During my younger years, I had an obsession with magic.  I used to love watching the David Copperfield specials on TV.  I was always amazed at how he could pull off such amazing feats of magic.  A few years later, I was equally as stuck by David Blaine’s “Street Magic.”  I enjoyed magic so much that I my parents even bought me a starter-magic kit during Christmas.

But none of their magical feats can even compare to our own dog, Kaiya.  Before I delve into her magical talents, I want to share some background on our beautiful girl.

Our little magician, Kaiya.

To this day I believe I was tricked into adopting her.  Free Spirit Siberian Husky Rescue has a local chapter here in St. Louis.  They brought her to my place of employment and signed her up for doggie daycare – the program that I managed.  She arrived at night, and before I left for the day, I spotted her in the kennels.  She had just been brought downstairs so there was no kennel sheet available with her information.

I was not only stunned by her beauty, but I was also stunned by her long legs – runner’s legs…  I was already envious of whoever owned this Husky.  I asked my co-worker if she was signed up for daycare and she told me, “I’m not sure if the rescue signed her up, I’ll have to check.”

I immediately stopped her.  “Rescue?  She’s up for adoption?” I asked.  The answer was yes.  So I snapped a picture to send to Leah and I went into her kennel to introduce myself.

Kaiya behind bars after losing her first family.

The backstory on Kaiya was fairly typical.  High energy husky who kept escaping her owner’s yard.  Leah, myself and our growing team of huskies, were not Kaiya’s first audience.  Legend has it, Kaiya would escape from her owners home and make their neighbors chickens disappear…  Naturally, the neighbors were not too happy.  And despite the best efforts of Kaiya’s first family, they could not keep her contained.  So she was turned in.

That’s when our paths crossed.  And after a full day of daycare in which she played non-stop I called the rescue group and asked to take her out on a training run with my sled dog team.  So that night, she had her “tryout” with the team.  And she ran like she had been pulling a sled (or in our case, a dryland kart) her entire life.  The choice was made then, we were going to adopt her.

The official adoption went through in January of 2015.  And she jumped into training with our team.  She immediately bonded with me, Leah and our other new adoption – Marleau.  Kaiya and Marleau became best friends and would constantly cuddle with one another.  To this day, they are still best friends.  We often refer to them as “Thing 1 and Thing 2.”

Along with being best friends, Marleau (top) and Kaiya (bottom) look nearly identical.

I wasn’t afraid of Kaiya getting out at my house.  I took a lot of pride in my containment system and we had never had a husky escape our house.  It was husky proof.  Key word: was.

For the first four months we never had a single problem with Kaiya.  She was as sweet as can be, loved her crate and never tried to escape our yard when outside.  It never dawned on me that perhaps she was being good because it was sled dog season…  You see, I already knew that our dogs lose their bad habits during training season.  But for some reason, this never dawned on either me or Leah until it was too late.  We even had conversations about what a great dog Kaiya was.  “She’s so sweet, how could anyone ever rehome her?”

During a Spring day, Leah and I had to run a quick errand – we would be gone about 45 minutes.  I took a peak outside and our dogs were laying out on the deck catching some sun – it was about 60 degrees.  They all looked very peaceful – and most of them don’t like their crates – so I decided to let them stay outside while we ran to the store.

As we came back from the store we neared our house and all of a sudden a Siberian Husky darts out from the woods and stops in the center of our driveway.  It was Kaiya.  Standing as happy as can be, wagging her tail in the middle of our driveway.  My eyes were as wide as can be and I’m pretty sure my jaw had dropped to the floor.  Immediately we called her to us (she came) and we took her inside.  While Leah got her crated I rushed outside to see how many of our dogs were missing.  But everyone was accounted for.  I searched the fence line, looking for a spot where she dug under.  But everything was secure.  I was certain she didn’t go over the fence, it was 6 feet tall at the lowest and in some spots it was 9-feet tall.

Kaiya’s love for running makes her an ideal lead dog. Photo by: Nace Hagemann

Somehow she had escaped our yard.  For the next few days I went outside with her, and like a good magician, she did not reveal her trick.  I started to think it was a fluke, or that however she had escaped, she had since forgotten about it.  Regardless, the new rule was: If we ever leave the house, no matter for how short of a time, Kaiya must always be inside.

About a week later I let the dogs outside after they were fed.  When it was time to bring them inside I did my routine headcount.  I counted 10 dogs as they came inside.  We had 11…

I quickly put everyone into their crates and counted again.  Ten dogs.  Kaiya was missing.

I ran outside and walked the fen cline again, no signs of escape.  But she was gone.  The first call I made was to my neighbors – they had chickens and since Kaiya was a known chicken-killer, I did not want it happening in my neighborhood.  My neighbor told me that their chickens were in the coop so they would be safe.

And so began my search for Kaiya.  I trekked into our woods, walked up and down my road and drove around calling her name.  There were no sightings of her.  I even lined the team out and hooked them up like we were going for a run.  The dogs were going nuts with excitement and I hoped they howling would carry into night and bring her home…  It didn’t.  And by Midnight, which was 5 hours after she went missing, I gave up on my search.  Kaiya was long gone.

But still, I had hope she would return.  So I opened every window in my house.  I left Mandy and Backes outside – they bark at ANY sound.  My hope was, if Kaiya was nearby, they would hear her, bark and wake me up.

I laid in my bed, wide awake and worried sick about Kaiya.  At 2am, I heard a car pull into my driveway.  My heart was beating with excitement and I jumped out of bed.  I ran outside to see my neighbors jeep in my driveway.  The driver’s door opened and I heard them say, “We got your dog.”  I was so excited I didn’t even notice the tone of her voice.

“No way,” I said in disbelief.  “Where was she?”

“In our chicken coop.”

My heart dropped into my stomach.

“Did she…”  My voice trailed off.

“Yeah, she did,” my neighbor said calmly.  “Got all of em.”

My neighbor then explained how Kaiya had gotten into their chicken coop just fine.  But she was unable to get out because the fence went straight up, and then angled in.  I had learned then that Kaiya could climb fences, but with an angled top, she kept falling back down.

Never had I been filled with so many mixed emotions.  I was elated that my dog had just been found and returned.  I felt horrible that she had murdered all of my neighbors chickens!  I could not stop apologizing and thanking them at the same time.

I fixed our fence the very next day, and that was the last time Kaiya escaped our yard… Until the next offseason.

It was nearly the same scenario, I counted the dogs and we were missing one.  I went and searched the yard and this time I found where she had escaped.  She somehow managed to lift a bit of wire fencing up off of our deck (the wire was nailed to the bottom of the deck) and she squeezed under the 2×4.  I have no idea how it was physically possible.  Even Bebe, our Pomeranian was too big to fit through the hole!

I immediately called our neighbors and they told me that their chickens were accounted for.  And that they had a safe coop now that was dog proof –which is true, all of their chickens are still safe as of today.

Leah and I went out looking for Kaiya.  We spotted her quickly but it was all a game to her.  She began doing laps around our property and finally, and hour later, when she was tired out, she came to me.

I told Leah, “I’m glad this happened before we go on vacation.  At least now the fence will be fixed.”  She agreed.

A few weeks later, we went on vacation… Guess what happened?

My phone rang early in the morning.  I looked at the caller I.D. to see it was Courtney, our dog sitter.  I showed it Leah and we both knew what had happened before I even answered.

“Kaiya’s gone!  I don’t know how she escaped!” Courtney was freaking out.  She was supposed to be going to work.

I did my best to calm her down, I told her that Kaiya stays close to our house and that she could go to work.  I called my dad and a co-worker to try and catch Kaiya.  And they did so, finding her running laps around our property.  After a quick game of chase they caught her and brought her home.

My dad repaired the fence.  He was amazed she was able to escape, it was through the smallest gap in the wire fencing that she somehow pushed through.  Once again, none of the other dogs could even escape.

You really think a fence can contain me?

The next year we put a fence expansion onto our yard.  Guess who escaped, not just once, not just twice, but three times – WITH me being in the yard too!  All three times, I never even saw it.  I turned my back and when I turned back around, “poof,” she was gone.

So, I again fixed the yard…  And I again made a new rule… We have a Kaiya timer, she gets 10 minutes before having to come back inside…  All was good again.  My yard was husky proof.

Or so I thought…

It is the end of sled dog season.  And on a day when it was raining outside, just after the dogs were fed breakfast, I heard a dog scratching at my front door…  My Kaiya timer had yet to go off…  Weird, I thought.  And I opened the door to see Marleau, soaking wet.

My heart dropped into my stomach.  If Marleau had escaped that meant Kaiya was gone!  I ran outside and gathered all the dogs into our garage.  Did a quick headcount and only Kaiya was missing (since Marleau had been found).

I knew Kaiya wouldn’t be back until she was tired.  So I searched the yard and found a spot where she had pried open a small section of wire fence.  Marleau must have been standing nearby and followed Kaiya out.  I later found out that Marleau was chasing my neighbors (yes the same ones with the chickens) ducks and geese around their yard.  She also went swimming in their pond after them.  When my neighbor came outside, Marleau high tailed it back home!

I don’t think we will be receiving a neighbor of the year award… Ever.

I fixed the fence with wooden boards.  And we went back to business as usual.  I shortened Kaiya’s timer up so she is out there free for even less time.

And on another rainy day, my “Kaiya Timer” went off.  I went outside and grabbed the water bowls and called Kaiya.  She didn’t come.  I knew immediately she was gone but when I looked up I was startled that my yard seemed empty compared to usual…

Kaiya had not only escaped, but she also brought Bure and Marleau with her this time!  Same thing happened, she bent the wires just enough to squeeze through and got out.  Bure and Marleau followed her out.

This was the most terrifying escape of all because Bure is a very independent dog.  Knowing her personality, I knew she was going to run and not stick near our house like Kaiya.  I feared that Marleau would follow Bure.  And that’s exactly what happened.

We got Kaiya back within an hour, but didn’t have a single sighting of Marleau or Bure.

Hours passed.  Me and Leah searched the woods, we drove the roads, we talked to neighbors and people driving around.  Not a single sighting.  I was starting to panic.  It had been over six hours, if Marleau had followed Bure, by now they were surely separated.

My fear wasn’t for Bure, she’s a very headstrong and independent dog.  She’s very smart and very aware of her surroundings.  I knew she would remain in area’s that were safe.

But Marleau is a follower.  If she had followed Bure then she probably wouldn’t be able to find her way back home.  And worse, Marleau is they type of dog to play in streets.

Around seven hours after they went missing we found Bure.  She was in someone’s front yard, with their dogs.  Bure looked confused, and the two dogs she stood with looked like they wanted to play.  We hoped to find Marleau, but she was nowhere to be seen.

I began to worry even more, every worst possible thought was running through my head.

My dad had come over to help by this time and he was certain Marleau had to be around where Bure was.  So Leah and I drove Bure home while my dad searched.  We dropped off Bure at the house and headed back toward my dad.  My phone rang.  It was my dad.

“I found Marleau,” he told us.

Someone had picked her up from the same spot we had found Bure at.  They had brought Marleau back to their house so she was out of the rain.  I’m guessing Marleau and Bure were probably playing with the other two dogs.  And when a car came by Marleau walked into the street – as the woman had told us she walked into the road when her car approached.

Thankfully, all the dogs were safe and sound.

It has now been over 2 weeks that awful day.  Kaiya is no longer allowed outside unattended, ever again – although I’m not even sure if that will deter her.  I officially hate the end of sled dog season.

And I’m really starting to not like magic anymore…  At least disappearing acts.