It came as quite a shock when we found out my wife was pregnant. We always wanted kids but we imagined that time would come when our life was more settled, if there really is such a thing?
Our lifestyle wasn’t exactly ideal to bring a child into the world. At the time, we had thirteen, high energy, Siberian Huskies and one wily Pomeranian. To add to that, they all lived in our house – which also happened to be a major fixer upper.
One of the questions people have always asked me or my wife is, “What are you going to do with the dogs when you start having a family?” I always found this odd, like they viewed our dogs as toys or something that could be packed away and forgotten about. But to us, our dogs are family. We adopted them one at a time, accepting their worst habits and promising never to give up on them. And we both intended to see that promise through to their last day.
But then those same people added, “Well everything changes when you have children. It’s a different kind of love.”
And you know what? Those people were right. Because the day I found out Leah was pregnant was the happiest day of my life. I was suddenly filled with so many new feelings that I never knew even existed.
My first thought was not, “Oh my God, I’m going to be a dad!” It was, “Oh my God our baby is going to know all of our dogs!” You see, Leah and I had always talked about having kids when the dogs were older. Let’s be honest, thirteen high energy sled dogs in the peak of their careers, living in a house with a newborn baby just doesn’t sound practical.
But now that thinking had changed. I was thrilled we were having a baby and that he (as we would later find out) would grow up knowing every one of our dogs. As Leah began freaking out that our house wasn’t ready I started doing the math for when our child could run in their first sled dog race – and if all goes as planned I’m thinking that will be 2021.
*Side note: For those not familiar with mushing, there are small 1-2 mile races for kids. They race with a sled and 1-2 dogs.
After celebrating with Leah we then went and celebrated with the dogs. I remember talking to Koivu, my first Husky and longtime leader of the team, whom, a few months prior had just turned 8 years old. He would be 13 years old during Lucca’s (as we would later name him) first sled dog race.
It was one of those conversations that seemed to bring my life in a full circle. Koivu was my first lead dog. Koivu was Leah’s first lead dog. And Koivu would be Lucca’s first lead dog.
I had never felt as close to my and dogs and my wife as I did in those moments. I was filled with so much love and excitement and I couldn’t wait to share it with our new child.
When summer hit, Leah was around 7 months pregnant during the month of May. The heat was picking up and I received a phone call from a local rescue group that we had adopted our dog, Bure, from. Apparently the air conditioner went out at the foster’s house and they had no place for two of their higher energy huskies. They asked if we could foster.
Now, this was probably the worst time for us to bring in two dogs. Our house was under construction. My wife was living at my parents house. And I was living in our barn (it has full electric, insulation and air condition) with the dogs. I was sleeping on my wife’s old massage table (she’s a massage therapist). We literally had no floors in our house because we gutted everything. The subfloors were gone, the duct work was gone and the house had no electric. It was just a shell of a home. In order to get out to our dog yard I had to walk each dog from the barn and to the house, I then had to carry them through the house as I walked on a trail of loose plywood to the backdoor. Then the dogs could go outside in our fenced yard. I had to do this with 13, 50-pound dogs.
But how could we say no to helping these two dogs? It would have been cruel to leave them in a house with no air conditioning during the peak of summer. I’m sure they probably would have ended up with a different foster but I still couldn’t say no. So, it was then that we decided to temporarily welcome Juneau and Yashin (their new names) into our house/barn.
Leah said that as soon as I brought them home that she knew we would adopt them. But I was holding out strong that we were only fostering…. That lasted all of three days when a cold front came through and I was able to run the team. I tried out the two new huskies and they loved it. They also fit right in with the rest of the dogs. And I soon found myself growing attached to them. I knew we were keeping them when I picked out their new names.
But Leah and I still needed to have a real conversation about adopting them. We knew our fourteen dogs well enough that we could predict how most would react when meeting the baby. But we barely knew Yashin and Juneau. We had little background information about their past. And we would only have two months time to get to know them if Leah’s pregnancy went full term.
We both wanted to adopt the dogs. And it even made sense for us to adopt the dogs. They were high energy, difficult and came with a special set of bad habits – the kind of dogs we try to adopt. Yashin was clumsy and incredibly stubborn. Juneau was athletic and sweet. But toward the dogs, Juneau had already begun to show guarding tendencies, food aggression and possessiveness. I started working with her immediately and exercising her as much as possible. Within a month she fit in perfectly and her bad habits disappeared.
From a career standpoint the time was right. Our sled dog team had earned a sponsorship from Diamond Naturals dog food and an equipment sponsorship from Alpine Outfitters. It was ultimately because of this that we were able to adopt the two new dogs. The sponsorships gave us the financial freedom to cover the adoption fees and their vet care for the year.
After fostering for one month, we officially adopted Yashin and Juneau. We now had 16 dogs. And within a month after their adoptions, Lucca was born. We now had 16 dogs and a healthy baby boy.
When we came home from the hospital we took our time introducing him to the dogs. There was no reason to rush this, we wanted to keep Lucca and all of the dogs safe. We introduced one dog at a time over a span of a few days. Within three weeks he had met everyone. Half of the dogs paid him little interest and the other half were in love.
I will never understand how someone could give up on their dog during a time of such happiness. I didn’t think it was possible, but after Lucca was born I grew even closer to my wife and our dogs.
Lucca is 4 months old now and finally of the age where he is starting to pay attention to the dogs. His best friend is Mikko and he doesn’t look at her like she is just a dog. Lucca looks at her like she is family.
He will grow up with at least 16 guardians and hopefully remember a childhood filled with good memories and lots of dog hair.