Last weekend, we all celebrated Juno's 7th birthday and 6th anniversary with us. Instead of the typical family day with just the four of us, we took a very big hike in the mountains with some friends and dog pals. Juno is nothing if not social. She enjoys the company of other dogs on our walks.
Juno is not like most Siberians. Juno is actually obedient and very much attached to me and Loki which is why she's granted more liberties than most huskies. While she reminds me daily of the independence that was bred into the husky, she only ever needs a gentle reminder to walk beside or behind me, never in front, when we hike in the forest. She and Loki get to take their time, smell the pee mail and run to catch up to me, never passing me to run up the trail in front of me. She knows the boundaries and she respects them. The real question is why.
I can only guess that it's partly because of her easy-going temperament or partly because she learns a lot of dog behavior from my velcro dog, Loki. In other words, he taught her to be attached to both him and me. But mostly, I believe it's because she truly wants to please me. And I write this not from a delusion, but from bewilderment. I mean, she's a HUSKY, right? Why would she do anything to please anyone but herself? The longer I know Juno, the more I realize she's an incredibly complex, gentle, loving soul. The more confidence you can give her the more she loves you. If she chooses to love you, she will go to the ends of the earth with you by your side to make you happy. When I'm happy, Juno's happy. She will go out of her way, melting me with kisses to bring my mood up. She's a dog who truly wears her heart on her tail as it thump 120 beats per minute any time I approach her.
Juno's always ready to train and learn new behaviors, even without food. She just loves to engage with me or even Mr. Wild Dingo. For Juno, it's never about the treat, it's about the self-confidence that she gets from pleasing me. Remember, she didn't have a huge food drive when we adopted her. Much like the clicker is for behavior, the food is simply a signal that she did well, which translates to feeling good and confident. And the more she feels good and confident, the more she wants to please me. It's as if whatever I say is a great idea for her so she complies.
There used to be a time when Juno would sit on the outskirts of the living room at night while we watched TV. Then, Mr. Wild Dingo started giving her nightly massages for her knotted shoulders and back. He would call her to him and she would get up, groan in annoyance, then go to the opposite side of the sofa from where he sat, on my side, only sort of obeying him by getting closer but not close to him. He would get up, walk around the back of the sofa and end up behind her, sit down and begin to massage her. It's become such a tradition that now Juno doesn't even bother starting out at the edge of the living room anymore. Instead, she just goes straight to the massage area next to the sofa, and plops herself and stares at Mr. Wild Dingo until he goes to her for massage. He somehow trained her, no treats needed. And she trained him. With a husky, there's always some give and take. She loves him but for whatever reason she has, she doesn't like to show it outwardly.
Though she's so easy going, she still displays her husky drives, which I always keep in check, especially when we're hiking. Never fear Internet, my eyes are always reading her which is why I never hike while talking on the phone or listening to music.
Despite her chronic pain from hip dysplasia, she is truly the happiest dog I've ever known; she's rarely ever angry. That in itself is a good life lesson for any human, with or without pain. Juno often displays a sensitive, empathetic and compassionate nature. At the animal hospital, she’ll cry in empathy for the dogs who are in wheel chairs or who look very sick. I can see that she aches for them and it breaks my heart that she feels so sadly for them.
Of all the behaviors of Juno that I observe, her relationship with Mr. Wild Dingo is the most complex, confounding and endearing. Most nights she is either happy or neutral toward him, but sometimes she'll pull out her groans or growls in annoyance in a corner while staring at him. We can always guess at the reason why, usually its because he's either paid too much attention to Loki or because he didn't pay enough attention to her. Now and again, we find ourselves perplexed at her reasons for her groans. The other night, after Mr. Wild Dingo spent a good long time with Juno, she plopped herself in the kitchen corner to watch me work. Mr. Wild Dingo came into the kitchen and she let out the loudest, most human sound of annoyance I've ever heard. Her groan lasted at least a full minute and hit several octaves. It was too funny to believe and only made us giggle. Mr. Wild Dingo went right up to her and to give her snuggles. I know Internet: he just reinforced her groaning! Those two have their own little mind games.
I picked her six years ago thinking she'd be a great playmate for Loki. Knowing that huskies are generally dog oriented, I never expected this level of love and loyalty from her. And though it was rocky for her at first with Mr. Wild Dingo, she's managed to come into her own confident self and granted liberties that could only come from mutual respect and love. OK, so a few Dansko's had to be sacrificed along the way. But I wouldn't have it any other way. She's a husky after all.
Happy anniversary Juno! Thank you for all the lessons you've taught us over the years!