This past Monday was the 13th birthday of our 'Muppet Litter'.
Their birth was a memorable one for me as it was one of the very few NorthWapiti litters that I was not around for the birth of. In those years I was working as a track photographer at the Grande Prairie racetrack after my shift at my regular job was over. I had no backup and was expected to be there every Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday night. Mark sat home with Ginger and called at regular intervals to give me updates. A little black and white girl, a piebald male, another piebald male, a black and white male.....
Of course, they grew up to be some of the best sled dogs I've met - including one, Grover , that remains the very best sled dog I've ever known.
But thousands of memories and miles have passed in 13 years. Grover passed away 2 1/2 years ago, Denise phoned last month to say that Gonzo had passed....but I know Colleen was celebrating Smiley's birthday with cake, party hats and presents.
Here we were just holding our breath. See on Friday Gus (aka NorthWapiti's Mr. Snuffleupagus) had a bad day. He didn't eat dinner and was unsteady on his feet. We took him out of 'Geriatric Park' and put him in a kennel of his own. He didn't seem in pain, he just seemed ...well....old. He did eventually eat his dinner and settled down for the night. Saturday was better but I was still only cautiously optimistic. Sunday, thankfully he was almost back to himself and Monday, for his birthday he went back into G Park.
I know it pretty much only mattered to me that Monday was Gus's birthday - or maybe it was just that I was just grabbing for a few more days, a few more memories. Letting go is always so hard.
Former Anchorage Daily News reporter Craig Medred wrote a wonderful piece last month on this bittersweet time in a dog/human relationship. You can read it at http://www.adn.com/outdoors/craig_medred/story/832192.html Make sure to grab a Kleenex before you do though.
And for the record Camilla continues to be doing great. She is as bouncy and happy as always. Gus too - I'm holding my breath hoping he makes 14 now!