Sunday, October 3, 2010

Run in Peace, Sheenjek

Sheenjek - aka "Mega-mutt"

When I first saw Sheenjek, standing on top of a house at the borough animal control shelter, I thought he was the most majestic working dog I'd ever seen.  I immediately adopted him and his mother, Darling Daisy, and then dashed home to set up houses and posts for them.  I have never had reason to regret the decision.

Sheenjek was 7 years old when I adopted him, which makes him 11 years old now.  At 27 inches tall and running at about 80 lb., he was one of the largest working dogs I'd ever met, and he was indeed a HARD working dog.  He almost always ran in the wheel position, and I can't recall ever seeing him with a slack tug line.  In fact, most of the time his tug was a tight as the high-E string on a guitar. 

When I first brought him home he was scrappy with other dogs.  Apparently he'd lived with his brother most of his life, and he and Blackie had "issues".  Over time he became less of a brawler with other dogs, but if one were rude he was quick to correct them - but always appropriately.

Sheenjek loved human attention and he especially loved a good butt-skritching.  He would lean up against you and sigh contentedly just as long as you were willing to scratch the base of his tail. 

I used to joke that Sheenjek the Megamutt had a personality similar to a stereotypical Irishman.  All he wanted to do was work hard all day, eat a hot plate of food, drink a beer or two, and indulge in the occasional brawl.  As I mentioned, the brawls became more and more infrequent as he became comfortable with life in the Stardancer kennel.

That life was ended this afternoon.  I am at work, but our handler (Ted) was walking Sheenjek over to the hook-up line for a run when the big guy suddenly dropped to ground, screaming and flailing.  When Ted tried to help him Sheenjek bit him - twice.  This is the only time to my knowledge that Sheenjek EVER bit a human. 

Once things settled down a bit, Sheenjek's rear leg seemed to be merely dangling, and he was obviously in severe pain.  Ted took him to the Fairbanks After Hours Veterinary Clinic where he was x-rayed. 

Having heard that part of the story, I steeled myself for Dr. Ruben's phone call.  It was worse than I could have imagined.  Unbeknown to any of us, Sheenjek had a tumor deep in his femur that weakened the bone to point it could no longer bear his weight.  The femur had snapped just above the knee.  Most likely the tumor is malignant and probably metastasized by now.  In the best possible outcome, he would lose the leg and be confined as a housedog and in the worse case would die in severe pain within weeks.

I decided to have Sheenjek euthanized while still under the anesthesia that was necessary to take the x-rays.  Ted agreed to stay with him through the procedure so he could pass in the presence of someone who knows and loves him. 

I'd like to extend a special thank-you to Ted, for taking immediate action to get veterinary care for Sheenjek, and for staying with him through the end. 

One of the toughest things about working at a remote site is being unable to leave the station when something goes wrong with the dogs.  For someone in my work situation, having trustworthy, competent assistance is a true Godsend.


  1. Swanny, I am moved to tears by your blog - the last few months have been tough. My thoughts are with you. And thanks to Ted for being there for you - and Sheenjek. He did seem to have mellowed and enjoyed his mature years with you. Regards, Terry

  2. Swanny, I am truly sorry to read of Sheenjek passing. Thank you Ted for getting Sheenjek to the vet promptly for medical attention. Sorry you were bitten but you had the composure to take control of the situation and do the right thing. Sheenjek was one heck of wheel dog and friend to Swanny and the Stardancer team! You will be missed and loved by us all my friend. Dave in NC

  3. We all know the story of the Rainbow Bridge.. Swanny is going to be knocked over by all the love he's going to find there. I Know that we all have our nitch in life and He's finally found his, with his dogs. We care so much, we hurt so much,and we love so much that hurt is part of knowing how much it is all so worth it.