Saturday, November 19, 2011

Brrrr! And... the reality of aging huskies

We've been buckled down under a cold snap... the coldest temp I'd ever seen at my current home: -45F! But anyway, I had another post up my sleeve regarding Autumn's time on them lam, so here it is...

Autumn and Linden, the World's Most Perfect Dogs, have only two flaws. One is that they have horrible leash manners, and the other is that from time to time they run off. They are traffic smart and direction smart, and in our rural area, there are relatively few hazards, and most people like dogs and would not harm a loose one that's just passing by. Nevertheless, I worry when they run off, and wring my hands for the half hour to several hours it takes for them to get bored with their adventure and come on home. This generally happens about three times a year. Considering that they escort me everywhere, it's a relatively low rate, and each time, it's still a surprise. I'll be working in the yard, or whatever, and suddenly--FOOM!--they are bolting across our land and onto the trail.

Last Wednesday evening, they did it when they went out to escort me to put something on the porch for recycling. I, horrified, hollered after them. Linden came back; Autumn did not. Again, I didn't think anything of it; just figured I'd have to wait it out per usual.

She wasn't back by the end of the night. I went out at one point, and saw her in the yard. What a relief! I called her, and she looked at me and--get this--dashed away like a feral dog. WTF? I would have sworn she didn't recognize me.

The next morning, she still hadn't returned. V was over, and we had spent the night on the couch, so we could listen for her paws hitting the porch, as the girls' do when they come home. Nothing.

By this time I was beside myself, and decided to take Linden for our regular run, hopping that Autumn would see us and join us. Again, nothing. Later that day, neighbors began calling, as they spotted her here and there. Snow fell lightly that whole day, so it was easy to track where she had gone and when... I finally deduced that she wasn't leaving the immediate area; she just wasn't coming home! V's sister, F, who lives across the street, spotted her as she got off the school bus that afternoon. V's sister is a regular dog whisperer, and she is probably Autumn's second favorite person, behind me. Autumn also behaved as if she didn't know her, and she was frightened of her. She ran off! I spotted her again that night, but again, she ran off.

My dogs have a family history of seizures. Their mom, their grandma, and one of their sisters got them when they got old. When they came back from their seizures, they didn't recognize their people or their surroundings for maybe an hour. As best I can figure, Autumn must have seen or done something that triggered a seizure, and didn't recognize F or V or me.

Finally, her dinnertime came around, and it was my great hope. By this time, it was Thursday evening, she had been on the lam for close to 24 hours, and I didn't know if she'd ever be mine again, or she'd turn into some feral dog. Knowing how food-motivated she is, I put her dinner on the porch, figuring that when she jumped up for it, I'd hear her and open the door, and she'd come in. No such luck. She crept onto the porch in silence--I didn't know she was there until I heard her crunching her kibble. When I opened the door, she again ran away!

I figured at this point that chasing her was no good, so I called around to ask where I could borrow a live trap. For future reference, the local animal shelter loans them out. But the next day was a holiday, then a weekend followed, and I was quite anxious to catch Autumn before Monday, four days later! I also called everyone else who knew and loved her--her former family, Dan, who now lives in Wyoming, M, C--to see if they had any input. While I was on the phone with Dan, I heard a familiar thud on the porch. Then a familiar scratching at the door with a paw. I opened the door, and there was Autumn, having walked right past what was left of her supper and acting like the previous 26 hours hadn't happened.

I'm utterly baffled, but I was so happy I started crying. Dan, overhearing this, must think I am insane and must be very happy indeed to be rid of me! :)

Anyway, the conclusion of all of this is that the girls are now 12, and since they are super-athletic huskies, I do know that their minds will go before their bodies do. I cannot emotionally afford another incident like this, so the girls will not be allowed off-leash outside any more. I won't even ski with them loose. From now on, it's skijoring all the way. I'm sad that I will never again witness this sort of joyous abandon from them, but them's the breaks.

Autumn is acting completely like her old self again, but even if she loses her mind and can't look after me the way she used to, it's okay. It's sad, but it's okay. She's taken care of me for four years, through multiple homes and relationships, happiness and heartbreak. I can take care of her for what time she has left, however that time may be.


mdr said...

Autumn might just want to run away for a while to prove her own individualism because you treat her like a puppy while she is turning into an old dog?!

bt said...

My dad chose to suffer with his dogs as they aged, accepting the inconveniences they created. Today, on his birthday, your post reminds me that we are friends for more reasons than I can understand. We share more than either of us will likely ever understand. I'm very pleased your Autumn is back for the time being. Love you.

Rena said...

so what will you do next time when she does this? Chances are this will happen again, right?

Debs said...

I'm sorry to hear about Autumn's little trip. It must have been a huge worry. Do you think they'll miss running free, or are they not so bothered know they're older?

Arvay said...

This won't happen again as neither of the dogs is allowed outside loose any more! As for her (or their) indoor behavior, I'll just keep an eye on it, and if I see any signs of danger to themselves, each other, or humans, I'll have to have them put down. But if all they are is seizure-y and frightened, they are welcome to live out their lives with me as long as they like. :)

But I haven't seen any signs of acute seizure in either of them; Autumn shows the mild signs (sitting and twitching), but as I've said, that's fine by me. She's as loving and devoted as if that whole episode had never happened.

Arvay said...

@Debs, they never really did run free until they were with me, so while I'm sure they are sad not to be able to do so, it's more of a typical sled dog's lot in life. :/