...as she grew older and lost her hearing she still remained precious to us.
Maude was elderly and very skinny when we pulled her into rescue. Her condition was so poor that we knew it would take some time getting her back on her feet. As she gained weight we scheduled her first appointment with the vet to have her teeth looked at. They were also in rough shape but we never realized how bad. The vet had no choice but to leave only enough to chew her food.
But despite all she had been through Maude kept the same upbeat spirit, always ready for a hug and never stopped delighting at the sight of her harness. Since her age already slowed her down on the trail she was perfect in a team with new mushers just learning the ropes. Maude would pull with all her strength but since she didn't have the full drive of a young dog she was more than happy to stop when she was told.
As we ran her we moved her around in the team and quickly realized that she was a born leader and most likely had led in her previous home. She would take commands well, hold the line tight and even had great patience for those up and coming still learning the ropes.
It was a beautiful sight watching her lead the team but also sad to think what may have been in her past. With such skill she must have been highly valued as a sled dog, perhaps sold to other mushers, a real asset to a team. Now, well into her twilight years, her assets were forgotten, overshadowed by her advancing age.
But to us she remained a wonder. Even as she grew older and lost her hearing she still remained precious to us. At feeding time we often would have to wake her up by gently knocking on her dog house so she didn't miss her favorite part of the day. She was so sweet and gentle right up until the very end.
We never did know how old Maude was when she came to us but we were fortunate to spend many years with her. We guessed that she must have been somewhere around fifteen or sixteen years old when a stroke affected her so badly that she couldn't stand on her own. We had hoped that she would pass quietly away in her sleep but after the stroke, when her quality of life became so much less, we knew we had to help her pass on.
She passed peacefully away here at the Sanctuary and is buried out in the 'puppy garden' with the rest of her teammates who have passed on before her. Every year we think of this dear gentle girl and remember how great sled dogs can be. No matter how old they become they still retain their spark, it is still there buried just below the surface of age...
You can read more about Maude in the March/April issue (2014) of Mushing Magazine.