I always wanted a sled dog. I was just a city kid with an ugly mutt of a dog – who,though sweet, looked more like a wolfhound and a schnauzer had a bad accident than any kind of working sled dog. I just loved them. I loved the idea of having a dog who loved sledding as much as I did.
It was such a weird thing to want. Good dreams fade but they never truly leave you.
In 2009, the dream became reality. In a spur of shear insanity – which most mushers will attest to that’s how these things start – we bought two Alaskan Malamute puppies from a kennel in Oklahoma. Not a mushing kennel. No proven pullling parents. Just a crazy whim of an idea while we raised our 2 year old and – oh yeah – twin infant daughters.
Everyone said we were nuts. We were. No argument there. Who buys alaskan malamute puppies when you have 3 kids under 3? Crazy people.
Ember and Elskan were notorious malamutes. Headstrong. Determined. awkwardly big. Lovable beasts. They taught us a great deal in those early days about sensitive stomachs, puppy life, sibling rivalry, and the absolute joy of snow and the peace that only mushing can bring.
Justin trained them with a bike. With tires. With old and odd sleds. They learned and we learned how this whole mushing life existed. We have so many stories now that we think back and shudder, “what were we thinking?!” (like dude, you started your run inside a garage and prayed the automatic door would go up before they pulled you in to it?!)
Elskan was Justin’s and Ember was mine so of course if either had the other dog as their leader…they would not listen. Only glance back at you and almost snicker at your command.
Not too much longer and we added one more malamute to the mix. Mauki. Another Oklahoma native with no experience…but just as willing and dare I say, more gentle.
Mushing became our family thing. Go mush, make a camp, drink hot chocolate, play in the snow and go home.
It’s not hard to see how it continued to progress. How Eva began to dream her dreams. How the yearly following the Iditarod like people watching the Super Bowl affected our girls. Eva’s dream of running the Jr. Iditarod was entirely fueled by her love for and life with sled dogs.
As the years marched on and Eva began filling the yard with race dogs, the malamutes continued to enjoy their rec runs and hard family pulls. They aged and began to move slower. Mauki developed a very mysterious and random illness that ended his life in 2019. And as we mourned the loss of him, Elskan was diagnosed with congestive heart failure.
We knew this day would come. When the time to say goodbye to such a sweet trailblazer would be at our door. She’s 12. And for malamutes…especially the bigger gals like Elskan…that’s about the time. We have treated her CHF with medicine but ultimately knew that it was only a band aid on a slowly oozing unstoppable wound.
How do we thank her for joining us on this wild and crazy adventure? For being willing (mostly) to obey our weird commands. For helping us raise our daughters. For being that goofy “bull in a China shop” puppy that never grew up.
I think the only thank you is a life full of love.
Elskan is the Icelandic word for sweetheart. And it’s very fitting.
So as we say goodbye to our original trailblazer…and help her twin sister who has always been with her to deal with the loss…we say thank you, Elskan. “Allt er i lagi” (all is ok)
*written by Mama Katt