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.

sometimes it is difficult

Sometimes it is difficult to get going on something, to move forward, to take that leap. Do the dogs fear movement? The answer is no. They eagerly move towards the new, charging forth without fear, unless of course, they have met something so huge in their life, that it has thwarted that forward motion. In fact, with dogs, it is mostly circuitous, around and about, retracing, re focusing, noticing this and that. Wanderers with no real destination, but rather a desire for exploration. And they do have the nose for it. Broken dogs need a secure home base from which to move out from. As do people. When that security falls apart, most of us have difficulty moving, let alone forward. We need to find that secure spot from which to spring forth and keep our noses following the good smells.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Bristol goes Home

Bristol went home yesterday, to her new family in northwest Washington. Here at Stargazer Siberian Husky Camp, this was a red letter day, since Bristol is the first foster to be placed. There was great joy in this placement, both from her new family, and from myself, knowing that she was going to a couple that found her lovely and perfect. Young, happy, beautiful, intelligent, kind, trusting, Bristol the Pistol they are calling her. Bristol was here at Stargazer for nearly a year and a half with not much interest shown in her by prospective adopters. I was waiting for the ones that would fall in love with her. There are strict guidelines for placement, in addition to a healthy amount of insight and intuition. Bristol arrived at Stargazer, not much more than a puppy, thin, frightened, wild, and not trusting anyone. She had been taken away from her mother too early, so was not well dog socialized, and had not been given adequate attention in her human home, and so did not pay much attention to anything. The Stargazer Siberians begin to work their special dog magic, and throughout the following months, she began to unwind, build strength, both inner and outer, use her brain and learn to trust. For all her bravado, this girl is a sweet and gentle spirit. As she got stronger, I ran her with Alaska on my scooter, and the two of these cinnamon Siberians pulled me gaily down the trail. Her life will change now. She has gone home from camp to learn a new routine with her new family which includes a Queensland Terrier, a cute little fella who matches Bristol in energy and temperament. Stargazer gave her the much needed respite that was required to allow this little soul to flower. I don't require the dogs here to follow a strict regime, we have a routine, we have good manners, we do not encourage swallowing rubber toys that will cause obstructions...see next blog. We learn to play with each other, and find our dogness once again. Many of us are special needs dogs, that require a permanent position here, but a few are able to move on. As Camp Director, I am very protective of my four legged friends, and I wondered how I would feel about Bristol's
departure. After all, I am a brilliant foster failure. This time, I was not. The reward is in the faces of the new family as they begin to bond in what will be a lifetime friendship. I do miss this little girl, as I look around and see the toys that she would chase endlessly on the deck, and her little heart shaped face. Mourn and rejoice that Bristol has found her Home.