Lately, a lot of my posts have focussed on one dog or another, so I thought it might be worth running through the pack and just talking about how each of the pups is doing.
J's special little girl turned 8 this year, and its starting to tell. Her face is looking pretty grey, and she's much more mellow than she used to be. Its a few months now since Ishka ruptured her left rear ACL and had surgery to repair it. That knee is healing nicely. She also has a partial tear in her right rear ACL, which gives her a limp at times. She is still getting injections from her vet every couple of months, to keep the repaired knee limber and healthy, and that is possibly all that's keeping her bad knee from rupturing completely. That bridge is one we'll have some warning about, so we're prepared to cross it when the time comes. She has retired from racing since Dinner Plain last year.
Meantimes, Ishka is limited to the back deck and the front garden (under supervision, of course!) where she likes to "help" with the gardening. On the weekend that meant delicately plucking all the low flowers off the camellia tree! Inside, she is the queen of the couch. She is still top dog, and tells the boys off if they rush around the house. When she thinks J and I aren't looking, she will try to wrestle and play with Czar and Bolo. She spends her days with Frankie, but he is far too staid for her tastes.
Like Ishka, Frankie turned 8 this year. His back has been bothering him for a while, and J tried a new style of harness to see if a different shape would allow him to keep racing, but it hasn't really worked. He and I have done a lot of training, and each time I take him out, he gets a bit slower. I think he enjoys sniffing and visiting local trees more than he enjoys running. The exception is when he has someone to chase - he is still very strong. We now consider Frankie retired, apart from mini mushing, or maybe some skijoring.
Frankie's vision is much recovered after inflammation in both eyes sent him blind a little while ago. He is taking some pretty massive doses of corticosteroids, which is stopping his immune system from attacking his eyes, but also makes him vulnerable to any other infections going around, such as the recent kennel cough outbreak. He is still a bit of a nervous nelly - last night he let out a panicked bark that made the others all look up on instant alert, while sitting quietly on a matt in the kitchen - did he get a cramp in his foot? Silly puppy!
We got a bit of shock when we realised that Bolo turned 7 this year. He is still such a puppy - playing leap frog over the backs of the others, running around like crazy. We refer to him as our "special" boy, as he is the most likely to do something that looks nuts, like licking windows or sleeping with his head in the mud. I might have a not-so-secret soft spot for him, because he is vocal and affectionate - you can almost carry on a conversation with him.
Bolo's racing options were limited this year, due to Frankie's retirement. He is a machine in harness, driving hard and providing great power. He knows his corners and his other commands. But he insists on trying to lunge at or grab every other team in passing. As a lead dog, this would be a disaster, so he is permanently in wheel, where his strength is most needed. Without at least two other dogs in front of him to hold the gangline straight, we don't allow Bolo to race, out of respect for other teams. For the same reason, he wears a muzzle out and about. Even when Ishka or Czar get cranky, Bolo is never aggressive, but he can and will use his mouth inappropriately. He has very good bite inhibition, but other dogs will (very reasonably!) be upset by having him "mouth" them.
In the last couple of weeks, Bolo has been nursing a split paw, but we are hopeful this will heal up well and he will be running around normally soon. In the meantime, watching him step-clomp in his bandage bootie is pretty funny!
Czar and Bolo are best buds, and will often move in perfect synchronisation. There is no doubt though, that Czar is reluctantly compliant where Bolo is either outright defiant, or just doesn't care enough to disobey. Czar likes to please, but clearly has a mind of his own. Our "baby" turned 6 this year, and he is the last of the pack not to be classified at races as a Veteran. He has been the thing that made racing this year a joy for me, rather than a chore - although he is not as driven as Bolo is, he is far happier running than Frankie, and easy to read on the track, as his big ears clearly indicate where his attention is.
He thinks he is irresistable, and loves to run around at the local (well fenced) off lead park. Czar has beautiful manners and presents himself with an arched neck and erect tail to every other dog. If that dog happens to be female, he is delighted to track her every move. With humans, he just lays his head against a leg and looks up with those adoring blue eyes - just in case they feel like giving him treats. Being tall, he is easily able to sniff crotches, or, if you're sitting down, armpits. On ALL females. Lucky he's so pretty!
With three of the four dogs classified as Veterans, and two retired, it will be interesting to see what next year brings. We have a lot of plans, including a wedding, a new house, and maybe even a "bald puppy" to finalise and nurse to fruition before we are really in a position to start building up a new team. J is firmly dedicated to the SHCV, and has committed to helping with racing next year, but whether we will be able to field a team remains to be seen.