An Angel's Heart
Almost every day that we share our homes with our companion dogs, and with rescued foster dogs, we learn something new. One major lesson happened in 2005. And, as is frequently the case, the lesson giver was a combination of our dogs and our good friend Molly Stone. At that time we had our dominant girl, Kiko, who was our first Husky - woolly, black and white, with blue eyes and a fun, mischievous personality , we had Nutmeg, a young crazy red and white Husky (OK, crazy and red&white is redundant), we had Saki, our sweet loving lazy black lab, we had Carolina, our sweet giant black and white Husky girl, and we had Lily, a headstrong GSD/Husky/Something mix. Kiko and Lily were starting to get into fights, and the fights were getting worse, and both Aida and I had been to the doctor at least once each to get sewn back together for unwisely sticking our hands in the middle of it. We asked Molly for help, and she came over to share her wisdom and some of our wine and steak (we got the better bargain). After just a short while, Molly said "That's a girl right? And that one? And that one? And this one too? Actually all of them?" We shrugged and said "Yep". Molly replied "Well, you might have a little too much estrogen here, you might want to balance this out some. Oh, and probably separate Lily and Kiko since they are way past the kiss and makeup stage." We said "You mean, get a male dog?" She said "Yep."
So, as fate would have it, our friend Dawn at the Siberian rescue, had a cute young all white blue-eyed male Sibe in need of fostering. We took Molly's advice and brought a male into the mix. He was our foster. And then quickly our failed foster (that means we kept him).
He was not very big, he was only a pup, but then again for his age he was big. He was sweet, and a little shy. I cannot be certain, but I think I am the one who suggested Gabriel because he was like a shiny white angel. The crazy thing was that the girls settled down almost instantly. It's not like Gabe exuded maleness - he certainly did not seem to. But just being the male there settled everyone down. He quickly fit it and found his place with the Girls.
Gabriel was always… different. Male Siberians are (according to the AKC) supposed to top out at about 55 pounds. Gabe stopped growing at about 85 pounds. He was big, and had a huge chest. All white, with blue eyes - you could not miss him. His first snow - you would have thought that Happiness Himself was reincarnated in Gabriel. He loved that snow. His howl was different, too. When the other Sibes started a howlfest, Meg would lead the way with her sonorous tone, Carolina would bring in that mellow Alto on the low end, Kiko would ring through with her gorgeous wailing Soprano… and then Gabe offered what I can only describe as counterpoint. Sometimes bass, sometimes tenor, always off beat, not a bark, not a howl, but always the buffoon. It was hysterical to watch and listen, and he seemed to truly enjoy it when I joined in.
Gabe's tail was always wound too tight. The standard Sibe has a gorgeous crescent curl, tip up high. Gabe had a corkscrew that went just past a full turn. Thick and luxurious, but would a little too tight.
Gabe smiled. A lot.
His spot was our master bed. When the time came he let us know. If we were sleeping in on a weekend, he stood at the foot and whined in his unique way until we cleared a runway for his immense frame. He would leap up, turn once, stretch - that is a LOOOOOONG stretch, and settle into his throne. I do know that he went outside to play and eliminate, but any other time you'd find Gabe on the bed. Large and in Charge. He would NOT, however, sleep on the bed if humans were on the bed. His bed or their bed, but not at the same time. BUT, if there was not a no-slip rug on the floor at the foot of the bed, he would not jump up. He needed that runway with the secure launch pad at the end. Getting down was the same, but he'd give in eventually if the rug was not in the right spot.
Gabe never did like Sit. He would do it, if you asked more than once, but he took his time and did not stay there long. He was also a master of the frog style of laying down, with four limbs akimbo.
Gabriel had a sweet spot on his chest where I could skritch and always get the hind leg going AND the neck stretch for a bonus.
He LOVED to play slap the bed with me. If he was on the bed - scratch that, when he was on the bed and I approach, he would often mewl at me, lift his paw up in the air, and smack the bed. I would rush up and smack the bed near his paws, and he would smack some more. Sometimes he would get me, sometimes I would get him. This always ended with lots of fur rubbing, skritching, hugs, and kisses. Oh, and he gave copious sloppy kisses!
Gabe was a shy one. If he was on the bed when someone new arrived in the house, he would usually howl/whine/barkish from the bed. If he was outside, he would poke his head in, or come just into the breakfast nook, to see who had arrived. He would almost never approach a new or unknown person right away, he'd let the girls to the greeting. Instead he would typically employ the Ewok Maneuver. This is shifting the weight back and forth from side to side, making comically fierce (or in Gabe's case, whining) noises for a short while, then calmly observing, and finally sauntering around behind the new arrival, getting a good sniff, and then rubbing on you to leave large amounts of beautiful white fur on your clothing to let you know that you have been accepted. If he REALLY liked you, he would come up from behind you, push his head between your thighs, and then look up at you lovingly with the back of his head pressed back against your crotch. Given Gabe's height, this may or may not have been comfortable. But he also smiled at you from that awkward position.
Gabriel was the first dog I ever knew without a doubt to be gay. Spanky was his partner. They hung out on the bed together and were practically inseparable. As much as losing Gabe has crushed Aida and me and left holes in our hearts, it has really hit Spanky hard. Spanky is extremely, painfully, shy of humans, and Gabe gave him confidence. Now Spanky won't let us near him, again, and it doubles the pain to see him scared again.
We teased about Gabriel being gay, for a number of reasons that sprung from his personality, but he clenched it one day. We had just admitted a couple into the house to meet a cute pitty pup they wanted to adopt. This was a gay male couple, obviously in love with each other, and as friendly as you could ask for. While I was in the process of explaining that the giant white Sibe in the other room would likely ignore them but would later check them out (see Ewok Maneuver above), Gabe jumped off of the bed, ran directly up to them, quickly got behind them, pushed his way between them, and lifted his head up lovingly, claiming eternal friendship. We all laughed. Gabriel did that a lot - made us laugh. No doubt, Gabriel was gay and proud.
When he was younger, we used to worry if Gabe would be man enough for the pack. He just did not seem to have the masculinity we had convinced ourselves was needed to be The Dude in the pack. This was especially true when we brought Killer (not his real name) into the house as a foster. Killer was a solid, mature, large, dominant, confident, linbacker hulk of a red and white male husky. He made it clear from the start that he was going to be boss. He was a handful, and once even challenged Aida directly. He is the only dog she's ever known that put his mouth on her with the intent to do harm, or at least dominate. He was a Tough Dude. I happened to be in the back yard one day when Killer was making dominance moves on the Husky girls, and Gabe was acting rather distressed. At this point Gabe was barely a year old, full grown but lanky and not filled in to his frame yet. At one point Gabe moved in between Killer and Nutmeg, and Killer showed all the signs that It Was On - stance, teeth, low growl. I was rather worried. Gabe cowered, dropping his head down, bending a knee, leaning away from Killer. Oh Great, I thought. Our new male is a wuss. Killer, naturally, brought his two front legs up off the ground and lunged at Gabe - and MISSED! It was a feint! Gabe had bluffed Killer, lured him in, jumped up and toward Killer, and came down full force on Killer's head and shoulders. Gabe rolled him and then pinned him, showing him substantial pearly white teeth and a very puffed up main. Killer peed himself, and never messed with Gabe's Girls again. By the way, Killer got a Siberian Husky's dream home in Connecticut shortly after that, and is about the happiest dog on the planet. But Gabe was The Man from that point on.
Gabe took his job seriously. He counted puppies when we brought them into the back yard, like it was his responsibility. Of course, once we got past four or five he was lost, and you could see the confusion, or frustration, in his eyes. But he tried dammit. He kept watch on the youngins.
One of Gabe's favorite things to do was to clean. Auntie Gabe we called him. His BFF Emma, the blue pit, would climb up in bed next to him and he would clean her, especially on the chest. For a long time, she had rashes, and we think he helped - alleviating the itching, and doing the medicinal magic that is part of the canine kiss. But Emma was not why he was famous for cleaning, or why we called him Auntie Gabe. Gabriel loved puppies. LOVED puppies. Well, until they started jumping on him and chewing on him while he was sleeping. But when they were smaller than that, he LOVED cleaning puppies. We've whelped more than a dozen litters in this house, and Gabe loved few things more than taking a spot on the couch and cleaning babies. We would carry one to him, and he would happily clean the pup, stimulating it to eliminate, and clean up the pup like the world's best momma dog. Oh, and the cleaning wasn't just magical for the pups. Many times I've seen him in the backyard after a rain, with North Carolina's trademark Red Mud up to his armpits, and think oh damn, I am going to have to cover the couch and get the mop out. But five minutes later I would see a shiny white Sibe laying calmly on the bed looking at like "Wha?" I still don't know how he did that.
Gabe had a huge chest, much much larger than a typical Sibe. Dogs with huge chests tend to live shorter lives than those with smaller chests, proportionally. We think that maybe that is why Gabe's heart gave out on him. It was an exciting trip - he and the girls were in the truck heading for a photo shoot. Maybe it was the excitement that put too much strain on his heart. Me, I think it was something else. You see, there are about a hundred or more puppies out there that have part of Gabriel's heart, along with their clean butt. Between all the humans he met, and Spanky, and a hundred or more pups that he has given parts of his heart to, there just was not enough of his own heart left to keep up with that giant angel of a dog.
If you have adopted a puppy from Pawfect Match Rescue and Rehabilitation, there is a very good chance that you too have part of Gabriel's heart. Keep it well, and remember our giant white angel. We miss you more than words can say, sweet Gabriel. Namaste' and play well on the other side of that Rainbow Bridge.