She had five acres to roam and call her own. Then, she woke up one day and found herself living in the city.
This is the story of our dog, “Crash,” a Siberian Husky adopted in response to an ad in the Bargain Finder. She is 12 years old now and actually started out in the city, adopted originally by a couple in their “golden years” who expected a polite, cuddly dog to keep them company and sleep nicely in a kennel at night.
Much to their surprise, she turned out to be anything but polite, a bit of a rabble-rouser with so much energy they couldn’t keep up with her. So they decided to find her a younger, more energetic family who could keep up with her. No money changed hands, just a screening interview and our promise that we would ensure she had lots of exercise.
A husky three-peat
She joined our family as our third Siberian Husky in a row, a breed of dog we loved because they (theoretically) didn’t bark and would be able to adjust to our active lifestyle of camping, mountain biking, running, cross-country skiing and a lot of “weekend warrior-like” last-minute trips to the mountains. We had two previous huskies, a pair who were much-loved but the male had died of natural causes and the female had recently died of cancer. Our family was feeling a little out-of-sorts without some canine companionship. Full disclosure: I was not as convinced as the rest of the family that a new dog was the best thing for us. With our long commutes to Calgary from Okotoks to work each day, I worried about a dog home alone all day. Perhaps she sensed my reluctance from the start?
Siberian Huskies are normally very social dogs, so we quickly began searching for another to keep Crash company as we had found from past experience that they were happier as a pair. Boy, were we wrong.
It wasn’t long before we found another husky for adoption through the animal rescue networks. Manna came to us, not quite from “heaven” but from a ranch in southern Alberta where she had developed an affinity for chickens, which she stalked and killed with great relish. We didn’t think this would be a problem, since there weren’t many chickens in our neighbourhood. Boy, were we wrong…again.
In the first place, we didn’t realize that Crash was a true “alpha” female. She quickly established that she was the “lead dog,” and answered to only one master (and even that was a hard-fought battle!). Once the rules were established, my husband, Mike was really the only person whose commands she would even acknowledge and sometimes, she would even listen!
I came to understand that I was lower than her on the family totem pole and after my initial anger and disbelief wore off, I accepted that fighting her on this would be futile. I decided I would be a lot happier if I just got comfortable with the new order in our family. On the positive side, I was released to just enjoy her company and most of the training and discipline was no longer my responsibility–phew!
Unfortunately, that left Manna below even me in the heirarchy and I don’t think she was very happy. Crash was a bully and she made Manna’s life miserable. She guarded both food bowls and did her best to keep Manna away. We had to feed them separately and even access to water was a problem. Crash monitored Manna’s every activity, shadowing her movements and keeping an eye on her at all times. They wrestled and fought, sometimes playfully, sometimes not so much.
Tastes like chicken
Manna soon began leaping our fence (we were restricted from building a higher fence by community standards related to our house backing onto the pathway system) and disappearing at every opportunity. Not surprisingly, she often jumped the fence and turned up rooting through the garbage at fast food restaurants in Okotoks. When she showed up at the drive-thru staring up at the staff with her beautiful blue eyes, they fed her and had our home number on speed dial. They loved Manna–she was a sweet, good-natured dog with everyone, but she did like her McChicken sandwiches.
Then, her escapes took a darker turn and she began stalking neighbourhood bunnies. We were mortified. I won’t get into the details, but some beloved family pets did not fare so well once she tracked them down in our neighbour’s yard.
Harnessing her team
After many tears, we decided to find a new home for Manna elsewhere. And, I do believe Crash was not unhappy to see her go. She was happier to have her “team” all to herself, leading us all (except Mike) in the direction she wanted without any competition (she couldn’t stand it when the kids got ahead of her on the trail and would strain at her leash until she got out in front again).
When we built a home on a rural acreage just outside of Okotoks, Crash settled in nicely, patrolling our fenced property, chasing deer from nibbling on our newly planted trees (at least at first, eventually she gave up) and occasionally tunnelling under the fence to visit the neighbours. She could never be let off her leash to run as she didn’t respond at all to our calls to return and often, she’d just run for the hills, not returning for several hours. Such is the temperament of the husky, we’ve been told.
Life is a highway
Once, she did run towards the highway while the family was out of the house during the day at work (and the kids at school) and sure enough, was struck by a pick-up truck. A woman who witnessed it said the driver didn’t even stop! She loaded our injured Crash into her little car and drove her to a nearby vet, calling the phone number on her dog tag. We were summoned to the vet fearing the worst. Miraculously, the vet assured us that she appeared to be shaken and bruised, but nothing was broken!
He gave us some anti-inflammatories and pain medication and sent her home. Three weeks later, we noticed an odd swelling lump on one of her legs, even though she wasn’t limping or favouring it in any way. We took her to the vet and after an x-ray, we discovered her leg had been broken all along! The bone had healed quite straight already, but she got a cast anyway and then she suffered miserably with it for a short time before it could finally come off and she returned to normal.
In the meantime, she struck up a strange relationship with our family cats, who had always avoided her. During the day, they began taunting her by sleeping on her dog bed, even though they had their own comfy cat couches, scratching posts and other feline luxuries. I think they were simply acting out an elaborate drama to entertain themselves, as it seemed she could’ve easily caught either of two cats, but when she got close enough to nip, she’d back off. They all seemed to be enjoying the game more than anything.
Then, Emily (just after getting her driver’s license) backed over her in our family pick-up truck. Amazingly, Crash came through it perfectly okay again! Emily was absolutely traumatized, but had the wherewithal to lift her into the back of the truck and drive her to the emergency vet all by herself in Calgary, since both parents weren’t home at the time and it wasn’t during business hours.
Who says cats have nine lives?
Sadly, both of our cats disappeared not long after a rather large coyote began hanging around on the outskirts of our acreage. Crash had the good sense to retreat into the garage when the coyote got too close, but we suspect, the cats weren’t so lucky.
No one ever really considers the impact a divorce has on the family pet, but in our case, there was never any question as to what was going to happen with Crash. She would not be joining me at my new house in the city. My visits with her have been infrequent and she is always glad to see me. But, I do believe she is quite happy to be “top dog” with no competition.
Respect is key
Inevitably, the family acreage was sold and now she finds herself living in the city. I am responsible for dogsitting when Mike is out of town and it will be a bit of a challenge, given her total lack of respect for my authority. She will walk me rather than the other way around, but I will do my best as always.
And she is doing her best to adapt to the city. I admire her resilience and this may sound like a strange thing to say about the family’s dog–I respect her even if she doesn’t really respect me in return.