Princess’s puppies are now seven weeks old, and it is time for them to separate from Mom. Henry put them all in the heat pen a few days ago. They are not quite sure they like being contained, and the more enterprising of the youngsters is trying to find a way to squeeze out to freedom. Every time the gate is opened, they come running to try to jump out. The leaping, yapping storm of puppies makes it hard to step into the pen without squashing little paws.
The first night without Mom was pretty tough. Henry said they cried and whined all night long. Princess was at her house just outside the pen, and spent much of the night running in circles at the end of her chain, distressed by her puppies’ cries. Henry said if she was out of the yard, they would all settle down to their new life more quickly. And he has decided not to use her on the team this coming season.
I always said that when it was time for her to retire, Princess would have a warm sleeping spot near the stove for the rest of her days. I was thinking that would be a few years away just yet, but no matter. Henry wanted me to take her now.
Princess is eight years old, and has lived her entire life as a working sled dog in a large dog yard. She is not a pet. She is not housebroken; in fact, she has only been inside the house a few times in her life. She comes from many generations of top sled dogs, and that is the life she knows. Making the transition to a house dog is not necessarily an easy one.
Dutch and I moved a dog house and chain for her, right next to Bear’s outside spot. Bear and Pepper have both known Princess forever, and there was no raising of hackles or growling when she arrived. She likes her new dog house and perched on top quietly while Dutch and I did yard chores yesterday.
The big test was bringing her into the house for the night. The new environment had her on edge, and she paced constantly for several hours. Upstairs and down, in and out of every room, panting nervously, she made continuous loops of the house. After each loop she came and put her head in my lap for reassuring strokes. Eventually she calmed down, and by bedtime she was physically quiet and not panting. All three dogs slept on the bedroom floor without incident.
And no messes! Quite amazingly, she has yet to piddle or poop in the house. She watches Bear and Pepper, and is quickly learning the dog routines. And she stays right at my feet much of the time--when she is not pacing, which she still does when she comes in from outside.
There is a wildness in her that is very different from pet dogs. She moves with a springing, wolf-like gait that can cover miles of terrain effortlessly. She looks very much like a small gray wolf, and has a restless, wolfish energy. She is tightly muscled, and has a slightly rounded rib cage that allows for large lung capacity.
And always she watches. The four of us are her new pack, and she is seeking her place within it. It is a joy to have her with us.
Photos by Dutch and The Tundra PA.
Labels: Dog Mushing