Tuesday, April 1, 2008

A Tribute to Scarlett on Her 15th Birthday

15 years ago Lincoln, my one year old Siberian Husky, was a very sad puppy. Every time I would leave for work he would cry pitifully because he hated to be alone. I was already planning on getting another dog, but due to Lincoln's sorrow I sped up my plans and began looking for a playmate for him. My search lead me to Wisconsin which was the home of the owner of a sled dog team made up completely of AKC registered Siberian Huskies with quite a few champions in their bloodline. (Picture at right is of Scarlett at about 3 weeks old) I wanted a red and white female who I had decided I would name Scarlett after the heroine in one of my favorite novels. When 10 week old Scarlett was put into my arms for the first time my heart melted. She was so beautiful and so cuddly... well she was cuddly for about 2 minutes then she decided that she wanted to get down and explore the world. That was the first time Scarlett showed me her feisty side as she struggled to get down.

It was a two hour drive back to our home near Minneapolis and Miss Scarlett slept most of the way. Once we arrived Scarlett quickly claimed a little nook in the kitchen as her special sleeping spot. Lincoln was curious about this new creature who was in his home so he kept going to her nook to check her out. Again Scarlett showed her feisty and fearless spirit. Each time Lincoln would get too close she would growl and attack him by biting his neck and coming away with a mouth full of white fur. Lincoln was shedding heavily at the time, so this was fur he needed to lose anyway :-) After a few days of Scarlett being on the defensive I began to doubt that they would ever be good friends. But just as my doubts appeared suddenly L&S decided that they absolutely adored each other.

After Scarlett's arrival Lincoln became a different dog. His spirits were always up. He was still happy to see us when we came home, but didn't bat an eyelash upon our leaving for work. Linc and Scar were best friends for 13 years until Lincoln's death at the age of 14 years and 3 months in May of 2006. We always hoped that Linc would be the first to go since he couldn't bear to be without his Scar girl. Scarlett, on the other hand, is quite independent and although she likely missed Lincoln she was fine on her own. Snow Dogs, Late April in Minnesota
During their long friendship L&S had a blast traveling around the country in a pickup truck with us for all of our vacations. We never went anywhere that didn't allow dogs. The truck had a camper top and a sliding window that joined with the cab. In this window we mounted a fan that drew cold air from the A/C into the pickup truck so L&S were always comfy. We drove thousands of miles together and they always loved to go for car rides. We also went on many camping trips during which L&S would carry their own food and water in their doggie backpacks. One of our traditions was to make pancakes for breakfast during these trips. The dogs always got at least one or two pancakes each. Since they didn't get much people food at all this was a special treat for them. During her lifetime Scarlett has walked and hiked for thousands of miles. I believe that all of that exercise is the reason she has such good mobility for an elderly dog. Brushing Scarlett at one of our campsites (see all the hair near the tree?)
Taking a nap during a hike on Madaline IslandSkijoring in Minnesota...
the dogs were kind enough to wait for me each time I fell down :-)

One of Scarlett's greatest pleasures in life was hunting (I think she is done hunting now, but never say never). In our yard in Minnesota she killed countless rabbits, squirrels and shrews. At our current home our yard was invaded by rats about a year and a half ago. At the age of 13 Scarlett proved that her hunting skills were still intact. She killed the rats one by one within a week or two and we haven't seen any since. Sorry to be graphic, but when Scarlett is making a kill it reminds me of a National Geographic special about wolves. She turns into a wild creature and the rest of the world goes away for her. She can't see me or hear me as her mind is 100% focused on her prey. Scarlett's incredibly high prey drive was always one of my least favorite things about her, but I accepted that it was part of her nature. This is one of the reasons though that I decided she would be my last Siberian Husky.

Walking after an ice storm in Arkansas

On the positive side, Scarlett has the exact opposite type of interaction with humans. She loves every person she has ever met. If you offer her a biscuit she will take it so very gently from your hand. She loves children and is great with them. When I take her to the vet her reaction to having her blood drawn is to quietly lick the vet's hand. She is such a gentle sweetheart with people.
Scarlett kissing her Auntie LeahWhen Katie entered her life 15 months ago Scarlett was quite appalled. How dare I bring this obnoxious puppy into her kingdom. It took about 3 months before she accepted Katie completely as a member of our pack. Now she has decided that Katie is quite handy to have around. Katie alerts her to things she can not hear and Katie keeps other dogs away from her on walks.
Scarlett thinks little Louis is fine as long as he stays at least two feet away from her or when he is sleeping. We will keep them separated for a while since Scar doesn't need a puppy jumping on her tired bones.

At the age of 15 Scarlett has some arthritis in her rear legs. She moves slower than she used to, but she still can walk up and down stairs. She has an occassional day when she just doesn't feel well and only wants to sleep. However most days she is very eager to take a 15 minute walk twice a day. If I fail to take her on time she won't hesitate to tell me exactly how she feels about my failure as a dog mama. She still has the same feisty spirit that she had the day she was first put into my arms.

Happy 15th Birthday and much love to our sweet and sassy Siberian Husky Scarlett!


The Zoo said...

Happy Birthday pretty Scarlett!!!! My rottie girl, Sam, was just as sassy and reading this tribute reminded me so much of her. :-) She was my first dog and will always hold a special place in my heart that none other can fill. Thanks for sharing these memories of Scarlett and the pictures too! Happy Birthday!!!

Roy said...

A fitting tribute to a lovely dog. Happy birthday Scarlett! May you live another 15 years!

-Roy & Kodos

Jennifer said...

Happy Birthday Scarlett! What a beautiful birthday tribute. We thoroughly enjoyed all of your photos and memories.

Big birthday woofs and slobbers from your Newfie pals,

'Bella and Gabriel

Leah said...

my sweet Scar-lick (she'd "kiss" anything...but even still, it always made me feel special). You will always have a place in your auntie Leah's heart. bowwwww owwww I love you.