Kristina is a parent of two, writer, remote worker, and volunteer. In her spare time, she enjoys nature, trying new things, and lots of DIY.
“Let’s go, Blizzard!” my kids exclaimed, as they pulled on their warm stocking hats. They opened the door and ran into the backyard, with our dog trailing right on their heels. I quickly pulled on my gloves and followed, stopping to grab the plastic sled on my way. It had snowed the night before, and a fresh layer blanketed the yard. It was a perfect winter day; just a nip at the nose, and the snow glittered in the sun. The kids dashed through the yard leaving little footprints, while Blizzard raced around, dipping his nose into the cold powder. I tied a rope to the sled and attached the other end to the dog's harness. The kids were little and light, just preschool age. “Let’s take turns,” I said. “Who wants to take the first ride?”
Blizzard is our blue-eyed husky. My husband and I found him at the Humane Society several years before we had kids. Nobody knew his exact age, but the shelter staff thought he was about two years old. Blizzard had a rough beginning to life. Before we found him, he lived in an animal hoarding situation. The owner had been reported, and the dogs rescued and taken to the Humane Society. Before we could bring Blizzard home, our house needed to be inspected, and we had to sign that we didn’t know the previous owner. The staff did everything possible to ensure these dogs would go to a safe home.
Two years of neglect had taken a toll on Blizzard. His ears were not pointy and straight anymore. Instead, they were knotted and lumpy on the ends. The dogs had been crowded into a small outdoor kennel, unprotected from the elements, and they had to fight over territory and food. His ears may have been damaged from the fighting, or from biting fleas. Either way, he came to us scared and defensive. We gave him a comfortable space all to himself, and he had a fenced in yard to roam. When it came to feeding, at first we had to be very careful. Blizzard was very territorial about his food, so if we came too close he would warn us with a low growl. My husband worked slowly with him and over time he was able to inch closer to the food bowl. We were patient and didn’t push. Eventually Blizzard grew to trust us and others.
Fast forward to that winter day, and we have a happy, well-adjusted dog, who loves to pull and nap in the snow. As Blizzard was playing in the snow, the kids were waiting by the sled ready to take their rides. After the leash was hooked up, I called him over and put on his harness. The kids chose who got to go first, then one little boy climbed into the sled and off we went! Blizzard pulled the sled, and created a circular track around the yard. The kids squealed with delight, while I laughed and helped guide the sled through the powdery snow. We made several laps, then one little boy tumbled out and the other tumbled in. After the sled rides, we made hot chocolate and gave Blizzard a dog treat and lots of pets. He ran off, happily chewing his bone and lay down in the fresh snow.
Blizzard is now about 12 years old and hasn’t pulled a sled for several years. He still likes to take short walks, but his hips hurt. It’s getting harder for him to get in the car or up the stairs. The kids are older now too, and they help take care of him. They'll feed and brush him, and give him loads of attention. As I watch them, I realize their roles have reversed. Blizzard used to be the strong one; pulling the sled confidently and with ease, as the kids grew through their smaller years. Now, the kids are rambunctious and strong, as Blizzard nears his more vulnerable golden years. Science is not yet clear on what dogs can remember from their past, but if they do recall any long-term memories or emotions, I hope that Blizzard’s are from his time with us, pulling joyful children along the track in the snowy yard.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2022 Kristina BH