Sweaty palms, racing heart, confusion, urgency and utter chaos – this is what it feels like when a sled dog gets “loose” – a wave of panic I had the pleasure of enjoying (I say sarcastically) for myself for the first time just recently. For those of you who are new readers let me digress just a bit.
The NHSDRHEC is a rescue and educational nonprofit organization located in Jefferson, NH (aka “The Grand North”). Our mission (in addition to educating the public about northern breed dogs and the dog sledding history of NH) is to provide rescue and second chance sled dogs with a home and job either for life or until they find the perfect family. One of these dogs is Tundra. Tundra is one of our newest rescues having just arrived in July. She was one of 37 sled dogs that were seized from a very bad situation in Canada (think emaciated dogs with inadequate food, water and shelter). At the ripe old age of approximately two life as Tundra knew it consisted of fear, boredom, neglect and avoidance. Given Tundra’s painfully shy and fearful nature and small stature (35lbs) we knew that she would need extra care and time to adjust to a better quality of life … which is how she came to live with me her two-legged “foster-mom” and ultimately getting loose which brings us back to the main story …
So it was a Tuesday night as I was getting ready for bed that I received the frantic news, “she’s loose! Tundra’s loose! Hurry up” my boyfriend shouted. “How” I practically screamed back as I ran down the stairs in my PJs, slippers and face-wash. (This is when the sweaty palms, racing heart etc sat in). “The leash got stuck in the door and when I opened it to get it unstuck she snuck out” he exclaimed exasperated.
Anyone who has ever owned a northern breed dog knows that they are opportunist and will take full advantage of any opportunity to run and/or bolt. This a very bad situation even under the best of circumstances … let alone when the dog hardly knows you, is in a new environment and fears everything around her.
As I reached the bottom of the first outdoor step I began cooing “Tundra … come here girl … come on … time to go inside.” I don’t know if it was the despair in my voice or bond that we had established in our short three weeks together but Tundra come charging out of the darkness happy as a clam! She proceeded to happily leap and playful crouch within reaching distance. It was as if she was saying “look at me, I not on a leash wanna frolic in the wet evening grass” and with that I swiftly hitched her leash to her harness, petted her on the head and happily went inside where we both laid on the bed and went to sleep (may I note that she fell asleep much quicker – probably due to the fact that she wasn’t experiencing an panic induced adrenaline rush).
Fortunately, for me and Tundra this story had a safe, happy and rather quick ending. The number one problem rescuing (and rehoming) dogs – especially sled dogs – is that if the new owner/family loses the pup the canine has no knowledge of their area or any reason to go back. This is why all of our rescue and timid sled dogs wear “Ruff Wear Webmaster” harnesses. These harnesses prevent them from backing out (i.e.: “slipping their collar”) just don’t get the leash stuck in the door! To try and prevent situations like mine we discuss this major concern and the proper safety measures to take with new adopter and foster homes.