Here we are, three and a half months into blending Siberians and Alaskans together. We have learned lots about each of the four dogs after watching them adapt to each other. The process has definitely had its share of incident, and we’ve spent half of the summer calling, texting, and video chatting with Shantel, Bonnie, and Cruzlin for constant advice and recommendations. Here are some things we’ve learned about Ian’s teammates.
Balto remains Ian’s Pup Pup and keeps his status as large and in charge. His juxtaposition to Jenna and the new boys reaffirms Ami’s assessment that Balto is actually a unicorn wearing a husky suit. He’s relatively quiet (for a Sibe!) and not terribly destructive. He still has every toy he’s ever owned as he takes extra care to keep them all in pristine condition.
Jenna revels in her role as baby sister. We worried most about her causing problems with the dynamic of the pack because she loves to stir the pot. We’ve watched her set Balto and Jr up to intentionally try to get them in trouble during visits with Bonnie and Jim. It turns out that Pilgrim and Falcon are completely infatuated with having a baby sister and they adore her. As they’ve adjusted to life with a trouble maker, they’re less fascinated with her antics, but they still indulge her.
Pilgrim arrived to TN with his southern accent well rehearsed and ready to acclimate. But the first time we asked him to sit he looked at us like we were speaking Greek. When he’s outside, his feet never stop moving, but when he comes inside, he is fully committed to his new career of couch potato. Observing his personality makes everyone laugh. At first we thought he was trying hard to learn how to become a pet, but instead he’s decided to become a human! He loves to receive kisses, but he doesn’t lick in return. He’s trying to figure out how to kiss with his lips. We scolded him a few times for trying to nip, but later realized he’s never using his teeth –he’s just struggling to coordinate his lips for the right movement. When Pilgrim becomes upset, which happens often, he runs and jumps directly into your lap, and expects you to hold him like a child. And he cries like a child as well. Pilgrim vs the wasp ended with my book knocked into the floor, Pilgrim in my lap smashed against my chest, and his lip swelling as he cried. Some benadryl had him right as rain, but he had to be cuddled until the meds kicked in. He gave us a big scare last month with his kidneys, but he’s on the mend now.
Falcon has taken a little more time to accept us as his family. While very polite and obedient, he struggled to relax around us and he began to drop weight. Shantel and Bonnie continued to assure us that it’s normal for well-cared for dogs to respond like a rescue dog after such a significant move, and that he simply needs time. Cruzlin encouraged us to provide him with a consistent routine that he could adapt to, and have the vet check him out for a little extra help getting through his first few thunderstorms and the 4th of July. After a few weeks, Falcon still avoided Brinn and me, but we started noticing that he wagged his tail every time Ian entered the room, and he even began laying on a dog bed right beside Ian’s place on the couch. Then the hoarding began. After we gave Falcon his first plush toy, he started emptying the toy basket every morning and carrying all the plushies to his bed! We later started using this addiction to our advantage.
Now that the quartet has settled in together, our only source of contention seems to be between Balto and Falcon. They both want to be Ian’s special boy. Balto doesn’t openly provoke or attack Falcon, but he sure does bait him. I didn’t know that a dog could be so passive aggressive. More phone calls for advice. Cruzlin is going to be sick of us before we ever make it to mushing lessons!
Pilgrim has settled right in with Balto and Jenna and the three have become fast friends. Early on I called then the three amigos, but Ian quickly realized that their initials are PB&J, so he calls them his peanut butter and jelly pack. Falcon is a bit more of a loner, so he tends to be on the periphery of the PB&J wrestling matches.
We’re making lots of mistakes as we go with this blended team, but we sure are learning a lot. Ian’s had to step up his ability to communicate clearly with his voice and body language, and I’ve learned that all four dogs need their own special one-on-one time with each of their humans everyday. Grandpapa just shakes his head at Pilgrim reclining on the couch and Falcon hugging his armload of toys and remarks that we’ve ruined perfectly good sled dogs. But that’s okay. I have a feeling the boys are going to laugh at our idea of running and training this fall.
You are a great story teller. Maybe you should rename the Kennel the PBJ gang.