Rob's Blog

I post new blog entries several times a month. Facebook knows me as Robert Loveman. I always announce on my status when I've added a new entry. Friend me and you'll get a note.  I also post blogs on "Rob's Blog" on Facebook.  Liking that is another way to get notified.  There's a hyperlink to an audio version of the blog at the bottom of this page.  Actually, it's a video consisting of a photograph and my reading the essay as the soundtrack. Finally,  if you like what you read, the "Blog Archive" includes every blog I've written in chronological order.





September 23, 2019

Gaiya's Last Days

Dogs get old and, depending on the breed, it's four to six times faster than we do.  With this, we watch them from their youth through old age while we hardly age at all.  Gaiya joined Silly Lake seven and a half years ago.  She had just turned three.  She's now ten and a half.  Her equivalent age is just a tad older than me.
In the yard, even though she was the smallest dog I owned, she could outrun everybody else.  That didn't change until I got the three twins.  Even with her size, she made my four dog team in 2014, the team I took on my first try at skijor-sledding the Iditarod Trail. 

The most stressful thing I've had to deal with with Siberian Huskies has been when they got away.  Nothing else has had me feeling as helpless.  That happened on the Iditarod Trail in 2014. 

A few miles before Rainy Pass itself, the trail crosses a stream that's frequently open.  In 2014, there was ten feet of open water.  The dogs had stopped and weren't budging.  One of my gyrations had been to nudge Gaiya with the pulk, and it probably hurt a little, though not much.  I disconnected her from the team figuring she'd stay put, but she was angry.  After thinking about it for a few seconds, she ran off. 

During the next hour and a quarter, we were moving at 5 mph.  That's going uphill with two healthy dogs and a sick dog pulling a 110 lb pulk and me.  Thankfully, the sick dog, Shoshone, had the best head for pulling of any dog I've ever owned.  I stopped several times to rest and call Gaiya's name.  I was afraid that she would head all the way to Rohn or run into a wolf pack, though I suspected she never strayed outside of earshot. 

Right at the pass, she came trotting toward me.  To the extent I could read her, I had been forgiven.  Along with my relief, she got hugs, kisses, and lots of scratching.  Everybody got treats and a good long break.

I have lots of notes from runs during the 2015-2016 season mentioning Gaiya trying to turn the team around when she thought we had done enough mileage.  As athletic as she was and as much as she enjoyed running, she didn't enjoy pushing herself.  When she arrived, I thought she was going to be like Mink, a kiss ass who was my primary leader the year I focused on 12-dog mid-distance racing.  In fact, she was like Fondue, a.k.a. Little Shit.  I saw immediately that Gaiya and Fondue shared athleticism, but it took a couple of years to realize how much they had in common with regard to work ethic.  As fast as Fondue was, she didn't make the team when I ran Race to the Sky because she didn't work hard enough.  Fondue figured it out, though, and easily made the team the next two years.  

The difference between Gaiya and Fondue was that after her attempts to turn the team around failed, Gaiya's instinct to pull cut in.  Even with her behavior and size, she was fifth in my rotation of dogs for my 2016 run between Willow and Ruby. 

Two years later, the three twins arrived.   In the clip I chose for the Rob's Blog Facebook page, the four dogs running into the yard are Crumbs, Quizzie, Gaiya, then Leftovers--Gaiya and the Three Twins.  If there was a fourth dog joining them dashing madly through the yards, it was Gaiya. 

Starting in late July of this past summer, Gaiya would jump onto her house, then hesitate to jump off.  Her condition degraded, but I figured it was idiopathic vestibular disorder, IVD, something I've seen a couple of times. On August 1, I brought her indoors.  She had hidden under her platform and didn't come out for dinner.  Her appetite lapsed for only a couple of days.  Still, after those first days, her balance never came close to normal.  Consulting with my vet, we tried the miracle worker, prednisone, but it had no effect. 

On Friday, September 6, I brought her in for an examination.  He said that it wasn't IVD, but probably a cerebral lesion or something like it.  After this, we tried an upped dose of prednisone, but given it had no effect the first time, we had no expectations. 

Aside from the first two days after I brought her in from the yard, Gaiya loved eating.  And, she actually gets around well by crawling on the floor.  We've split steaks the last two dinners, she's tried and enjoyed lox, and she loves her new role of cleaning my dishes. 

When she arrived at Silly Lake, Gaiya introduced me to her favorite game "I kiss, you scratch."  It's not particularly complicated.  I'm sure she didn't want to confuse me.   Since the onset of her condition, she hasn't been able to stand up, kiss me on the face, then wait as I scratched her chest.  I am going to have to carry her into the clinic.  She keeps on trying to walk, but can't.  Once she lays down, however, she'll be comfortable, and I'll be able to scratch her one last time and say you're a good dog Gaiya, I love you, girl.

Audio:     Gaiya's Last Days

  Rob's Blog Archive Index

Home | Writing | The Dogs | About Rob | Mushing Terms | Equipment | Sponsors | Instruction| Videos