I have a beautiful senior Siberian Husky who looks deceptively young. I got her when she was 9 weeks old. True to her breed, she is friendly and inquisitive, an escape artist and a tireless runner (or at least used to be). Sixteen years and 8 months with a dog of her kind is enough to accumulate memories and incidents that leave you to believe she has 9 lives. Lately, I’ve been feeling like she’s on her 9th one. She’s old. It’s only natural. But I am constantly caught off guard whenever I find her struggling to get up out of her doggie-bed, looking disoriented and distant, negotiating with the deterioration of her senses or trying to find balance for her next step while her weak hind legs are shaking as if the ground beneath her is vibrating.
National Geographics recently featured an article about Siberian Huskies that serve in Sirius, the world’s only military dog sled team that patrols “northeast Greenland’s 8,699-mile coast.” Well, actually, the article was about the two men who lead the team of these dogs, but the spot light naturally fell on the beautiful photogenic huskies who are also incredibly resilient workers pulling the 815 pound load by day and sleeping in 40-degree-below Greenland temperature at night. They are work horses and polar bears hidden behind their striking bandit-masked faces that remind you of arctic wolves. As I was reading the article, I had no doubt in my mind, that Tasha would have been perfectly up for the challenge and even belongs there with those dogs in that frozen environment, even though she lived her entire life in sunny Southern California.
Hot summer days are fast approaching, and every summer, I can’t help but feeling a bit of guilt for the creature who was born to be somewhere else, doing something else. But I know that we had a pretty good run. We made many trips to snowy mountains, trekked many trails in the Angeles Crest, went to dog beaches and dog parks and ran many, many miles together. Let me rephrase that last one. I ran. She tolerated my gasping for breath as she jogged at a leisurely pace next to me. She is now retired from all her fun duties, but that doesn’t keep her from poking her head out the gate devising another grand escape or cruising all day the perimeter of our place, however slow and frail her steps may be.
I’ll be there – through her 9th life. She might surprise us all with a 10th and 11th. I’ve learned to know that Siberian Huskies are like that – full of power, full of tricks.