A lot of tears in our house yesterday as we said goodbye to Luka. He was part of our family for 14 ½ years. And no matter what stories I tell in the next few sentences, he was a good dog. He was kind and gentle. He was amazing with the kids. Didn’t bark. Didn’t jump up on people. Never harassed the cats, at least not in his later years lol.
We loved that dog.
But if you are a co-worker or have been Facebook friends with me for any length of time, you will have heard Luka stories. Because Luka had one character flaw and it was Shakespearean in size: he was a runner. Add to that, the GPS in his head never functioned, and that meant that I spent a good portion of my adult life looking out the kitchen window to make sure the dog was still there.
I am going to be looking for a while still. Old habits are hard to break.
Luka never did break his running habit. When he was only six months old, he ended up with a bullet lodged in his left hip, probably the consequence of running in someone’s pasture. When he ran with the neighbor dog, at least once he ended up at a co-worker’s house towards Swanson. We live between Pike Lake and Delisle, for reference. Nowhere close! When you live in the country, a mortal sin is letting your dog run loose so we knew we had to do something. For everyone thinking we should have just got him fixed, we did. It didn’t help lol.
Another neighbor suggested tying 2x4s so that he had to drag something around. We opted for a tire instead. People often laughed when I’d say that he was like a car: he had both winter and summer tires, larger ones in the winter because there was no friction to slow him down! When that didn’t work (he would navigate the corner at the end of our lane like a tractor trailer unit, swinging wide and again ending up at the neighbor’s) we had to put a 14ft tree across the road. What a colossal pain in the ass, having to move a giant log every time we came in and out of our yard! Typical Luka, there were times that he STILL managed to get past that, running with enough speed to ramp that tire right up and over, and he was off. When he’d get stuck in the trees off one of our trails, he would never bark. My tracking skills got pretty strong over the years, and I’d find him, patiently smiling at me like:
“I knew you’d find me mom.”
On multiple occasions, either the rope or his collar would break and he would be gone. Like I said, the GPS never worked! When he stopped running, he would just make himself at home with whoever he met. One time someone found him after a couple weeks lost, wearing a black leather collar, where he had left with a blue nylon one. He was so, so fickle and it would be easy to think of him as disloyal, but really Luka just loved anyone and everyone. On his farthest journey, he was 62kms away in under 24hours. I found him through Facebook, way out by the Harris game preserve. The rope eventually was replaced with chain, and you had to be sure not the take it across the ankles when he decided to run by you. I had literal chain marks many times when I didn’t jump fast enough.
In case you think we didn’t try, I can assure you we did! We even have a useless dog training certificate to show for it. It really wasn’t his fault - it’s what huskies are meant to do. Even today, as we sat in the car waiting to get called into the vet, Luka wanted to sniff out the window but couldn’t really move to get closer. I opened up his door and sure enough he was giving it his best effort to make a break for it! It was only a year ago when we were away travelling, our daughter Eliisa decided that Luka was too old to run away anymore. Nope. He was not, haha.
His running did have some advantages though, like pulling the kids on their GT racers when they were little. They had to be sure not to fall off, or Luka would take off with the sled! He used to go ski-joring with me, but he generally only pulled until he decided he was done, and then I would have to try to cross country ski without poles back PLUS pull a less than cooperative dog along with me. He was so strong, even in his old age. A co-worker said that’s because he did cross-fit with the tire all day long!
But that wasn’t his only idiosyncrasy. Eliisa remembers that she cranked him in the head with a bocce ball once (she throws like I do) but I’m sure it wasn’t the reason why! He just always had his own unique personality. Luka always ate chokecherries right off the trees, putting a branch in his mouth and stripping the berries off. Never Saskatoons! Just chokecherries. He had more than one encounter with skunks and the tomato juice bath always left him a little orange for a while. He did traumatize the cats when they were all younger, but as they got older, they became best buds hanging out together on the “dog deck” where Luka spent his nights.
Yesterday, we sat together in the back of the SUV with the vet beside him. I held his head in my hands and stroked his thick coat. He was only starting to lose his winter hair, small tufts of fresh white sticking out here and there. When they put the needle in and he was going to sleep, I was ready for the last breath. We’ve said goodbye to two other dogs, and I remember how that scared me the first time. I know it’s just air leaving like a deflating balloon, but it feels like their spirit is being released back into the world again. But Luka did something different first. His front legs started to run. Not spasm. Run. Just for a second or two, but it was running. I’d told the veterinary assistant earlier about how Luka was a runner, and she quietly said it was fitting that he ran his way across the rainbow bridge to the other side.
Yes, it was.
Luka, you brought equal amounts of love and stress to our lives, but that was who you were. I’m so glad that you were part of our family for so long. I’ll miss you puppy.
Perpetual amateur. Lifelong learner. Vice-Principal. Teacher. Musician. Mom. Annnnd if you're reading this, then I'm still a blogger.