I jumped the gun, counted my chickens before they hatched. I promised exciting news before it was in my lap.
The Chief and I have been milling around the idea of getting a puppy. We’ve gone back and forth and around again until we were furry in the face from all the pups we’d looked at. We were offered three different husky pups, one which was taken back just as soon as it was offered and two that rang just too true to our Lou. Nothing felt quite right. We paused looking on and off for months. I was waiting for our dog to jump from the screen and choose us but it just wasn’t happening. Looking for a pup brought up a mixture of excitement, guilt, and trepidation. It was a step forward into a new chapter, it was a new start that we weren’t totally sure we were ready for and so, it seemed, it wasn’t ready for us either.
There were multiple times where it almost worked, and then at the last moment, we were like ships in the night. Something just wouldn’t line up.
With a girlfriends’ trip to Town fast approaching, I looked like mad for our little furball but the puppy shoes I tried on didn’t quite fit. I decided that it just wasn’t in the cards for us at this moment. We’d wait until after the wedding this Fall and start looking again. I gave myself plenty of reasons why this was the right thing to do and I was pretty convinced.
Two days before our ladies’ trip I decided to allow myself one more look. If the “perfect” dog was there, we’d get him.
And there he was.
Our “perfect” dog was not the dog in front of me. He was bigger and in completely the wrong geographic location but immediately I knew that he was our puppy.
After everything that happened in the passing of our Cinda Lou and all of the loss we’ve experienced in the last year and a half, we wanted to make as many guarantees as we could that our puppy would be healthy. This pup had everything in that realm. His Mom and Dad both had bios up with healthy hips and all that goodness. The Mom was a beauty queen and the Dad a mushing dog who could “pull all day”. After a Winter of Skijoring, we were looking for a working dog but also a family dog, a dog who wanted to be our number one. His parents looked healthy and happy as could be. It just felt right. In his picture, he was even standing on the same rug in his kitchen as we have in ours.
The Chief came home for lunch that day and I asked if he wanted to look at one last puppy. I tried to conceal my smile but it was near wrapped around my face. Without pause, his smile erupted too just upon seeing the picture.
“That’s our guy.”
He was the last boy left in the litter.
By the end of the day, I had put a PayPal deposit down on our pup (which is by far the best online purchase I’ve ever made). We were elated. I couldn’t stop looking at his picture.
Still, we had quite the journey in front of us: we were going to do the Alaska Triangle.
What is the Alaska Triangle, you ask?
Well, clearly we made it up! But I think it could have some staying power. The Alaska Triangle, framed from our neck of the woods, would be our trajectory for the week:
Our neck of the woods to Anchorage: 8 hours
Anchorage to Fairbanks: 8 hours
Fairbanks to our neck of the woods: 8 hours
Now, this may seem like an excessive amount of driving but when you’re used to driving 8 hours to get your groceries, your perspective shifts a bit. Plus, like a dog with treats, every leg of the journey held insanely wonderful incentives:
Our neck of the woods to Anchorage: Here laid the root causes of our trip: First, we would get to listen to the heartbeat of the newest addition to our girl gang! Our beautiful friend is having a baby girl and these aunties were going to get to hear her little heart beating. Second, we were also shopping for wedding and bridesmaid dresses (a task I was inclined to think of more as a chore on my own but with help, actually thoroughly enjoyed). Finally, there laid bloood draws and doctors visits and all the other delightful town duties.
Anchorage to Fairbanks: 8 hours: Puppy pickup! (‘Nuff said)
Fairbanks to our neck of the woods: 8 hours: We’d trade off between driving and puppy pets, bringing all of our precious cargo homeward. Then, introduce the Chief to our little one.
We pretty much squealed with excitement the whole first hour of the trip. Puppies, babies and wedding stuff?! This really was a trifecta of goodness.
The trip was even longer than the triangle too because the first day of the trip was actually spent driving to the end of The Road (60 miles of dirt and busted glaciers) to participate in a fishing derby. By participate, I mean show up in time for the awards and food and miss all the fishing, unfortunately, but when you’re packing for The Alaska Triangle, time gets away from you. We drove 12 miles back down The Road towards home, despite every inch of my being telling me I was going the wrong way, to spend the night at our friends’ cabin that they graciously loaned us for the night. We all felt the excitement building. Finally, the next morning we were off. Back down The Road, Round II.
Everything went perfectly. Appointments we needed had last-minute openings, our Airbnb was cheaper than even the dead of Winter rates, everything was looking up.
The next day we got to hear the baby’s heartbeat and in true Auntie fashion, we were in tears. It was a beautiful start to the trip, full of hope and happiness.
Later that day we shopped for wedding and bridesmaid dresses and found something for everyone.
Still, just to be sure, the next day we went to another wedding dress location.
Nothing. Nada. Zilch.
As someone who needs to comparison shop even the smallest of items, this was helpful to me to verify that we should, in fact, get the dresses from the day before.
Everything was going so perfectly!
I called then and there to order my dress as there were only two in stock. No answer. In the growing hours of daylight, I had lost time and the dress shop had closed. I felt a little panic well up inside of me. As soon as I hung up, I noticed a text I’d missed:
“So, the pups are acting a little “off”. I don’t know if you can delay your trip or not but I am taking them to the vet tomorrow to get checked out.”
A sinking feeling in my chest forced me to sit down amidst the fluffy white gowns. I took a deep breath and called the breeder.
“It’s probably nothing” he assured me “but Parvo is rampant here so I wanted to be sure. He’s still eating and drinking so he should be fine. But if he does have Parvo he could die within a few days.”
As a vet tech, he had mountains of information he delivered matter of factly that I needed to hear but in that sea of white, what I needed more was to get off the phone so I could cry. I fell into the arms of my girlfriends outside.
I couldn’t believe it.
We spent the night talking about and distracting from the subject but it hung close. This puppy felt like the new start we had hoped for and again, here we were faced with possible death.
Still, maybe it wasn’t Parvo.
We had planned to make our next leg of The Triangle in the morning but without information as to the pup’s health, we figured it best to stay put. We unloaded once again into a new Airbnb. It was beautiful and colorful and felt like home. It also felt like sadness, like there had been a loss but in some ways, that felt comforting because amidst the loss, there was so much love and happiness. After I got this feeling, I went into the bathroom where there was a painting of a woman kneeling over a dog, the dog’s paws were holding onto her legs in a gentle embrace and blood was pooled around the dog. Yet, the dog’s spirit came up from him and turned into a raven. The painting was titled “Grief and Healing”, two things we’ve done a lot of in these past years.
A sort of calm came over me as I realized that I had grieved before, I could do it again but what was most important at that moment wasn’t me, it was him. This little fluff of a pup was fighting for his life. I wanted him to live for him.
The next day, we didn’t have to rush out of the house first thing. For the first time in the trip, we got to just sit for a few hours. We all ended up working, I had a huge project due by week’s end and since the drives I had been planning to work during suddenly weren’t happening I had to squeeze every moment in that I could. After we checked out, we set to do the chores that we never do in Town, the ones deep down on the long list of To Dos which always end up in the “Screw It” pile after chore fatigue sets in. On the way, I got a text:
“He has Parvo.”
I am not a fainter. I am not a damsel in distress. Yet, this news took me over. My chest started radiating in a tingling sensation that only got worse with each breath I took in. I was sobbing as my arms started to go numb and my vision tunneled. I pulled over and just cried until I couldn’t cry any longer while my girlfriends stood guard and rubbed my back. I felt numb.
A few minutes later I got another text:
“We are going to treat him for it. Vet says his chances are good because we caught it early.”
The girls did chores, some of them mine (I love you ladies) the rest of the day and let me dig into work. The deadline was fast approaching and the distraction helped. I broke the bad news to The Chief (just as he had told me that he had cleaned up all the poop in the yard to prevent any Parvo issues) and almost simultaneously heard his heart break for the millionth time. We’ve done so much crying together these past years. Here we were again. Our little beacon of hope might not make it.
The girls and I reconvened again in the evening to do our final chore run: Costco.
We were leaving Town the next morning and going home with almost everything.
The trip had been such a success in so many ways. The baby was healthy, we all would be showing up to the wedding with clothes on (yahoo!), we had done chores we hadn’t even dreamed of getting done and stayed in beautiful homes. We had bonded and eaten delicious food and seen good friends and…we wouldn’t be returning with our puppy.
Still, fingers permanently crossed, I was hopeful.
Yesterday, as The Chief and I prepared to take our annual Pack Test I suddenly felt like we had news. I checked my phone:
“I don’t want to get your hopes up too high, but I am optimistic about your pup. Part of the treatment is that I force feed them Nutri-Cal every 2 hours. I just went out to do that and he greeted me with tail wagging. First time his tail has wagged in almost a week. I take that as a positive sign. Once he starts eating without being forced we will know that we are in the clear. Should be within 48 hours or so.”
The Chief and I just held one another. It was a good sign. Finally. Our little fluffball was fighting.
Later on that night, exhausted from 4 hours of driving in order to go carry 45 lbs. 3 miles (are we just gluttons for punishment?) we got this:
“He is eating cooked Salmon on his own. Yeah!!!”
“He is eating a lot of it too. I am going to watch him. If he keeps it down that’s an awesome sign.”
Included was a picture of him and his sister:
Still, we weren’t certain. He wasn’t giving us the green light but things were looking up.
This morning, as I sat down to write that I had jumped the gun, I had no sooner gotten that sentence down than I received the following text:
“He has eaten several times now and is running around like a puppy again. I would say that he has it beat.”
The Chief and I cried happy tears for the first time in a long time.
I hope with all my might that I have not jumped the gun again but there was nothing else that I could write about this week and so write about it I did. This is real life. This is what’s happening. It’s the only thing on my mind, the last thing I think of as I go to bed and the first thing I think of in the morning.
Thankfully, this morning, it was with a bit of peace in my heart for our little fluffball fighter.
We love you so much already.
Please send your good thoughts his way. Happy, healthy thoughts sent out to all of you and yours.