Boo and Larry - Handler story pt3

Updated: Nov 21, 2020

Boo was a sweet, spunky little grey girl. She arrived just a few days before me to Streeper Kennels. She was tied with Darla for the softest fur out of all the dogs. I immediately fell in love with her. She was snuggly and sweet and I would often take extra time during chores just to sit at her chain spot and get extra Boo cuddles in. She was one of my absolute favorite dogs in the whole yard. Every time I harnessed her, she would jump up and give me kisses.

Boo, along with 59 others, was earmarked to go on lease to a touring company in Colorado for the season. When November rolled around, 60 dogs were loaded up onto the dog box and were gone until Spring. There were a few dogs that it was intensely difficult to say goodbye to, and she was one of them.


I didn't hear anything of Boo until the beginning of December. One day, the tour company called Ed - Boo was pregnant, and the tour company was angry. Ed's first instinct was to just tell them to cull - to kill - the puppies, but they would not allow that. Ed's second thought was to try and find someone to give Boo away to, but he couldn't find someone fast enough. Finally, he agreed to send a friend to meet one of the touring handlers halfway to trade Boo for another lead dog, since she was one of two or three leaders on her designated team.


Boo got back a few days later. She was underweight but her teats were swelled with what would turn out to be a false pregnancy.

Ed considered what to do if she was pregnant, and openly shared his thoughts and opinions with me. Boo was nothing but a hassle to him, he didn't like or appreciate her because not only did he not breed her, but she was small - around 40lbs - and he saw no value in smaller dogs to pull a lot of people on tours. Since they were smaller, he didn't think they could haul as much weight and so it was a detriment to have any small dogs on the team. Even though she was originally a leader, suddenly Ed didn't consider her a good lead dog anymore.


Ed talked with malice about what he would do to her puppies. Spay abort was never an option for him, because it cost money whereas it was free to get rid of the puppies in other ways. And then she couldn't run during her spay recovery, which would make her even more useless in Ed's eyes. He constantly talked about thumping the puppies on the head. He said he had done it before, it was humane. But he never mentioned anything about how birth is actually riskier for Boo than an emergency spay. Or the stress or trauma Boo would feel from having her puppies taken from her day 1. Dogs did not have feelings or memory that was in any way comparable to humans in his eyes. Ed knew more than the veterinarians, he was the one who worked with sled dogs his whole life. He knew how to handle the situation appropriately, he thought.


I am glad it was a false pregnancy.

 

Larry was a puppy from two of Ed's prized sprint hounds, champions while Ed still raced - Todd and Lily.

I met him and his litter of four while they were still little potatoes. Some days Ed would tell me to go spend 20 or 30 minutes with the two litters of puppies, but it didn't happen often. Since I was the only handler to take care of 120-130 dogs, I didn't have time or energy to devote any extra time outside of these commands to socializing these pups. And Ed certainly wasn't going to do it.


Even with the poor socialization, the genetics were resilient. It was amazing, really - seeing these puppies who only had human contact at mealtime twice a day become confident and approach people without fear. I understood how Ed could get away with so little socialization for so many years. Every time I walked by their puppy pen, Larry and his siblings would climb over each other trying to get to the gap in the fence to stick their heads out. They would squeak and bark in greeting, hoping to get pet as I passed.


One such day in mid November, I was leading a dog past the puppy pen from the heat isolation pen to the staging area, to get ready for a run. She was an extremely bitchy and aggressive female, and being in heat did nothing to help. Larry, as per usual, stuck his head through the gap in the fence in greeting, squeaking and making as much noise as his little body could in his excitement. Before I could blink, the female I was leading struck like a snake. She latched on to his head, putting the entire thing in her mouth, and would not let go. Larry let out the most piercing, terrible scream. I was shocked into action. I managed to get the female off of Larry after pulling and screaming but the damage was done. Larry didn't stop screaming as I put the dog back into the heat pen, didn't stop screaming as I went into the puppy pen to look at him, didn't stop screaming as I pulled out my phone and called Ed in tears. I told Ed to come immediately, one of the puppies was hurt badly. I had no clue what to do other than put him in a car and immediately drive to the nearest vet, who would probably still be a half hour away.


Ed didn't understand my urgency. In the 15 or 20 minutes it took for him to arrive, I held Larry close as he occasionally still screamed out in pain. His muzzle was dented, his face was misshapen, he had trouble breathing and opening his eyes, he was bleeding from his nose. My heart was broken and I was wracked with guilt, feeling as though his pain was my fault.

I was unsure how much of it was swelling and how much was actual breaks but it was clear to me that something was broken in his nasal cavity.


When Ed finally arrived, after what felt like an eternity, I explained what had happened. He gave Larry a quick once over, and decided no treatment was needed. He was a strong preacher of the "wait and see" approach to medical care. He told me, "It's amazing what those little guys can take."


So there I left Larry, bleeding and sniffling in pain. I caught Ed checking on Larry a few times over the next few days, but it was clear he wasn't worried. Much later, when I accused him of not caring about what happened to Larry and not either getting him medical attention or putting him down, Ed told me that he DID consider euthanizing Larry. But what Ed ended up doing - waiting and seeing, while Larry spent the next several days in pain - was unacceptable to me.


The next day, Ed decided to give Larry some antibiotics only after I pushed for it, and over the next several days, Larry gradually improved. His appetite grew and he became alert and active again, even though he still sniffled and seemed to have some trouble breathing.

For a while Ed told me he considered sending Larry to a pet home because of his injury - being able to breathe well is extremely important for a sled dog - but as he grew, Ed decided against it, regardless of how much he sniffled. I didn't stay long enough to see Larry in harness but I can't shake the way Ed seemed to care so little. If this is how he felt about his champion bloodlines, then what did that say for the dogs he didn't breed?

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