Monday, 1 August 2016

Husky sitting weekend

When we got back from Chile, we discovered that a new neighbour had moved into the house across the road. And the way we knew this is because he has a husky that howls the moment he leaves for work. I went over the introduce myself to the husky and, through the gate, met a sweet and affectionate boy. We looked into each other's eyes... and the connection was there. The next evening I caught his owner and told him about the howling. Loud and long and so very sorrowful.

I asked if I could take the dog for a run - and a few evenings later I did. I just had him on a lead in my hand - that's hard work. When I took him out the next week, I had him clipped on my climbing harness for hands-free running. We both loved it.

My husky friend is named Kiska. He is named for an island in the Beiring Sea, part of the Aleutian Islands, which belong to Alaska. I thought he looked quite young, but he is 12 years old. Huskies have a life expectancy of 12 to 14 years. He is full of beans and is in great shape, despite having a very sedentary existence in a tiny front yard. He is a bit skinny.

On Friday evening I headed over to my neighbour across the road, to ask if I could fetch him early Saturday morning to take him to parkrun. His dad um-ed and ah-ed as he was heading to Jo'burg at 8am for his son's wedding - and he would be gone the whole weekend.

"And Kiska," I asked.

He replied that Kiska would be staying at home, alone.

I immediately got to work to convince him to let me look after Kiska for the weekend. I would fetch him at 07h40 and the dog would stay with me, sleeping over on Saturday night. Although he was uncertain, he relented.

The next morning I fetched Kiska and his goodies and we went off to parkrun.

Kiska's dad had been concerned about his interaction with other dogs at parkrun. My friend had her dog there and there was another little thing - like a doberman pincher. I kept Kiska separate at the start, knowing that once he was in running mode he would probably ignore everything else, which is what he'd done on our two previous runs.

He was a star! He ran beautifully. We did a few stops to sniff things and a few other stops to pee on trees and for the rest he didn't pay the other people nor the other dogs much attention.

Contrary to popular belief, one is not necessarily faster being hauled by a dog at parkrun. I clocked almost three-minutes slower than my normal time. But it was so much more fun with a doggy companion.

After breakfast (Kiska didn't eat any of his crunchies), Kiska and I hooked up with my mom. Mom and I will be walking a section of the Camino route in Spain in late October. Mom has been walking training for a few weeks and we'd decided to do a long walk together. Our plan was to walk to the Parys airfield (5km outside of town) and back. There's a dirt road that runs parallel to the main R59 road and the airfield has a restaurant for refreshments.

Off we went. It was a lovely there-and-back walk and Kiska got to see cows and planes.

At 12 years old, he isn't a puppy, so I am quite conscious of not working him too hard. Where I try to hold him back, he just wants to go-go-go!

On the way back I stopped to get him some bones and we headed home. He was still wired from the walk so it took him a while to settle down and to lie down next to me on the grass.

A neighbour lent me one of those plastic shells and I put Kiska's sleeping bag in it. He sleeps outside at his home so I made a nice sheltered bed for him outside the kitchen door with the shell and sleeping bag and he settled into it.

For Play Day #2, Kiska was in for an adventure. I was meeting up with two orienteering friends, Ian and Glen, to show them the area for the rogaining event in September. It's a property on the far end of the Forest Run route. Should I take Kiska? I decided to give it a shot. He isn't allowed off the lead so there wasn't any trouble he could get into.

I was a bit worried that this skinny boy hadn't eaten much of his dog food crunchies. I mixed in some gravy from Saturday night's dinner and he gobbled up everything I gave him for breakfast. I packed in another helping for lunch as well as a bowl and bottles of water for him.

Off we went.

He was such a star! From riding in Ian's car to standing around with us, riding on the back of a bakkie and running on the Forest Run route. What a day for him! He gobbled up his lunch and an 'afternoon tea' serving when we got back.

Just as we were getting back, his dad returned. I kept Kiska for a while longer and then returned him.

I think he thoroughly enjoyed his weekend. It was a great one for me too.

I got a message Sunday evening from a dear friend. She writes:
"I was wondering whether you might need another running friend this weekend? I don't mind driving in the back of a bakkie or eating rice and gravy!" 

Kiska has been howling his head off this morning and I'm probably going to ask his dad to drop him here in the mornings - doggie day care. I'm around a lot of the time and, if anything, our garden is bigger and more sunny.

Overall, I'm not a dog person. Cats have always been my thing. There have been a number of dogs over the years that I've taken a shine to - but not many. I am very fond of my husky friends in Jo'burg - Angel and Toscana - and I miss running with them. Kiska has totally stolen my heart. There is something quite cat-like about huskies as a breed; maybe that's what appeals to me about them?

Regardless, I am very fond of this husky boy.

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