Sasha's Life - December 7, 1993 - April 20, 2000

A little over six years ago I decided to get another sammie. I already had Alaska who was from a pet shop. I was a spinner and I had originally purchased Alaska because I wanted to use her coat as a source of fiber. Unfortunately she has a terrible coat and never produced the soft downy undercoat I was looking for. When the time came to get another sammie I began shopping for a "good" one. After calling a number of breeders I decided on the Polar Mist line of Lynette Hansen (now Blue). At that time Lynette had a litter on the ground and she had a girl available. Only thing is she was a "show puppy" and I had to promise to show her. Okay, how hard would it be. Little did I know what I was in for...

The day that Sasha was to arrive was February 19, 1994. Lynette had told me there was dog show in Denver that day so my mom and I headed up to check it out before going to the airport. It was at that show that I got my first glimpse of Lorrie McAllister's Boomer, Heidi Neiman's Mach and Carolyn Batemans Misty, still three of my all time favorite sammies. We hung around the show until early afternoon and then headed to the airport. Sasha's plane was due to arrive at 5:00. We got there just before 5 and the wait until they brought her out seemed unending. They wheeled in her little pink crate and I saw her adorable face through the door and fell in love. Just like that.

For the next three months we were inseperable. I literally never spent more thant a few hours not seeing her. She went to work with me evey day. We started conformation classes when she was 12 weeks old and on my birthday in 1994, when she was 4.5 months old we entered our first puppy match. I was scared to death. It was a huge match. She beat the other sammies and I was thrilled. Then she won the working group and I was beside myself. It came down to her and a corgi for best in match. I still think she might have won if she had not needed to go potty so badly!

Less than a month later she lay in the vet hospital almost dead. I had given her a HeartGard tablet that for a never determined reason did not pass normally thru her body. To make a very long story short, she went into liver failure which escalated to kidney failure. My beautiful puppy went from a happy healthy girl to a skeleton in just a couple weeks. The prognosis was not good but I was lucky. I had a vet who was willing to try anything to save her. And he did. We brought her back but not without a price. Permanently damaged kidneys. I was given strict instruction on her diet. She was to be on a low protein, high fat diet for the rest of her life. She was to get no treats, no extra goodies at all. Because of this edict we have never kept many treats in the house. I always felt if Sash could not have them, then the other dogs could not either.

When she was a year old the company that makes HeartGard paid for her to have a full work up at the CSU vet hospital to establish what her condition was. At that time the tests revealed severly damaged kidneys. The vets who examined her were surprised at how good and healthy she looked and acted. They warned me that it was a miracle she was alive and that she probably only had a 3 maybe 4 years at most. And that the end would not be pretty.

Sash and I chose to live her life as normally as possible. Because her body could not take the stress, she never pack hiked or ran competitively on my sled team. But she did get hooked up to the sled and cart for short runs of half a mile....just so we could say she did it. She tried herding sheep once but decided it was not something she enjoyed (translate that as she ignored the sheep). She competed in several agility trials and probably could have been one of the first sammies in the country to get her NA.... if *I* had not been so lazy. She was good in obedience as well and should have had her CD but I fell victim to the "golden retreiver" mentatlity and over trained her. The day she stood up, turned around and sat back down with her back towards me when I was attempting to do a recall was the day I realized she no longer enjoyed it. So we stopped.

She was never that good in the show ring although we tried. The two times we took points were both spectacular. The first time she went BOS over some nationally ranked specials. The second time I was planning to retire her after this one last show. The judge was sammie breeder Bob Ward. I had never shown under him and was excited about it. Damn if Sash didn't win. I always look back and laugh when I think of his comment to the steward as he gave Sasha the WB ribbon. He said something alongh the lines of "See, I'll put one up even if it's out of coat". The thing was.. Sash was in the best coat of her life - because of her diet it was never quite like other sammie coats.

A few of the other highlights in her show career...she placed at every single specialty, regional and national she ever attended. One of my favorte placements was four or so years ago when Joan Luna judged our regional in Denver. Sash was COMPLETELY naked. She was so naked you could see pink skin. But I had paid my entry fee and there were (nice!) trophies for 1st thru 3rd place and only three dogs were entered in the class. She was bathed and groomed and we were there. I had people *laughing* at us outside the ring. And a few who asked in a horrified voice "You are not really going to show her like that, are you?" Guess what? She WON her class.

My all time favorite memory of Sash in the show ring was at the National in Puyallup. My friend Bobbie Lafortune took Sasha into brood bitch with Colleen Baer's girl Sibby. They were representing their mom, 11 year old Ch Polar Mist Society Girl CD. In a huge field of bitches with their champion progeny, Sasha and Sibby did Tess proud, finishing in 2nd place.

When Sasha was 4, she and Icer had an accidental "encounter". I had been thinking of retiring Sash from the show ring anyway and knowing that a pregnancy could kill her, I went ahead and had her spayed. At the time the vet said her kidneys were only 25% of their normal size and covered with scar tissue. He said he was surprised whe was not only alive but so active and in such good physical condition.

Maybe her great physical condition was because she loved to run and jump. When Sash was young I would tell people that her "high energy level" was just her making up for the months she spent as a puppy when she was too sick to run and play. As the years went by and the energy level didn't decrease I decided she was doing her best to pack 14 years of living into whatever time she had. Eveyone who knew her would say she did a damn fine job of it.

My all time fvorite Sasha story is one I did not personally witness. The same year that naked Sash won her specialty class I stayed with my good friend Mary Carlson at a motel in Denver. Mary had a fast food burger for dinner and didn't finish it. She threw it in the trashcan. At that point I said "I don't think so.. that is very bad for Sasha and she WILL take it." So Mary put the burger on the dresser. "Nope" I said, "not there either". The room had one of those TVs that are attached to the wall. The top is about 6 feet off the floor. So Mary placed the burger on top. Meanwhile Sasha ignored us and the burger, never showing the slightest interest. We settled down for bed. I had a 6 month old pup with me who decided at 4 am she needed to go out. Mary said that the minute I left the room, with no warning Sash leaped from her sleeping spot, onto the bed, onto the dresser and grabbed the burger, downing it before Mary ever realized what was happening. This was the epitome of Sasha, she had the art of food thievery honed to a fine science..

Over the past couple years Sasha spent more time at home. I quit taking her to shows as she began to get stressed when we would leave the house. The vet said this was a natural progression of her disease. Other than trips to the vet or to the dog wash she became quite a homebody. But don't think she didn't still rule the roost. Sash has always been the Alpha bitch.. even her last few days the other dogs were quick to show their respect. All it ever took was a lift of a lip to let any other dog know they might be overstepping a boundary. I had alway worried that as she became debilitated the other dogs might try to take advantage, They never did, but then Sash never let on how sick she was.

About two months ago I could tell something was wrong. I took her to the doctor and sure enough her blood values were no longer in the very high normal range, they were now at a point to cause concern. At about the same time I took her for bath and I could tell, based on her reactions to the situation that things were not good. It's the last bath I ever gave her. I would not subject her to the stress again. About two weeks ago she quit showing excitement over her food. She went from being a dog that had food on her brain 24 hours a day, to one who didn't seem to care if she ever ate again or not. I think she continued to dwon some food every day simply because she knew it pleased me. The last week she was being give subcutaneous fluids twice a day. She hated it. I had to carry or drag her into the kitchen. But once there, I could put the needle in, put her on a down stay and she would not move until I came to take the needle out.

Several people came to see Kachina's puppies last weekend. Sasha rallied well and enjoyed the company. Everyone expressed surprise at how good she looked. I know she enjoyed the weekend. On Tuesday she began having trouble climbing the steps. And then yesterday morning, for the first time in her life, Sash didn't run downstairs when it was breakfast time. Even thought she had not been eating, she still seemed to enjoy going thru the morning routine. I lay down beside her and tried to encourage her to get up. She was not interested. I looked in her eyes and knew the time was near.

Finally a few hours later she did get up. I tried to tempt her to eat with everthing in the refrigerator but her only reaction was to act as if even the smell of food made her feel sick. As I was letting her out of the house she perked up and showed interest in a rawhide bone sitting on the counter. She had never been allowed to have rawhide but I figured at this point, why not? She took the bone out to her favorite little hill in the yard and happily began chewing on it. I took some pictures. I left her outside while I went to work for a few hours. While at work I tried to convince myself whe was fine, she was going to bounce back, for heavens sake she was home chewing on a bone! But when I came home I discovered she was wobbly on her feet and her rear legs seemed unstable. She had gone potty and then fallen in it. She threw up twice as I cried and tried to decide what to do. I called the vet.

We arrived at the vets office about 20 minutes early. We took a short walk down the street and sat under a tree. I looked in her eyes again. She looked tired. As we walked back to the vets she pulled hard on the leash to go to the truck. I almost put her in the truck and came home. But then I thought.. I want to remember that on her last walk she was still able to pull on the leash. She was still able to walk at all. She was still able to wag her tail and lift her head and kiss me. I didn't want my last memory to be of me carrying her in to the vets, with her too sick to move. I'd already done that, six years ago.

Some might say I let her go too soon. I probably could have made her hold on another week or so. And maybe if it had been another dog, one who had not already suffered so much for so long in a previous time I would have waited. But the bottom line is anymore time would have been for me, not for her. So I said goodbye. She went extremely peacefully. I stayed with her for a little while. When I kissed her paw pad and it was cold, I knew she was gone.

 


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