Travvy’s death came sudden and unexpected. Yes, he was 11, but he was doing fine — until he wasn’t, and a day and a half later he was gone. I’d had it in my mind that since Rhodry, his predecessor, made it to 13, Trav would too. Then I would decide what to do next.
“What next” was now, not two years off.
I messaged Lori, Trav’s breeder, to let her know he was gone. She messaged back:
I know that this offer is way too soon but I want to let you know that we are expecting a litter tomorrow so if you decide that you need to fill the void in your life please let me know. You gave him a wonderful home and a great life. I thank you ever so much for what you did.
Way too soon, yes, in that my future with Trav had abruptly vanished, leaving me on the brink of a void with no obvious path forward.
At the same time, Lori’s message was a sign, a glimmer in the glimmerless void, a possibility to consider. I take signs seriously. I’ve never forgotten that Travvy was born the day after Rhodry died, though it was two months before I knew it.
As it turned out, Anuk didn’t have her pups — four of them: one girl and three boys — till the following Wednesday, March 20, but the seed was planted and, as seeds do, it started to sprout underground.
I was 99.9% sure that there would be another dog in my life. My reasonably methodical mind posed some rational questions: Sooner or later? Puppy or older dog? Malamute or something smaller?
Sooner or later resolved itself pretty damn quick. Walking without Travvy was like missing my left arm. Two days after he passed, I was striding along a path at the Land Bank’s Sepiessa property — somewhere Trav and I didn’t go all that often — when the off-road mountain bikers appeared around a curve, headed in my direction. They came to a halt and the leader asked, “Where’s your buddy?” The off-road bikers do group rides every Sunday, and Trav and I often ran into them on trails and dirt roads closer to home.
Without Trav to pre-wash pots and pans and plates, food seemed to be going to waste. No one was plucking my sock from my hiking boot to remind me it was time to leave my laptop and do something fun.
Sooner. Definitely sooner. Even though sooner meant my fantasies about driving cross-country would be on indefinite hold — which, to be honest, is where they were already.
Malamute or something smaller? Eleven years ago I had little trouble lifting 80-pound Rhodry in his last year. Lifting 80-pound Travvy was almost impossible. In part this was because Travvy did not like being picked up, but I had to admit that I couldn’t easily lift what I could 11 years ago.
But something smaller meant something other than a malamute, and that’s where common sense hit a rock and went off the rails. Malamutes aren’t for everybody, but if they’re for you, nothing else will do. And besides, there are those puppies . . .
Puppy or older dog? I’m on Medicare. I started collecting Social Security last year. I know my time on the planet is not unlimited, but puppy or older dog prompted calculations I hadn’t made before. I was pretty confident in my ability to deal with a puppy now. More: the prospect was seriously tempting, because I didn’t get into serious training with Trav until his challenging adolescence made it obvious that we needed help. I’ve wondered ever since if some of those challenges, like reactivity and resource guarding, could have been avoided or mitigated if I’d started training much earlier.
The calculations had to do with the other end of a puppy’s life. Where would I be when the puppy reached 11 or 13 or an even more advanced age? Would I even be on the planet? One upside to living on Martha’s Vineyard is knowing many people living active, creative lives well into their 80s and even 90s. My mother died at 73, but she was also an alcoholic, a lifelong smoker, and not an especially happy or engaged person. My father made it to 86, and my maternal grandmother died a week short of her 105th birthday. Anything could happen between now and then, but my chances of making it to 80 look pretty good.
If I did spring for a puppy, I could make provisions for worst-case scenarios — if I died or became incapacitated while my dog was still alive. In fact, I wish I’d done likewise with Trav: recruited an auntie or two who got to know him well enough that I could trust him to their care in my absence.
Quite a few people asked “What about a rescue?” I’d wash out with most rescues on one or more criteria: I’m single, I’m in my 60s, I don’t own my home, and I don’t have a fenced-in yard. I do have some acquaintance with several Alaskan malamute rescues, but most of them are regional and adopt only to people in that region. Trav and I got to know AMRONE, Alaskan Malamute Rescue of New England, during our four years of attending their annual Camp N Pack weekend, but their website didn’t list any available dogs. (Very sadly, Camp N Pack no longer happens because the gorgeous venue, an off-season Girl Scout camp, was sold.)
Following up other leads, I located an Alaskan malamute and a malamute-husky mix, both in Connecticut. I considered both and was several times on the brink of inquiring about the former; he was in the care of a non-malamute rescue, and his description said they were looking for an adopter with northern-breed experience. Maybe my experience with Rhodry and Trav would outweigh what most rescues consider my liabilities?
Again I hung up on calculations, this time about the dog’s age, not mine. The malamute was six, the malamute-husky mix seven. Would I again be on the brink of the void in four or five years?
Meanwhile those puppies had taken up residence not only in my brain but also on my Facebook timeline. Lori posted photos of the pups at three weeks, then at four. The sooty color of these guys marks them as agouti and non-Domino, a genetic combination that makes it unlikely that as adults they’ll have Travvy’s white face and gray cap.
At the same time, when Lori posted the pups’ pedigree, I was pleased to see Trav’s mom, Mayhem (formally Masasyu’s Bound and Determined), was a great-grandmother on the sire’s side and a great-great-grandmother on the dam’s. And his half-uncle Kaos (Masasyu’s Naughty by Nature) was also a great-grandparent.
So in mid-April I messaged Lori that my deposit check was in the mail, and off it went. By the end of this month the pup will be in residence, and for sure you’ll be among the first to know. Watch this space.