Rescue work with dogs makes me grateful every minute of every day.
I'm lucky to meet these resilient and audacious dogs.
I'm lucky enough to have the means and space to run a small sled dog rescue with my partner. We have enjoyed countless hours on a dog sled, the thrill of which is unparalleled, in my view. As a way of paying this love forward we obtain, train, and place dogs from racing kennels into pet homes.
I'm also lucky enough to be connected to people who work in shelters, pounds, and rescues around the continent. These colleagues are hard-working (generally overworked), underpaid, under-appreciated, and absolutely essential to the quality of life of hundreds and hundreds of dogs. There are no thank-you cards big enough.
I am fiercely grateful for our adopters, even those who ended up returning a dog. They have brought a sled dog into the circle of their family. They are loving, they are caring, they ask questions, they go for long walks. And they send pictures.
And finally, I'm grateful for each and every person who inquires about our dogs. Most do not end up adopting a sled dog, because they are just not a good fit. Many of our dogs are not good with cats, they love hard exercise just as much as they love snuggling time, they tend to be a bit 'skittish' or anxious, and they almost always roam, given the chance (oh those sled dog genes... the answer to "should I head north or south" is usually both lots now.) Some people want another dog for their recreational sled dog kennel, and we only place in pet homes. Some are sure we have mislabeled the dogs as Huskies and they want our Border Collie cross or Saluki cross. Some have toy dogs in the home, or cats. Some want an intact dog to have puppies.
But each time an email comes in, it is the start of a conversation where they open themselves up just a tiny bit - a small, breathtaking vulnerability exposed. "I want that dog."
The initial email almost always reads "How much is that dog? When can I pick them up?", but as we get further into our conversation, I come to realize they are saying "my last dog passed away. I'm ready." Or maybe "my husband has been gone five years. I'm ready." Or "I jog by myself at night. I'm ready." Or "I'm 25 now. I'm ready." Often, it's a version of "I'm drawn to the mystique of sled dogs, and I have room in my house and my heart. I'm a bit unsure about the reality." Each email is an opening for me to shine a light on the parts of their lives that make them a good choice for a sled dog home, or not. I am the dog professional in the equation, after all. I do this (I hope) by being the most respectful, gentle, and thoughtful person I can be, no matter their approach. Before I hit send I review my wording with a critical eye. The interaction is inherently unequal because I have the dog and the decision-making power. Any response to an adopter can be read as judgmental despite my intentions. Judging another human is not in my job description, nor is it generally my right. My job is to educate and empathize, just as much as it is to place these sled dogs in the homes that are the best fit for all parties.
So a big thank-you to everyone who asks How Much Is That Doggie In The Rescue. Our interaction might only be a single email, but I welcome the view you give me into your life, however small. It's special and I treasure it. And even if you do not end up with a sled dog, or any dog for that matter, I hope we are both improved by knowing each other.