Baby dog. Little nose. Little dog. These are a couple of the nicknames I have for Denali. She is neither a baby nor little. Likewise, out of the many noses in the canine kingdom, hers is not little. However, these names started when she was a baby and little, when her nose was small, so that’s what I call her.
Denali’s mom was found pregnant on the side of the road in northern Indiana in the spring of 2008. Someone gave me a tip that soon there would be a litter of husky pups listed on the Northern Lights Sled Dog rescue page. After traveling to Alaska a few years prior, I really wanted a husky! So, I stalked the website and as soon as the puppies were listed I made my choice. Denali (her original name was Christina – the litter was named after Grey’s Anatomy characters) was the runt of her litter and she looked really angry because of the markings on her face. I knew this one was for me! She had spunk and character…little did I know!
Denali is a stubborn dog. She has her own opinions about things and isn’t afraid to let you know what she thinks. Her instincts tell her to run – safety is not her first concern. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone searching for this dog. My mind would always go to the worst ending, but here she is right now lying on the floor next to my chair. She always makes it back home.
I remember when the woman came for a home visit – to make sure my home was suitable for a husky – she asked if I liked my flowers. She told me not to get too attached because huskies love to dig and flowerbeds are the perfect place for that. She was right. It soon became apparent that I would have to focus on the front yard for my bulbs and hostas as she destroyed most of what I had going in the backyard. As a puppy she would lie down next to a shrub and just chew on the branches. The first couple years I had her I didn’t get a real Christmas tree because I was afraid she would eat it. Cayenne powder didn’t deter this one – she just thanked me for the extra seasoning!
Not only have I rescued her from her instincts, she has also rescued me from mine. After two bad break ups I wanted to wallow in self-pity, keep the curtains closed and shut myself off from the world. Denali wouldn’t let me. That “little” nose of hers is very strong and is very good at nudging. Nudging to the point that I couldn’t ignore her push to get outside and take her for a walk. During those difficult days, Denali and I would walk and walk and walk. We walked until I felt stronger and more confident. She knew what I needed and helped me heal in the only way she knew.
Even it though it frustrates my husband that Denali doesn’t listen particularly well, I love it! Yes, it would be much better if she would come when we called her name instead of running all over the neighborhood. Yes, it would be much better if she didn’t fight the harness each time we want to go on a walk. I agree – these are annoying traits. But it’s also so cute! She’s her own being. She knows what she does and doesn’t want. So, when she talks back and protests about one leash (the one with the harness) and not the other, I know it’s because she knows the harness keeps her from pulling when the other one doesn’t. She’s smart. I like that about her.
She holds a grudge. When I’ve been gone for a week, she’s so happy when I get back home. But then she remembers that she’s mad at me for being gone and ignores me for a while. She has a very good memory. If she spots the random cat in our neighborhood in the flowerbed one morning, she will look for that cat every time we go outside for weeks. She cares what others think. When a siren goes by, Denali lets out loud, mournful howls. However, if we are outside or at the dog park or if there is another dog with us, she doesn’t. She may let a tiny little moan escape, but no howling in front of people outside the family. I think she’s embarrassed. She is a sweet dog. She knows when it’s okay to play rough (with Brad or my father-in-law) and when it’s time to calm down (with any child). She remembers people and is so excited when they come to visit even if it’s been a long time. Of course, she loves anyone to come visit, but there’s a different excitement in her sounds and movements when it’s someone she knows and loves.
The other day I was explaining my theory of dogs to Brad – they are little people wrapped in fur. He didn’t agree. Whatever. He just hasn’t learned their secret yet. It’s true though. Perhaps I anthropomorphize animals a bit, but there is a reason humans want them as companions. I believe Denali and I were meant for each other. I was in a relationship when she came home with me. The form asked – if your relationship ends, who gets her? I thought that was so rude! Of course this relationship won’t end! Haha, joke’s on me. But, my name was written on that line, and even if the question hadn’t been asked, it was obvious. Denali was and always will be my baby dog.
She’s getting older, of course. She turned 8 in May. Two years ago her leg was bothering her to the point that she couldn’t run with me for almost a year. Between a little weight loss and a daily arthritis treat, she’s back to normal – no more limping and back to running like a husky. That did scare me though and reminded me of her mortality. I hate to be reminded of anyone’s mortality, including Denali’s. Even though I’ve been told she’s no longer a baby, she will always be my Baby Dog.