May 5, 2002 - March 17, 2016
She was a tireless worker, our best friend and by far our best teacher...
Hera came to us much the same way Juno had, through a nondescript ad posted on a bulletin board. At the time we were looking for dogs of large size (a rarity in these days of small fast racing dogs) to help fill out our dog team. Running with large dogs has its advantages. Not only can fewer dogs be worked effectively but time is saved by having fewer to care for, especially if booties need to be applied on a rough trail. Fewer dogs equals fewer feet!
In Hera's case caring for her feet was never an issue. She had come from a long line of proven, tough trail dogs who could run for miles on end, grow a coat of the densest fur and tackle any terrain no matter how deep the snow or how dense the brush.
As Hera grew she proved to be every bit as tough as her ancestors, and maybe even tougher still. In her puppy and 'teen' years she loved every one of the dogs in the kennel and literally bowed down to greet every one of them. But as she grew older and matured, her needs changed and she desired not only to be one of the dogs in the kennel but 'the' dog, the TOP dog. This resulted in many fights and disagreements among her former friends and severed the loving close friendship she shared with her sister Gemini for so very long.
Through our struggles with Hera and our efforts to maintain peace in the kennel we learned so much about dog behavior and through it all, no matter which dog she was mad at, or how hard it was to curb her behavior, at the end of the day she always was a sweetheart to us and never lashed out in our direction. She respected our authority absolutely.
Over time Hera allowed us to perfect our reading of dog language even more when her signs of aggression became more subtle. We have no doubt that if she had lived in the household of a casual dog owner her fate would have been sealed, given up immediately, sent to the local pound or euthanized right there and then.
For us, giving up was never an option, what we had with her was an opportunity to learn and grow. Through this steadfast resolve to see her through all the mental changes she was going through we gained a priceless amount of knowledge that we utilize every day in evaluating new dogs who come into the Sanctuary. To this day Hera remains one of our greatest teachers.
Over time we learned a secret about Hera, she had an incredible soft spot in her heart for male dogs. Even though we knew she could never be fully trusted around another female we saw her form many long lasting friendships with the males around her.
When Remus came into the Sanctuary it was love at first sight. He wasted no time not only in making friends with Hera, but proved to be her most reliable trail partner, the two matching strength for strength working steadily, side by side, mile after mile.
Even though Remus was still a gangling pup working through goofy adolescence, Hera found a wealth of patience for him that we never knew she had within. Remus' favorite thing to do as soon as the sled stopped is to flop down in the snow, roll to his hearts content and if Hera was standing or sitting, plant all four feet on her side pushing off to get absolutely every ounce of rub a good roll would bring. Through it all Hera barely made a sound, took it all in stride and we saw, without a doubt, she had truly found a place she could fit in.
Hera passed away peacefully in her sleep at almost fourteen years old. In all the years we shared together she taught us more about rehabilitating sled dogs than we could possibly explain. It is through her that we have became better dog trainers, communicators and listeners. We have no words to describe what it means to loose her. She was a tireless worker, our best friend and by far our best teacher. We miss you Hera, more than you will ever know...