How lucky are we to know someone like Jim and his pack who are so hard to say goodbye to?

When I met Jim in 2008 outside a dog park, he invited me and the cracker inside to play with his gang of huskies. I’d never seen dogs as big as his and certainly never interacted with one. I was terrified of them, but mostly of how the cracker would behave with them. It turned out, it was love at first sight for Loki and the huskies. Later, Loki was adopted into their gang as an extended pack member and an honorary husky. They even taught Loki to sing with the emergency sirens! And Loki taught the local coyotes to sing as well to sirens. So you see, they’ve been such a big and positive influence for Loki since we met them!

Tommy, the big white malamute, is more or less the pack leader. He’s calm, doesn’t have a mean bone in his body and thinks everyone loves him. Anyone who’s met Tommy, is intimately experienced with the Tommy bear hug. He is a very tall dog and basically goes up to you calmly, non nonchalantly rises up on his back legs, puts his front paws on your shoulders and kisses you until you cry “uncle!” It’s shocking if you’ve never experienced such a greeting, and endearing if you do. I personally love Tommy’s bear hugs.

Then there’s Shadow (to the right in photo above), a Caesar Milan rejected dog who was exposed to barbaric forms of training. Just google Caesar Milan and Shadow to see the horrible training video. He’s a soft dog, with a big heart and like Loki has a few pieces of baggage that with the right person are handled easily. Where he failed in homes with people who did not understand his emotional or physical needs, he thrived in Jim’s home and pack where he was allowed to be himself:  an energetic malamute, who loved to wrestle and hike. In Jim’s home, he accepted the humane boundaries provided for him that ultimately improved his behavior and coping skills.

There’s Vushki (to the left), the huge malamute-shepherd mix who was always “the puppy.” For a long time he and Loki were best friends, and rough wrestled each other until they were pooped out. What great memories! And because of it, Loki has a huge fondness for all canines husky and shepherd.

Sweet Suki, who’s also new to the group since we first met them, is a non assuming, quiet little girl. Like Juno, doesn’t rough house, and separates herself from the barbarian wrestling boys. At home, demands full attention from her human, like the princess she is.

Niko is the new addition to the pack. He was blind and had glaucoma from birth. The breeder decided he didn’t want to deal with the expense of healthcare for this beautiful dog, and dumped him in a shelter. His condition deteriorated so badly that the only option would be to remove his eyes when he got old enough. This pup is gorgeous, gregarious and an absolute love-bug with people and dogs. Breeders who do this kind of shameful behavior to those dogs they breed are a POS and nothing less. Niko knows nothing but love for life, people, dogs and his buddy Shadow.

“Hey Shadow, my mouth can fit your whole head in it!” Niko is such a clown and Shadow adores him.

Jim is moving back to England after having lived in the US for more than half his life. So we met up, after having not seen each other in years, to say goodbye. It sure was hard. Loki cried his head off when he saw Jim, ears pinned back, high pitched yips, head lowered, tail tucked and leaning into his pal as he greeted him. He loved Jim. Loki pretty much senses when people really like him and will go out of his way to reciprocate that affection. His heightened almost overly-emotional response to people like Jim, breaks my heart because it makes me realize just how many people may have misunderstood him or treated him cruelly. He’s not like Tommy, just assuming everyone loves him and those who do not, Tommy does not seem hurt by it. He’ll just back off and look for the next person or dog to love on. But Loki’s intense response to people like Jim just makes me realize how many people let him down. When Loki loves you, he loves you forever.

As usual, it took a while for him warm up to the pack he once knew, but once he had his calm brain on (he was over the top when he saw Jim), his tail was wagging as he sniffed and remembered his friends from his puppy and teenage years. It was really beautiful to see. But also hard when you realize it’s likely he’ll never see them again. They played such a huge role in helping me understand who Loki was when I first adopted him. I had no idea that dogs played as roughly as they do until I watched them with Jim’s pack. Jim was absolutely calm and reassuring even if things got a little heated in play. Watching Loki with Jim’s pack was an educational experience I’ll never forget.

As we walked to the park, Niko, the sweet brave pup who loves all dogs, pestered Loki a few times and Loki tolerated it, until Niko tried to hump him, then Loki had to use a little noise and theatrics to tell him to back off. But all was good. Seven dogs, all amped up, there’s going to be some noise.

While trying to take a group shot, Shadow and Niko started rough housing as they commonly do and Loki tried his best to get Tommy to play. I think Tommy might have tried but at his age of 13, neither I nor Jim would allow it. So we just sat down on the grass. Soon Tommy came over to me and since I was sitting on the grass he did not give me his bear hug but took advantage of the position and kissed my entire face much to Loki’s chagrin. He then he took a seat next to his pal.

In the final few shots, you can see Tommy contemplating getting Loki’s attention. Tommy has an excellent sense of humor. He also knows how to push buttons to get a rise out of a dog or human. And he’s known Loki so long he knew exactly what he was doing when he put his paw on his back. Loki immediately expressed his opinion loudly but again, all theatrics. It’s hard to catch dog’s facial expressions in quickly heightened interactions like this, but the camera caught it and it just reminded me of how Loki is such an easy mark for clowns like Tommy, or even Juno who’s been known to push his buttons. They know exactly how Loki will react but they push those buttons anyway, because it’s funny. Loki’s sense of humor is limited to not being the butt of the joke!

“Hmmm. I’m feeling a little bit bored. Maybe my pal Loki would like a little joke played on him,” says Tommy the white malamute sitting right behind the cracker.

“If I just put my paw right here…” says Tommy.
Shocked by someone other than mom touching him, Loki turns on the crackery. “WHAT IN THE NAME of SWISS CHEESE do you think you’re doing to me Tommy?”

“Mom! Tommy’s touching me!”
“So, whatchya gonna do about it, tough boy,” asks Tommy. Meanwhile Shadow is snickering. “I’m not looking,” claims Shadow!

“Get your paw off me!”
“Tee hee, Loki, you’re such an easy mark,” says Shadow. Meanwhile Tommy is enjoying the spectacle he created.

Juno just pretends she doesn’t know the cracker. “He’s mom’s problem, not mine,” she says.

We’re going to really miss this gang. After all, Jim and his pups were the first to accept Loki for who he was, faults and all. His pups not only taught Loki to sing with emergency sirens but how to play rough but nicely. And Jim was the first to help me understand dogs who enjoy rough-play. Not to mention, they are responsible for my own harboring of a criminal Siberian husky too, who turned out to be such a joy to have in our family! I have so many great memories of them and I’m forever grateful to them. I will not say “Goodbye.” Instead, I will say, “See you later, until next time, my friends!” Loki and Juno add, “Smell you later, gang!”

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