Vanya was running around loose in a neighborhood in Louisville where she'd been dumped, literally. A guy in a pickup truck slowed down and threw her out. She was about six months old.
I got a call from a co-worker who knew that I loved Huskies, asking if I could catch her. She wouldn't let anyone touch her in the two weeks that she'd been running around in her mom's neighborhood. I used a Golden Retriever to decoy her in close and grabbed her by the legs and brought her home with me.
Vanya was SMART. We guessed that she was a Golden and Husky mix. To me, she was 'dog' personified, exemplifying all the things that make up those complex and wonderful creatures. She was really sweet and affectionate, very much in tune with what you were doing and how you felt. She was very gentle with people and small creatures. She didn't pick fights with other dogs, preferring to observe and make decisions about what would best benefit her, but she would NOT back down from a challenge.
She would trick other dogs into abandoning a toy so that she could get it by making a big fuss over another toy or bone and then when the unsuspecting pooch came over to see what was going on she'd swoop in on the one she wanted and scamper off to her den with it.
We called her kennel 'the Vanya cave' for all the things she cached in it and the fact that it was where she hung out all the time. She even carried her food bowl into it at feeding time so she could eat in peace.
She loved stuffed toys, and whenever we were at a yard sale we'd bring home a stuffed toy for her to adopt as her 'baby'. I would have loved to see her mother a litter, but she was already spayed when we got her.
But for all her gentle nature, when she hunted she was a stone killer. And she NEVER stopped hunting, from the moment she first came to our house. Whenever she was awake, she was listening and watching and scenting - especially scenting. She found things that the other dogs never knew were there by following her nose. No mole was safe from her if the air and ground were the least bit warm so that she could follow their scent. If we got near the woods and I wasn't watching her like a hawk to call her back, she'd get her nose down on something, bolt off on the track and there was nothing I could do but wait for her to come strolling back in, tail wagging and that big grin on her face about the deer she'd just run to exhaustion, or the raccoon she'd treed.
She had no vices. I expected her to live forever, because in my heart I could never think about what I'd do when she died. But she did, after collapsing one day in a field like she'd been struck a blow. She was diagnosed with hemongiosarcoma at the age of ten years during an exploratory laparotomy done to see what was wrong with her. We let her go and she never woke up.
I still grieve for that sweet lady. After almost two years, her kennel still stands empty with her toys in it. I can't stand to let another dog sleep in it. Maybe someday, but not yet. Not yet.
I have a tuft of her hair that I found a few weeks after she died in the grass in the field where I take the pack to run, left there from when I was 'plucking feathers' from her undercoat poking through her outer coat.
It sits on the desk, a sad little 'Vanya ghost', next to Julia's picture.