SP Kennel is a premier sled dog racing kennel in Two Rivers, Alaska, dedicated to the individual dog through excellent health, nutrition, training and specialized care.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

My "Special Relationship" With Dingle by Macgellan

Like everyone, I was shocked and saddened by Dingle’s sudden passing. It’s always hard to lose a dog, some more so than others. I love all the SP Kennel dogs, of course, but I will admit to having had a few favorites over the years. Dingle was one of them. In fact, we had a very “special” relationship. Here’s our story:

In the December 2008 GinGin 200, SP Kennel ran three ten-dog teams with Aliy, Allen and Bridgett all on the runners. I was the only crew member on hand, and it was only my third race experience.

Late on the first night, I was in Paxson lodge after a 20-hour day of handling dogs, helping mushers, filming the action and posting to the DogLog. I was just about to put my head down for a nap when I heard my name called, followed by words a handler doesn't want to hear: "One of your dogs has just come back from a checkpoint."

I bundled up to deal with the -50 degree temps and howling wind — epic race conditions which resulted in this iconic picture of Aliy — then went out into the pitch black night. Being thoroughly examined by a race veterinarian was two year old Dingle!

Having been dropped from a race for the first time — in only the second race of his young career! — he looked perplexed and disappointed, but was visibly reassured when he saw me. I greeted him with a brisk pat and asked him, "What in the world, Dingle?!?"

Apparently, the flap we attach to the underside of the male dogs' wind jackets — to protect their "private parts" — had blown loose on Dingle. Being particularly well-endowed, the lad had been exposed to the fierce winds and had picked up a bit of "frost nip" on his, um, "Little Dingle."

After examination, the vet assured me that it was a minor “nip” and that he would fully recover with no problems. He would, however, require some special attention over the next 48 hours.

In brief, his treatment regimen had two parts:

First, avoiding internal infection by keeping him thoroughly hydrated such that fluids frequently flowed through the affected organ. Second, avoiding external infection by keeping the affected area thoroughly lubricated with a liberal amount of ointment.

That was all the instruction I received. With the all of the Kennel's actual dog experts out on the trail, it was up to me to figure out how to comply with the doctor's orders.

The first job was pretty straightforward. Although there's only so much clear water a dog will drink, there's almost no limit to how much "fish soup" an Alaskan husky will lap up. So, I got a cooker going and made Dingle a huge pot, mostly water with chopped up pieces of salmon and a little kibble for flavoring. Every hour I fed him a big bowl of it, then walked him until he relieved himself of the previous dose.

Besides being time consuming and a bit of a drag to be outside in the dark, cold and wind half the night, the hydration order was easy to accomplish. I would do anything for the dogs, especially for my little pal Dingle.

Saying I would do anything for Dingle brings me to the second job. At -50 degrees, the ointment/salve had the consistency of clay, not something you can just dab on with a gauze pad. In order to apply it, I had to briskly knead it in my hands while inside the lodge, then run outside and manually massage it onto his booboo.

Picture yourself in the arctic night, massaging a dog's private parts every hour and you probably won't even come close to how ludicrous it seemed to actually be doing it!

The first time I did it, Dingle was more than a little surprised. After that, I swear the cheeky rascal smiled at me every time he saw me coming out the door.

Various humans couldn't resist getting in on the act, taking turns to make comments on my activities.

One grizzled veteran handler got a laugh out of everyone — and even a grin from me — by declaring, "You've sure got a special relationship with that dog!"

It was worth it, of course, for Dingle to make a full recovery, even despite forever being chided by various members of the mushing community whenever they saw me with the SP Kennel team: "Hey, which dog is your special friend?" If they only knew.

Dingle was very much my special friend, and not just because of our weekend in Paxson. It's always a risk to anthropomorphize a dog, but with him I'm proud to do it: Dingle and I have a lot in common.

Other dogs were flashier and more famous, like ChaCha, Quito, Nacho and other superstars of the Kennel. Dingle was a quiet, competent, hard working dog who rarely got — and never sought — the limelight. Being good at his job was its own reward.

Everyone who knew Dingle always knew he could be counted on to do his job, to do it well and to get it done. He always had a smile on his face!

I like to think of myself that way, or at least aspire to his level of quiet, solid, reliable performance and positive attitude. Dingle was my role model.

This is my favorite photo of Dingle. It's how I will always remember him.

Farewell, my special friend... Thank you for the honor, privilege and great pleasure of knowing you.


Dawn E said...

Thanks for sharing such a beautiful story Mac. You've given me a hearty laugh followed by sad tears. Blessed are we who can have this connection with our furry ones!

Cal OSME said...

What a tremendous story. Thank you for sharing it

AK Michele RN said...

Such a well told story of Dingle, I feel like I knew him now... Love & (((hugs))) for you missing your special friend <3

Margaret said...

Thanks so much, Mac!

A very moving piece of Dingle history. And respect for a great athlete, 4-legged division.

Jane Walker said...

Wonderful story & a great tribute to a beautiful champ. RIP Dingle

Joyce said...

Thanks for sharing. RIP Dingle, and condolences to all the SP Kennel family. Very sad!

Julie Quinn said...

What a special beautiful sweet boy.

Nessmuk said...

Thanks for sharing Mac...brought a smile to my face and a tear to my eye. Special bond indeed!! Rest in peace dear Dingle!

Roscos mom said...

Great story Mac!!!! I know this special fella will be terribly missed by those who knew and loved him. SP kennel will forever have another angel looking down upon them and keeping them safe!

marilyn cozzens said...

Thank you Mac for sharing a moving wonderful tribute to a wonderful dog. It also brought both a smile & tears. A very special bond forged with Dingle at -50. And great picture you shared. Thanks again.

A-town's Becky said...

Spencer is counting his blessings the temperatures are not -50, and praying they never get there.
I should have known you would have a unique story. You are certainly an inspiration for dog handlers :-)
I will miss Dingle's gorgeous open mask, that like Fang's, always made my heart skip a beat for Moxie.
Aliy's first day of training post, Sept. 1, 14 has Dingle looking fantastic.
Her first SNOW post Oct. 6, 14 has a great picture of Dingle.
Dingle went out on top, performing with the best of the best.
While he missed the typical retirement of SPK dogs, he lived a full and happy life filled with love.
I can't help but think that Dingle is looking down from heaven with that...


Harry W. said...

Some dogs are just special and touch our hearts in unique ways.

So sorry for everyone at SKP for losing Dingle.

This type of situation always makes me think of a quote I found when we lost a special dog. Don't remember who the quote is attributed to but it seems to fit Dingle;

"Near this spot are deposited the remains of one who possessed beauty without vanity, strength without insolence, courage without ferocity, and all the virtues of man, without his vices."

Barb, CO said...

Beautiful story about a dog and his best friend. I am sure this little boy loved you so much for taking such good care of him, for cooking up some tasty soup and for walking him every hour. What a good friend you are. Thanks for telling the story, just this way.

Cathy said...

I love this story! Thanks for telling it.