Closing the door on Alaska 2019

I spent Monday and Tuesday this week dismantling an 8 day backpack that we committed to over a year ago. Of all the possibilities we thought might cancel our trip, we did not seriously consider that our dog would go into heat.

We are tremendously disappointed. Our destination, the Arrigetch Peaks in the Brooks Range in Alaska has been on my wish list for several years. But the feelings go much deeper than disappointment and have been a challenge to both John and me. We have let down friends who are not terribly understanding (4 are still going) and we feel a level of resentment toward a little puppy who is just doing what 13 month old girl puppies do.

Katie in a pair of boxers

If I am honest, the trip started to unravel in early summer. We struggled for several months searching for someone with whom we felt comfortable leaving our puppy for two weeks. There were times we felt strangely paralyzed by this task. We talked to people about in-home care, to kennels and to several pet care services. We were about to give up when Lindsay popped up on our radar. At our “meet and greet,” she was perfect with Katie and Katie loved her. We were so relieved!

Several weeks later we found a growth on Katie’s mouth. A trip to the vet indicated that she had picked up the papilloma virus, most likely contracted from another dog in doggie daycare. After some back and forth with Lindsay and an uncertain time for the virus to pass, she cancelled. This virus is contagious to other dogs and Lindsay has a rescue with an unknown history. The virus was an obstacle for other sitters too. We talked seriously about cancelling our trip (early-July) and in hindsight, wish we had. But we felt compelled to try one more time. Our anxiety was high!

After many texts with different sitters on Rover, we found Heather. By now it is the 3rd week of July and we are panicked, we are scheduled to leave in three weeks. Again a meet and greet and we found a really good match for Katie. Best of all, Heather had no dogs so the virus did not matter to her.

Meanwhile, on the last day of July, we had a trip meeting. Will, the trip organizer and de facto leader arrived with a soft cast on his right foot. Apparently he missed a step in a plaza in Peru the previous week and developed a hairline fracture. As he continued his travels, the hairline facture became a full blown facture. Obviously he had to cancel and the trip participants dropped to 7.

That same night we learned Joan had developed an unknow virus and was in and out of the hospital with fever (later diagnosed as mono). By the 2nd day of August, eight days before her departure, she was forced to cancel. The trip was down to 6 participants. This is still a good number in grizzly country but barely.

Almost exactly one week from our departure, John calls me in the bedroom with, “I think the puppy has gone into heat.” What??!! Katie’s breeder told us that we shouldn’t have a problem. Katie would probably go into heat sometime after we got back. Surprise, another curveball!

We immediately sent an email to our group indicating that we were contacting our pet sitter and would be in touch. I was initially not worried but because we had briefly discussed the possibility (I may have been too assuring that it wouldn’t happen) and Heather said it would not be a problem so I brushed off my concern. It took Heather about 24 hours to respond with a lengthy apology AND a cancellation. She was familiar with dogs in heat and rightfully had a concern about her white furniture and carpets. The energy and excitement level in our house dropped to 0.

With seven days to departure, we could have spent the week under extreme pressure looking for someone, anyone to take our dog in heat (with no guarantee) or do what we did and decide the trip was not meant to be for us. We sent out a cancellation to our group and also made a phone call to a long time friend who was a participant. I got off the phone feeling bad and questioning our decision. We understood the group’s frustration and this exacerbated our feelings of letting our friends down.

As of today, our little puppy is going into her second week of heat. While it is hard to be resentful to a cute little puppy who loves us unconditionally, we will be happy to have this phase of dog ownership behind us! We are ever hopeful the friendships survive and we are slowly working through our own disappointment. Who cancels a trip because their dog is in heat? I guess the answer is, we do.

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