Before he died Rhodry was very clear that I had to get another dog. So was I. After he died I was even clearer, all the more so when doglessness began to seem normal. How to find a dog? I was clueless. Rhodry was the serendipitous culmination of one coincidence after another; I never had to go looking. I put in an application at the local shelter and said I was interested in the northern breeds. I filled out the online application for the New England malamute rescue group. I joined a malamutes e-list. I sat by Rhodry’s grave and asked him to send me a dog.
Rhodry was unique. Apart from his littermate sister Lakota, I’ve never seen a dog that looked like Rhodry. Although I was looking for a northern-breed dog or mix, ideally an Alaskan malamute, I didn’t expect my next dog to be like Rhodry. I did, however, expect my next dog to fit into the life I’d made with Rhodry.
When I set out for Masasyu Alaskan Malamutes in Canandaigua, New York, I didn’t know who would be my puppy or what his name would be. By the time I reached my sister’s house in Stow, Massachusetts, on the way home, my new 10-pound fluffball was Fellow Traveller, Masasyu’s Fellow Traveller.
Travvy started his new life as a barn puppy. As the weeks passed, keeping an eye on him while doing chores and riding got more and more challenging. If my attention lapsed, or even if it didn’t, he’d be off to visit the Labradoodle who lived on the other side of the farm where I boarded my horse, Allie. When he was about three months old, he wandered into the paddock of a 17:2-hand Hanoverian and almost got stomped. As he grew, he started coming with Allie and me on trail rides. I’d loved trail-riding with Rhodry — but Rhodry was a mature, sensible five-year-old when I got Allie. Travvy was much younger, more impulsive, and — as he approached his first birthday — apparently possessed of a stronger prey drive.
At this point the Vineyard was still in the throes of a long-running, very public saga involving mismanaged Siberian huskies who went on chicken-killing sprees when they got loose, which was all too often. Most people can’t tell a Sibe from a malamute, and where chickens are concerned the difference between the two is not much. Northern breed dogs were being profiled. I couldn’t afford to let Travvy get into trouble. He couldn’t run loose. To give him serious exercise, I started ponying him from Allie’s back. I also bought a used bike and attached to its seat post a Springer — an ingenious invention that attaches dog to bike, absorbs almost all the dog’s pulling, and leaves the cyclist’s hands free.
The mere idea of Alaskan malamutes doing any kind of obedience is enough to send dog people into gales of laughter, but Karen Ogden of Positive Rewards Dog Training was offering an intro to Rally Obedience class. It sounded interesting, so I signed us up. To say we were the least likely to succeed is to grossly understate the case. At the first class, Travvy was so over the top that he had to go to the opposite end of the venue (the indoor arena at Arrowhead Farm) before he could even begin to focus. The second class we missed because he went AWOL on a trail ride. We kept at it, and lo and behold, Trav’s impulse control started to improve and his attention span got longer. And I got hooked on dog training. In September 2009 we competed in our first Rally trial, and earned two of the required three legs on our Rally Novice title.
After a year of riding less and less, I sold Allie in the spring of 2010. Trav and I have continued to compete, with some success. In 2010 and 2011, we attended Camp N Pack, a wonderful weekend for dogs and their people sponsored by AMRONE, Alaskan Malamute Rescue of New England, and held at a Girl Scout camp in western Massachusetts.
Travvy didn’t fit into the life I’d made with Rhodry, but he fits very well into the life we’ve made together. So do I. Have I told you lately, Trav, that I’m glad you’re my puppy?
Interesting that Travvy came from Canandaigua, NY. My one and only purebred Morgan gelding came from Cazenovia, NY (about 90 miles east) in 1999. I would have liked to train my own dog, Goldie, in agility but she, being a once-starved rescue, was not physically up to it. I have trained her to heel alongside my bike, though, so she gets good exercise that way.
My horse came from Windsor, N.Y., near Binghamton. I wondered if both Allie and Travvy were upstate New York natives, maybe I was meant to move there? Nah. I like upstate New York a lot, and was very involved in a writers’ workshop based in Ithaca in the mid/late 1980s, but if I moved out of state, I’d have to give up my four-digit Massachusetts license plate, which first belonged to my father’s uncle or great-uncle, can’t remember which. Never! 🙂