Sunday, July 14, 2013

Yukon - End of an Era, Part 1

We named him Yukon. It wasn’t until a couple of weeks later, receiving his Husky certification in the mail, that we realized we’d given him his grandfather’s name. Skipping a generation, the name was surely meant for our little Yukon.

He’s been with us for fourteen years. As our first child, he made the cut as an inside dog. Corbin read books and invested in training Yukon towards obedience, installed a tether by the kitchen door, and we adjusted to becoming a family of three.
Not obedient quite yet

When he was a puppy, I spent the first month or so taking my lunch breaks at home, checking on Yukon and giving him attention. Twice he ripped the fabric from our dining rooms walls, and twice my mom repaired them, magically and supernaturally, as that particular Waverly floral fabric was out of production. He ate a 20-bag pound of carrots - in one sitting -  and proceeded to poop shredded orange pylons throughout our backyard for a week. It was in front of our first home that Yukon was run over by a truck  and spent several weeks in the puppy ICU needing multiple blood transfusions and a hip replacement. As Corbin and I stood at that counter in the animal surgical center in Southlake, I wondered how Corbin would respond to the estimate for Yukon’s hip surgery. He looked at me, looked down, and said, “Let’s do it. Of course we’ll do it.” I sighed with relief.

Yukon’s titanium hip didn’t seem to slow him down much once he recovered. In those days of just one or two small babies, we’d take him with us to the mountains. Besides playing with Milka and fully, completely delighting in the snowy climate, he just looked like he belonged there. He would run from one end of Mama and Papa’s property to the other, a black and white streak dashing across the snowy pasture. Months later, I played the DVD of that trip and Yukon’s ears pricked when he heard himself bark in the video. He turned to the screen and watched himself race across the snow, then jumped up and placed his front paws on the TV, trying to get inside. He looked at me longingly, and I understood.

With Branson’s birth, not much changed. In fact, when Branson was about six weeks old, I heard Corbin tell someone, “It’s the weirdest thing to feel like I know my dog better than I know my son.”

The first night we brought Branson home from the hospital as a newborn, we placed the bassinet right by our bed, while Yukon slept at the foot of our bed. Branson of course cried out sometime during the night and I’ll never forget Yukon’s raised head and arched back, sitting straight up looking around for the source of that unfamiliar cry. He looked more bewildered than protective. Didn’t have a clue how much his dog days were about to change.

Yukon quickly became our boppy pillow, as Branson preferred to snuggle right into his fur and lay there for hours, sometimes napping right along with Yukon, cradled in the curve of his body. Yukon helped Bran learn to walk. I can still see Bran’s puffy-pillar legs shuffling from Yukon to the round marble coffee table, then back again, transferring his balance from the cool marble to falling into Yukon, grasping his fur. And while it certainly couldn’t have been comfortable, Yukon craved Branson’s constant attention.

Once Hudson and Basden came along, Yukon spent a little more time during the day outside, but after Esther’s addition, the poor pup was moved out pretty permanently. Sometimes in the heat of summer, or when the kids felt particularly affectionate towards him, we’d let him in the cool air conditioning for a few hours. But we had so many spills and messes with our little ones that I drew the line with Yukon’s magnificent shedding and dirty paws.
Lots of help for bath time
Patient with playing dress up
All snuggled in
Shortly after we moved into our current home, Yukon promptly escaped our backyard to kill our neighbor’s pet rabbits - all three of them. Our kind neighbors tried to convince me it was no big deal, that they didn’t ever play with the rabbits anyway. I wanted so badly to believe them, but their words fell short when I walked in the little girl’s room to find her “All About Me” school poster with a huge photo of that white bunny front and center. (Incidentally, that little girl has grown up to be a high school senior who is one of our all-time favorite babysitters. Thank goodness she forgave us.)

Friends who have seen Yukon lately often respond with, “Wow, he’s still alive!”  Hobbling on that arthritic titanium hip, black fur and eyebrows turned silver, Yukon spent his most recent days sleeping much of the time, but maintained enough spunk to remind Cross and Ruby who’s boss.
"You may be younger, but I'm stronger"
 I'll conclude this super long post (thus Part 1 and 2) with some of my fav photos from when Bran was young, with Yukon was his constant playmate -

Poor thing - with his post-surgery haircut

Stepping over to see outside
Never alone - even at bathtime
Bran didn't need a boppy pillow anymore, but Yukon didn't seem to notice

To be continued...