What makes a dog special varies from person to person, the unique bond we have with these wonderful creatures is exactly that and for that reason I thought I'd outline why Bear was uniquely special to me. Bear was the first born male of the very first Snowsteeds litter. Bear and his three siblings survived a tiger snake bite and a weeks premature birth. At four days of age (after Tedra then lost her milk) the Vets gave Bear and his brother a 50% chance of Survival and their two sisters none. They all miraculously survived. From this traumatic start Bear and I had a special bond and over the years that bond only became stronger. Bears favourite thing in the whole world was me, he simply doted on me. I'm not mentioning this due to any ego on my part but rather an explanation as to why he would do anything I asked without question. This is the sole reason why Bear was such a phenominal lead dog in my teams. He was not the biggest, strongest or fastest dog in the world but in my team he was simply irreplacable.
Out on the track alone with your dogs is when those special moments happen. It might be a magic turn, a burst of speed, negotiating rough terrain or merely staying on the trail instead of launching off after some spooked wildlife. Mostly it's the communication between dog and musher and sometimes that communication is so intuitive that it's merely a meeting of the eyes and a shared knowing look. Bear and I have had many such moments but a couple that stand out are two separate incidents during open races where other dog teams have been hell bent on attacking mine. A seriously dangerous situation as Mally's love a good fight and are very adebt at it once aroused (mine are no different, they love to fight if given half the chance). In both these situations Bear pulled the whole team away from the aggressive team and out of danger. This went against his natural instincts and required him to haul three other Mals enthusiastically ready for battle off the trail and into the forest just because I told him to. His immediate compliance simply amazed me. Bear was the sole reason that any team he's been in hasn't needed handlers in the start chute. I remember weaving through dozens of teams to get to the start of Australias biggest sled dog race (which I was running very late for). Despite the dozens of screaming dogs eager for the start, all the people, vehicles and gear, Bear manouvered my team through all of the chaos and commotion to the start chute, lined the team out and waited patiently for the command to go. People still come up to me and tell me how impressed they were by my team at that race. With Bear at the helm I was always assured of no trouble, clean passes, superb turns and a whole lot of fun.
In 2007 the year Equine Flu shut down all horse events the local show decided to put on a bush agility competition to fill the horse area. A nearby agility club set up the large course which included regular equipment as well as some not so regular items. I entered Bear in the competition seeing as we were there watching and thought it looked like a bit of fun. Bear however had other ideas. From the moment the start bell went Bear took to the course like a pro. With each piece of equipment completed he turned immediatly to the next and never missed a beat regardless of never being near a single piece of agility equipment in his life. I don't teach my dogs to sit (I find it easier to show train them to stand for food etc), the course included jumping onto a large square bale of hay and doing a sit stay for 5 seconds. Bear launched onto it with his backside immediately on the straw, held the sit for exactly five seconds then launched off it toward the next element leaving me in total awe of him as I raced to the next section of the course. I admit we had an advantage on the weaving poles as he rapidly Gee and Haw'd his way through them but the tunnel which pulled many of the dogs up and I thought might cause us some trouble Bear simply charged through then launched over the last two jumps to the finish. I was left panting and completly amazed by what had just happened. Nobody believed that Bear had never seen agility equipment before let alone been in a competiton but that was the truth of it. Bear won the competiton convincingly.
Bear has been the ideal trainer for novice mushers and sled dogs alike. Knowing that I can put a novice behind a team with Bear at the front and still have total control of that team despite standing on the runners of a separate second team (that may be quite a distance away) has enabled many people to have an enjoyable and safe sledding experience. Equally having Bear help train all of my other dogs has been a huge advantage. The young dogs are faster and stronger but thanks to Bear they are also fairly obedient, good on their turns, hold their lines and pass cleanly. So as you can see Bear was one very special dog to me, one in a million and one I'm very thankful that God answered my prayers for in the middle of the night so many years ago when he fit in the palm of my hand and battled for life. As hard as it was losing Bear I am thankful for every single day that I had him, each day a gift, a total blessing in my life. RIP Beautiful Bear you truely were a 'Good' dog.