her hole.  Luckily, the former owner, had topsoil brought for a garden, or there would be no possibility of burial, as we grow rocks here in Rainier, WA which are called Rainier potatoes. My friend Judy, came over, and we laid Kasa to rest.  She was a good dog, a dog with the personality of a bratty teen, whom I loved, cherished and now miss as I look to her spot on the floor where she always was in these last few months.  Mikasa was the first dog I have had die at home, and there was a certain rightness to it, a private ending with those that are loved, at home, in her own time. There is a resolution with this, that one does not immediately have following euthanasisa.  The next day, a new dog arrived here at Stargazer, a lost dog, a dog that had killed cats, another special needs dog. Thus, the story continues.  But my Kassie is gone and that purple harness is retired. We have a saying here at Stargazer, "Run hard, Run dogs," and that we will continue to do, until all of our harnesses are retired, and the stars shine brightly on the trails we once roamed together.

Monday, March 19, 2012


Alaska has his own band of Guardian Angels, the ones with the big wings that spread wide to help save his life last January when his gut was blocked by a large piece of blue rubber and his hours were numbered. The Reaper was waiting. Not to be. I reached out, blindly, but with purpose, and found that I also had Angels, and they continued to call in the support to Mt. View, so that within a very short time, the surgery had begun. By the next morning, over $2000 had been raised for Mr. Alaska, who now romps about the house, having been saved for a second time in his life. Over a year ago, a plea had gone out for a dog named Lucky, who was at that time in the King County Animal Shelter. He had failed a temperament test, having bit at the plastic hand poked at him while he ate from his bowl. He had to go into rescue, not to an individual. Who would take this (un) Lucky dog? He became my first official foster, and he was a mess. He is not what the vets call a thrifty dog. Serious vaccine reactions, chronic Giardia, and overwhelming fearfulness. We fixed the physical issues over time, but Alaska never could overcome that initial bite reaction, unpredictable and unexpected. So he became a Stargazer special needs dog. Put into harness for the first time, he excelled, running fast, straight and true for miles. And then came Christmas, 2011. Vomit in the kennel, including large hunks of blue rubber, which later I realized, had come from a toy he had found in my truck on the last trip home from the vet, when he had his dental. Funds were and are short here at Stargazer, so we delayed on taking him in. Then, when he did go in, it appeared as if he was okay. But several weeks of ups and downs led to his near demise that one afternoon at Mt. View. But Life, Love, Luck, and Fabulous care from Mt. View intervened to save my Alaska. People are Good.