Last weekend, we celebrated Juno's fifth anniversary of her adoption and her sixth birthday. She's all grown up now and I couldn't be prouder.
Long time readers may think my problem dog is the cracker, but Juno didn't come without her own set of issues. And we are not talking about her mastication addiction. In fact, allow me to illustrate with a few of Juno's early photos of the first day of her adoption.
Does this look like a dog who's happy to have found her home? Loki, who loves all dogs husky, was sitting on the left outside the frame of this shot with a huge smile on his face. He was so excited to have a Siberian for a sibling. Juno? Not so much happy to have him.
A home with a cracker dog who likes to play tug and all sorts of mind games, was not exactly what she had in mind for "happily Sibe after." She was reticent and would watch in disdain as Loki and I played rousing games of tug with no interest in joining in. She wasn't even interested in food.
Once I figured out her real motivations (to be queen and treated as such) it was nothing but a thing to bring her out of her shell and build a deep bond with her. Once she felt good in her own fur, I was able to build up her food drive and from there she was easy-peasy to teach. She went from sullen to smiling in a matter of months. This shot was when I first realized she was happy.
It wasn't long before these two become pals either. Juno figured out Loki was all bark and no (real) bite. And she quite liked having him around. So much so, she'd cry when I took him to school without her!
And pretty soon, it was common to see them snuggling.
The more I reinforced Juno's need for my attention, the more she wanted to interact and please me. She figured out very quickly that making me laugh made her feel good too! That's just Sibe-smart! And if making me feel good happened to be one-upping Loki, that was extra benefits for her ego. Whatever Loki could do, she could do better. She watched him, learned, and improved on it. There isn't a trick that Loki does that Juno can't do as well, with her own pizzazz.
Mr. Wild Dingo had his own set of problems with Juno. For a long time, Juno wouldn't even come in the house when he was home. Often, she would run into a corner just to get away from him! (Little did Juno realize that she wasn't the first female to run away from him!) Sigh. Poor Juno. Mr. Wild Dingo was so distraught and at times frustrated, he didn't know what to do. No amount of food won her over. Instead, he gave up many Saturday bike rides to go to school with her (though she already had been through school with me).
That proved to be exactly the medicine this relationship needed. I'll never forget the day the entire class applauded when she finally recalled straight to him instead of running to every fence corner and even outside the fenced field to get away from him!
And today, when we all hike together, Juno and Mr. Wild Dingo walk side by side as a team. If I ask the dogs to heel, she goes to his side and walks with him rather than to my side next to Loki. When Mr. Wild Dingo is around, he belongs to her.
At home, she continues to play those silly "run away" games from Mr. Wild Dingo. Sometimes he goes to her and laughs as he pets her. Other times, he may ignore her and go into his office. She'll follow and stare until he acknowledges her. Then she turns around and runs to the nearest a corner where she can cower, groan, maybe even growl to show her displeasure. This only makes Mr. Wild Dingo laugh as he goes to her to pet and make over her. He knows what's she's doing. He knows it's her way of asking for attention. And he knows he's only reinforcing her to run away from him when he pets her like that. What can I say? Their relationship is complicated. Because when it counts, she always goes straight to him when he calls. She adores him. She just doesn't want to admit it.
When we found out that Juno had severe hip dysplasia, it was quite a shock. We had no experience with it. And we soon found ourselves on a sharp learning curve of what would work and what won't. We do a bit more than the average pet owner to manage her pain and yet keep her as active as possible. The more structured activity she gets, the better off she is. Between her structured exercises, physical therapy and holistic healthcare, it's a lot of work, but worth every minute for the pleasure and the benefits she gets from it all.
For a dog with x-rays that defy a dog who should even be able to walk, she runs regularly and has climbed long long miles in the Alps!
The last few months Juno's been an enormous inspiration to me. When I feel too sick and desperately want to pull the covers over my head to stay in bed, I take one look at her happy face begging for me to start the day and get outdoors. She faces some level of pain every day, some days more than others, but she never shows it. She's always happy and always excited to go on active adventures. How could anyone say no to that? If she can be happy no matter how bad she feels, well, so can I. Loki may have saved us from a house fire, but Juno saves me from myself.
We all love this crazy, complicated, but enormously happy Siberian. No amount of her mastications could ever change that.
"Love never tasted so delicious," Juno says as she ate her Anniversary Bone. She truly is the happiest dog I've ever known.
Happy Anniversary Juno! All three of us love you exactly as you are!