When I was just getting started in mushing I was offered the opportunity to add a trained gee-haw Siberian Husky lead dog to my household. Dee was a veteran of many races including a couple hundred mile ones. Her team was now outrunning her, but she wasn't quite ready to just stay home and train puppies. In the middle of a blizzard Dee left her dog house in New York to get on a plane and fly to balmy California to join our pack. Calm and dignified as always, Dee looked confused but simply accepted the idea of hanging out on the couch and sleeping on the bed - though she never quite figured out that sleeping on the top of the coffee table is not the same as doing so on the top of a dog house (and I never had the heart to tell her).
Dee taught me far more about running dogs than any person, and she played a huge part in training all my other dogs. As the matriarch of our little pack she raised my pups with a gentle but firm paw, helping them learn and grow into well balanced adults. In a home of Malamutes and Jindos, having a dog who would calmly walk away from and avoid a fight at all costs was an amazing concept. Dee was the dog I could put with anyone, anytime, anywhere. In harness she would just quietly go about the business of showing what being a sled dog was all about. And over the years Dee showed something like 100 other dogs the ropes, introducing many people and their dogs to the sport. She also helped to socialize and evaluate a never ending string of foster Jindos (with a few mals and sibes thrown in for good measure).
Though it wasn't her choice, Dee retired at age 15 and did not run with the team her last winter. Her spirit was willing, but age was quietly taking its toll. Never sick at all (her bloodwork was what would be expected from a dog half her age), never the less she was slowing down. The end took us all by surprise when suddenly she let me know she wasn’t feeling well and tests showed complete renal failure. That last afternoon I asked Dee if she'd like to go for a run and in spite of having trouble standing she danced and wooo'd as best she could. So on her harness went and we loaded up just as we have done for hundreds of runs over the years. My wonderful vet met us on the grass behind his clinic under a lovely tree in the shade, and with a quiet wooo and a happy tail thump Dee traded her red harness for a silver one.