...we knew we would have to do something or he would starve.
When Orion was born he was just like his siblings healthy and happy nursing away on their mother. As they grew older and the time grew near to start the weaning process we gradually worked each pup up to knowing the new taste of softened kibble. While all his brothers and sisters took to the new food with excitement Orion was hesitant to catch on.
Since his mother was still producing milk for the litter it wasn't an issue that he wasn't taking to the new food, but while the others grew fat on the extra nutrition Orion was slowly falling behind the curve. When his mother's milk started drying up we knew we would have to do something or he would starve. Taking him away from his mother and bottle feeding him was the only option.
At first he would only drink milk from a bottle but even then it was tough to get down. He saw no connection in the new taste and nutrition he needed, but after multiple tries day after day he was finally hungry enough to fill his belly. From that moment on we knew he was going to be fine. We started adding softened kibble to his milk and spoon fed him for a few more days before he got the idea that he could feed himself straight out of the bowl. Even on his own eating was a slow process but since there was no competition from his siblings he always had time to get as much food as he needed.
Due to his new feeding schedule he quickly gained strength and grew into a rampaging little puppy tearing up the house. Toys were scattered all around to keep him occupied but his mischievousness kept getting him into trouble. Luckily it was slowly turning into summer and many building projects were started that allowed Orion lots of outside supervised time.
At first we worried that he might wander and get into trouble somewhere out in the woods but after a few days outside his desire to go no farther than the end of the driveway or too far from the house was clear. Some days he would become 'lost' and wouldn't come when called. This required us to search his favorite hiding places where we would always find him curled up sleeping away fully content somewhere between the house and kennel.
As Orion grew his coat filled out into one of the thickest in the dog yard. This came as a big surprise to us since, when he was young, he barely had any coat at all. Seeing him now as a happy healthy adult we are so thankful he made it through those tough puppy days.
This winter Orion tried his paws at mushing and LOVES to pull in his harness. We were so thrilled to see his excitement his first time out. All he wanted to do was run down the trail helping pull the sled. He was so cued into us that when his line slacked off we would encourage him from the back and as soon as he heard our voice off he went pulling steadily on his tug line. This type of desire to be a teammate is very sought after in sled dogs.
Operating the Sanctuary and welcoming in dogs who have this desire to pull is often a 50/50 chance. As a result we inevitably have a few 'tourists' working in the team who love to go along and see the countryside but who don't like to work. Having dogs like Orion taking up the slack means that everyone can go along doing the job they love, whether as a tourist or as a team player, as the sled moves steadily down the trail.
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Read more about Orion in the July/August (2013) issue of Mushing Magazine