Our dog Yukon died this week. He was born in 1999 and joined our family soon afterwards. Yukon was a pure Siberian Husky – his mother, Nanook, was a family pet from the area and his father Anori, which means ‘with the wind’, was from the far north.
Yukon was very much a part of our family. He was right alongside most of our children as they grew up. I’ll never forget the first day we got him: we didn’t tell the children we were getting a puppy. When they got off the school bus, we were there waiting for them with Yukon. They were beyond ecstatic! Yukon loved the snow and cold. Often he could hear small creatures under the snow or ice in the ditch and would dig furiously to find them. Right up until the end, he went outside and made ‘doggy snow angels’ in the snow, rolling around like a little puppy.
I have to admit that I didn’t really want another dog. Our old pup Dusty passed at 15 years old, just a few years before. I said to Chris that we’d never, ever find another dog as good as Dusty so I didn’t want to get another dog. I had one other dog growing up, Lady, a beagle- dalmation mix who lived for 12+ years. My dogs lived a LONG time so it was a big commitment. Chris told me sadly that he was never allowed a pet while growing up – he never had a dog or a cat to care for. I caved and we bought Yukon.
When Yukon was a puppy, he was really a free spirit. He had difficulty listening to us and would wander off and ignore us when we called him back. It took us almost 3 years to get him to listen to us. Overnight, we would keep him in the kitchen, blocked off with our coffee table turned on its side – we still have the teeth marks where Yukon chewed on the leg. I don’t recall him chewing shoes or boots though. We thought that our new dog would eat all the leftovers from the children just like Dusty but Yukon could not digest human food well at all. After about 8-9 years, he began to eat small amounts of leftover meat and then almost anything eventually.
puppy Yukon and Marty
Yukon loved other dogs and cats too. He was a mentor to the neighbourhood dogs like Oreo, Rusty, Lucy, Cody, and cousin Skye. When Oreo and Skye were puppies, Yukon laid down and let them climb over him and nip his nose and paws like a good big brother. When we had neighbourhood parties, the dogs would all play together as much as the children and adults. We bought a hand crafted Dog Sled assuming that he would gladly pull the children in the snow but Yukon was not a sled dog and he’d rather have been ON the sled with the kids rather than pulling it. Chris would have to lead him and run with him while he was pulling each child – what a site!
He loved to go for walks. When he was younger, we walked every night at 6 p.m. down the road, past the farm and fields to the turn-around. We would let Yukon off his leash after the farm so he could sniff till his heart’s content. Once he spotted deer in the field and took off after them but amazingly came back when we called him. He loved those walks.
Yukon did not like water. When he was only a few years old, he met up with a skunk and had to be washed with tomato juice and hosed off. His fur was very unique because it never soaked up water – liquid just rolled off. I think Huskies have fur with little air pockets in each strand to keep them warm in the far north and they have some kind of water-repelling coating on them. He never went playing in the river like other dogs – he’d just go up to his knees, that’s it. He used to try to sneak away to visit his friends down the pebbled edge of the river when the water level was lowered in the fall.
He always looked clean too. Yukon would grow a winter coat of soft fuzzy fur. This would come out in the spring – all over the mudroom floor! We bought a horse brush to use on him since dog brushes were ineffective. It took until June or July for him to lose all his winter coat and he’d look half his size. I would use the brushed fur as mulch in my garden because it matted down thickly and never decomposed.
Chris and Yukon together again
The past few years have been tough for Yukon. He couldn’t tolerate the heat and humidity like he use to so we’d make him stay in the house or garage where it was cooler. Only this winter, was the cold too much for him. We’ve have weeks and weeks of Extreme Cold Warnings and Frostbite Advisories. Yukon still wanted to go out back to his ‘spot’ and lay down like he always used to love doing. But he didn’t grow his warm winter coat this year. On these really cold days, I would only let him stay outside for 15 minutes up to 2 hours depending on how cold it was. He must have been getting deaf too because he wouldn’t hear me call him in or maybe he just didn’t want to come inside. I’d have to get all my winter gear on and walk down his path and make him slowly stand up and come up to the house with me – every single time this winter. He’s been sleeping on his bed out in the mudroom where it’s cooler for years but this winter we brought him into the kitchen. I think he liked being closer to us anyway even though we had a glass door to the mudroom that he could look through. After Taylor moved back to the city, I took him for walks along our road several times a day. On his last morning, he walked as normally as he always did, sniffing other doggy smells and marking his spots. In the afternoon, he suddenly started to stagger and collapsed.
We’ve been pretty shaken by his passing. Yukon was a treasured member of our family. Today I went outside to empty the woodstove ash bucket and saw his footprints in his path in the back yard. I started to cry and took a photo before the wind obliterates it with snow forever.
Yukon’s backyard path
Rest in peace Yukon. You will be missed.