...we were shocked at his condition. He was in rough shape, very thin with a malnourished coat.
Working in rescue we have seen a lot of interesting cases over the years and while no two are exactly alike they all share a common thread, the dogs in need.
When the call came in to help a dog in a remote village of Alaska we were not sure what we were getting in to. All we had was one hazy photo and the information that he was six months old. His owner deemed him unfit as a sled dog but we knew at six months it is very unwise to gauge a dogs worth. Many dont even begin to show their potential for two years!
When Remus arrived we were shocked at his condition. He was in rough shape, very thin with a malnourished coat. His leggy appearance showed his young age but he was such a mess we had no idea what this boy could become.
As he grew older, changed his coat for a shiny new one and put on some weight it was time for the big test. Our main team had already been worked up to a few miles and there was just enough snow to stop the sled safely. It was time for Remus to try on a new harness and see how he liked pulling a sled.
Even though he had filled out since his arrival his legs were still a challenge when it came to wearing a harness. After pulling it over his head and teaching him how to bend his legs into the straps we were nearly ready to go. Hooking him to the line was a snap but he was so excited he wouldn't stop moving.
Making sure the old timers were set in their lines and pointing the right direction we took a deep breath, hoped for the best and pulled the snub line. Off the team flew with only a few missteps, a couple of glances back for reassurance and then all fell into a smooth rhythm. It only took an eighth of a mile for Remus to understand his job, lean into his harness and embrace the joys of being a sled dog. His mind was made for mushing as those long legs were finally put to work in the proper way.
On his dog house he was still ungainly, even around the yard he looked a mess but with that harness on and a little weight behind him he transformed into poetry. His gait was smooth as silk running over the ground as if he had wings, his paws seeming to barely touch the snow. While all the other dogs were low to the ground racing at a gallop Remus found his effortless slow trot to be more than enough to keep up with their pace.
In all our years of mushing we have never seen one so fluid, so strong, with a gait that could easily travel for miles and miles at a stretch while barely feeling the fatigue of the trail. On that day we knew this guy would have an easy adoption but we soon discovered Remus had other plans. After our third potential adopter came to the kennel to see him it was clear his reaction towards strangers was not going to change. He was terrified of new people and clung to our sides when ever someone he didn't know was near.
Years later, his terrified reaction to strangers had not changed and he inevitably became ingrained into the Sanctuary. To this day he is an outstanding star in our small corner of the mushing world and we have not had the pleasure of running a dog his equal.
As mushers we are lucky if we have the pleasure of knowing a dog like him once in our lifetime. Often we think of how the decision to take in this scruffy pup changed our lives forever and as the other dogs worked with him on the trail we could see the team improve through his influence. The world is a better place because of the chances we take and often times our lives, and the lives of others, are enriched in ways beyond measure because of it.
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You can read more about Remus in the January/February issue (2013) of Mushing Magazine...