For those who know me, it’s no secret I have a passion for the history of the breed. I’ve spent countless hours looking at historic photos, reading various texts, and generally getting lost in the rabbit holes you can end up on in the internet. In 2015, while on one of these adventures I stumbled across a somewhat blurry photo linked to a Facebook post from the Yale Peabody Museum. The photo was a cropped section part of a larger skeletal display of canines of various breeds. This particular post was a “guess the breed” edition of a trivia day from 2012. The breed was guessed and a clip of the placard was posted simply reading “Siberian Husky”.
In other readings I had recalled that upon Togo’s passing his remains were taken to the Yale Peabody Museum for preparation. His pelt was custom mounted as were his skeletal remains. The remains were donated to the museum while the pelt was placed on display at the Shelburne Museum in Virginia. Later to be moved to the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Museum In Alaska. From there it seems it was largely forgotten that the great sled dog and forefather to the recognized breed remained part of the Yale Peabody Museum’s archives. It was not even certain that the skeleton photographed in recent postings was one in the same. I set the thought aside for the time being.
Years later at the Siberian Husky National Specialty the topic arose once more as I discussed a captivating, yet very accidental find, with breed historians Bob and Pam Thomas. Though it was found to be interesting there was room for much doubt if Togo’s skeleton could actually still remain. And if so, what could this mean educationally to the breed? The spark was relit. I had to know if this was in fact Togo and if there was any way to prove it.
I started by reaching out to the Yale Peabody Museum through their Facebook page where I first found the photo that sparked my interest. While waiting for a response I began searching the digital archives and found the skeleton of the Siberian Husky catalogued as YPM MAM 7243 also Catalogued as “Togo”. The museum’s Facebook page responded with a suggestion to contact the Collection Director of Vertebrae Zoology. I sent an email and waited. A year passed with no response so I decided to give it one last try this past December.
Yesterday the response I had been waiting and hoping for arrived. Confirming what my heart already knew. The skeletal remains that were on display all those years ago is in fact that of the famed Togo. Donated to the Museum on December 5 1929 by his last owner Mrs Elizabeth M Ricker of Poland Springs Maine. The excitement was overwhelming to say the least.
Below you will find the correspondence and photo reply to my inquiry. I hope you share the excitement I felt!
First let me preface this post with a statement that I owe no one any explanation and make no excuses-I am writing this for me. With enough of the past behind me, and enough healing has come to pass, I felt it was time that I stop letting others dictate the narrative and share our truth.
Fall of 2017, at the beginning of training season, I had a personal set back. One that pulled the floor out from under me and sent me down a spiral I found nearly impossible to get myself out of. I will spare the details, for which they are not important to anyone but those directly involved. It was in this time I spent my time buried in my career or in a bottle to numb the reality of what I was facing.
Now, I am not particularly proud of what transpired. I never thought that anything could hit me so hard that I couldn't function in even the most basic capacities, but I was wrong. I gave up on everything. Nothing mattered. Nothing could get me out of the severe depression I found myself in. I stopped caring, I let my responsibilities go, I was done. Shamefully I tried, more than once, to take what I thought would have been the easiest way out...a coward's way out.
It was in this time I was only giving what I could when I could to the dogs. I realized, too late, that I needed to start planning on placing them. But how? How could I let go of the only thing that still made me feel anything at all? I had to realize it was a decision I needed to make for them, not for me.
When I decided which would be the first to place, it made sense in my mind to let the harder keepers go first. They were the ones who needed more than I was capable of giving at the time. It wasn't easy to admit defeat, but it was something I felt I needed to do. Instead of help I got judgment. I got smeared for making the hardest decision, though the most responsible decision I could when I was finally able to admit it. Little did I know that it was a decision that would have months of repercussions to follow. I had Sheriff's Deputies at my house, inspecting my kennel, inspecting my vet records, looking over the dogs. All to the conclusion of the dogs left in my charge were in good health, well cared for, and in no danger.
I suppose in a lot of ways I expected as much. Though I'm no stranger to the rumor mill. After all I'm still being called a puppy mill. Despite having never produced a litter of our own, but rather for having the audacity to have considered breeding before knowing anything about the breed. I had listened and spayed/neutered my first dogs and started learning about the breed but it was not enough. I will always have received my first show dog from a breeder that no one likes or respects. That will always define me to some...thats fine I still love my dog and cherish our memories together. But to be accused of letting select dogs suffer in my care while others did not. We all suffered. To be accused of never liking a dog because I dared to point out the truth about the dogs faults. There has never been a dog here that has not been loved for who they are and appreciated for what they brought to our lives.
In the end I had to give up a lot of what I worked so hard for. I have not run a team in over a year now. Most of our equipment is gone, and a chapter closed. Worse, I had to say goodbye to some pretty special dogs. I still have many who are very dear to me...but I miss the ones I let go. I let myself down. More importantly I let them down. It will not stop me from looking for their faces in my dog yard or reaching for them while doing chores in the kennels.
Today, things are still healing. It’s getting better day by day. These things take time and I’ve come to realize what is really important in this life. Family. But this is not the end for us in dogs. Maybe one day I'll feel the wind in my face as we run down the trails or the thrill of being in the show ring. For now, I'm focusing on us. Keeping us all healthy and happy. More importantly, finding us again. I will always advocate for the betterment of the breed and offer educational materials to those seeking answers to their questions- It has taken time to get my feet under me but we will be back soon.
Working Lines? Show Lines? The perpetual argument that we've all but been beaten into submission to accept. We've heard it and seen it so often. "Working lines" used as a catch all for seemingly all lean, lanky, fine boned, poorly coated, awkwardly proportioned Siberians posted in a multitude of groups....where anything with a denser coat, heavy, short legged beast is labeled as a 'show line' Siberian. Leading to a massive split in the breed. Neither of these dogs fit what the Siberian husky should be.
What happened to the Correct Siberian? The one who meets his breed standard in form AND function? When we think of the Siberian Husky the image that comes to mind should be that of a capable working dog. A lean athlete. Nordic features to suggest him a survivalist in even the most extreme of temperatures. Balanced and efficient. Bred to haul light loads, at a moderate pace, over great distances. Never so fine as to suggest him incapable of doing his job, nor so coarse as to suggest a freighting animal. A dog that fits these ideals should be capable of his job as well as do well in the ring. After all we are supposed to be presenting the best of breeding stock- how can one justify producing a dog only capable of meeting half of the breeds potential?
I'm choosing for example 4 dogs from different lines- All 4 have had special places in their respective kennels. Meeting both form and function- Though from different breeding programs, overall, not that drastically dissimilar.
One of the most striking features of the breed is of course their eyes. Many people, however, still believe the Siberian can only have blue eyes. Or that brown eyes indicate the dog is a mixed breed. This information is incorrect. We are blessed to have a breed that hosts a wide variety of eye colors and combinations. None are particularly rare, and none have any weight on the purity of the lines. All of the following are correct- Per the written standard, Eyes may be brown or blue in color; one of each or parti-colored are acceptable.
Where eye color is immaterial, what is less so is the shape and set of the eye. The Siberian should have an almond shaped eye with a slightly oblique set. This helps protect the eye in severe weather. A round buggy eye will freeze faster than an almond shaped eye will. As a northern breed, this is an important feature and lends to the overall appearance and expression.
While color is immaterial, what is less so is the importance of health testing the eyes. With the number of heritable eye health disorders within the breed, it is recommended that all Siberians considered for or in breeding programs be annually tested for heritable eye disease. Testing must be done by an ACVO licensed veterinarian and preferably submitted to OFA's CAER program or the SHCA's SHOR program.
These descriptions come directly from the Coat Color Identification Guidelines offered by the Siberian Husky Club Of America. The photos are to help illustrate the written word
BLACK AND WHITE
Guard coat is solid black, the individual guard hair is monochrome (not banded) black from root to tip. Single white guard hairs appear occasionally. The undercoat is black or more frequently dark grey. The jet black coat is frequently accompanied by great depth of black pigment on pads and roof of mouth.
Guard hairs are banded with some amount of white near roots. Single white guard hairs appear more frequently. Undercoat may be lighter than is seen in the jet black coat while some buff-colored hairs may be found in the lower stifle and in the vicinity of the ears. The dog gives the impression of having a black and white coat but without the depth of pigmentation found in the jet black and white coat.
Guard hairs are banded with the whitish cast extending substantially from the root and tipped with black. Undercoat has a whitish cast. Dog appears to be black on head and along spine while shorter guard coat along flanks produces a silver effect.
GRAY AND WHITE
Guard hair is banded with various tones of white and minimal black tipping. The undercoat is of a whitish cast. The effect produced is a silver shade of gray on head, back, and flanks, with only minimal darkening along spine.
The guard hair is banded with cream and/or buff tones near the root with black tipping. The light undercoat is toned to give the dog a yellowish-gray cast.
The guard hair is banded with buff tones near the root with black tipping. The cream tones of the undercoat combine to give the dog a brownish-gray cast
RED AND WHITE
Always associated with liver points (nose, lips, and eye rims) and complete absence of black hairs. Light, medium, and dark may be specified, determined by the amount of solid color banding on guard hair.
SABLE AND WHITE
The guard hair is banded with a reddish cast near the root with black tipping. Undercoat is reddish-copper. Always accompanied by black points; this color gives the dog a reddish cast and is not to be confused with wolf gray.
AGOUTI AND WHITE
The guard hair is banded with black near the root and at the tip with a yellow or beige band at the center of the hair. Undercoat is very dark. Defined as the "wild color," it is most frequently seen in wild rodents.
The guard hair appears to be either monochrome (not banded) or banded with pale cream tinges at the root of an otherwise white hair. An occasional black guard hair may appear. The undercoat is solid white. This coat color results from either an extreme piebald factor or an extreme dilution factor and may, as a result, be accompanied by either black or liver points.
July 2004, in a most impulsive moment, my (then) boyfriend and I walked into a pet store in Arizona....and walked out with a bat eared, blue eyed, black and white, scared Siberian Husky puppy. He curled up on the floor board of my car for the short ride home, and curled up into our hearts from the moment he came home. Though we had no idea what it was we were getting into, we couldn't have asked for a more perfect introduction to the breed.
He made the move from Phoenix AZ to the Spokane WA area in late 2004 and quickly acclimated to his new environment.
He was with us through many milestones, new jobs, new house, marriage. He was the first of our Siberians to earn a performance title. Though he wasn't cut out to be a sled dog, though he had the heart and the drive, he excelled at weight pull. Despite not having the most ethical breeding background or dazzling pedigree he didn't let that or his critics slow him down.
It wasn't easy saying goodbye to you, though we're glad to have been there for you in those last hours. I already miss hearing your soft woos coming from downstairs in the morning and your sass in the dog yard as you kept everyone else in check. Our house is a little quieter without you here and the hole in our hearts is a lot bigger. Thank you for being the one to start it all.
Another year in the books for Team Keahi! Our first race of the 2016/17 season in West Yellowstone was a rough one. Starting with the dog truck not starting the morning of the race. At -43F overnight, it was just too much for the truck to overcome with a bad block heater. Thankfully our friends in the dog community rallied to get us and all of our equipment to the race site. The trails from the lot looked beautiful. There was so much fresh dry snow, even though it had been groomed the night before, was soft and dry. It had been comparable to running in sand. The runners I chose weren't up for the challenge of the cold dry snow. I knew from the moment I released from the rig that it was going to be a challenge. 2 miles from the finish line I decided to do the only thing I could think to do with how much work the dogs put into the run and that was to scratch from the race. They were tired, but no worse for the wear to be honest. Though it was disappointing, I know it was the best decision to make for the team's moral.
We spent the next few days after the race recharging in Bozeman. The above zero temps were a welcome change for all. Getting to spend some much needed time with the family was also very needed. It would have been nice to stay a bit longer, but we were all missing home and our 'handler' who had to stay home this year. On to the next adventure! See you all in 2017!
Length of leg. A topic that frequents multiple Siberian groups across Facebook, only to discover the dog that inspired the question is a juvenile...I always try to caution people from looking at a juvenile with too much of a critical eye. As juveniles go through a wide array of development, and not all of it is pretty. What you may be looking at now might not be a true reflection of how the overall dog will end up.
Below you can see how the dog in photo one is all leg, awkward, gawky...a summer juvenile coat didn't help the overall picture. Yet he developed into a nice dog upon maturity. (all be it not everyone's cup of tea). You can see here how a developed chest, mature full adult coat, and how things have balanced themselves out in the development process of maturing have really changed the overall picture of the dog. This dog is my "why I don't critically evaluate juveniles" reminder! Things change, and can change a lot over the course of 2-3 years.
The length of leg for the Siberian Husky, should be 50-60% of the total height of the dog, measured to the highest point of the withers. The leg is measured from the ground to the elbow.
Legs longer than 60% of the height, tend to create a top heavy dog, which affects the workability. Dogs with too short of legs make the dog have to work harder.
When visually evaluating length of leg, one must consider several factors. A dog with a well laid back shoulder, and a well angulated rear to match, will tend to look shorter on leg.
Conversely, a dog that is straighter in the shoulder and rear will appear to be more up on leg. Shorter coat, fluffed up coat, out of coat will all alter our perception.
The way a photo is cropped will also make a dog appear to have longer or shorter legs, as will the camera angle. When evaluating a dog from photographs, I prefer shots where the dog is level with the camera, with the center of focus at the dog's shoulder. This gives a more realistic view of the overall dog being evaluated.
*Exerpt courtesy Susan Parraga Zuska Siberians*
Sometimes, seeing the proportions in action is helpful. Ideally a dog who is balanced should exhibit balanced motion. A correct Siberian gait is one where reach and drive are equal. The front paw should fall no further than the nose, the rear paw should be kicked no higher off the ground than the length of the hock. High kicks and over reach together are wasted movement. Wasted movement is wasted energy. A reach that's over taking the drive or a drive that over works reach are movements that lack balance and take away from the efficiency of the overall dog- neither works well for what is supposed to be an endurance distance covering sled dog.
October started off in the air, quite literally. We were on the plane to Boston headed to the SHCA National Specialty in Sturbridge MA. A long trip would be an understatement. Worth it? Absolutely!
Thanks to Impact Crate and Kennel, Keegan road safely in style. We had lots of huge complements on the crate from many of the airline crews. Nothing compares though to the peace of mind that our boy was completely safe and secure for his big trip! We were able to check on him after the first leg between Spokane and Seattle to make sure he was adjusting well to the commotion of travel. Should have guessed he was a total ham and was loving all the attention.
We made it to Boston early Monday morning. Priority one, walk the dog (and the humans) after a 5.5hr flight we ALL needed to stretch our legs!
We made our way over to Paul Revere Park and ended up taking a walk along the old naval pier. Keegan got to see lots of things he's never seen before. Not to mention be the center of attention to dozens of tourists coming to see the USS Constitution restoration taking place! It was by mere chance we ended up getting to see a part of the earliest history of our Nation.
From there we took a drive out to Hull. Where my mom, who flew with us to Boston, was staying. We got to see the Ocean! It was absolutely mesmerizing. Watching the tide come in, the waves crash against the beach. Keegan was not at all too sure about the water that chased him up the sand. He helped us find sea shells and played on the beach for the first time. This stop really made the trip worth mileage. Nowhere else could we have had this opportunity to share these firsts. By the time we were through with lunch, the beach we had just been walking on was completely gone. Hidden by the water coming in.
Once mom got settled in Hull we made the drive to Sturbridge for the week. Fall colors were just starting to make their appearance. What a show the leaves put on for us while we were there! Providing the perfect backdrop for our beautiful dogs! An incredible week of Siberians competing in a wide variety of events. Keegan, once again, made the cut in initial BOB Dog judging. A huge accomplishment for us!
Overall it was a fantastic week of dogs, friends, fall colors, and new experiences. The trip was more than worth it and hope to be able to do it again next year!
Perhaps you have noticed that dark mark on the tail of your Siberian. Perhaps not a mark, but a spot of coarser hair. Have you wondered what that spot is? That spot marks the spot of the violet or supracaudal gland. This mark is common in all breeds of dog, though not all marks indicate a functional gland.
In some breeds of dog this gland is non-functioning or completely absent. In others, the gland may still prove active, though significantly reduced in size. The reason for some dogs having the gland, while others do not, is not entirely understood. It has been speculated that dogs who live their lives outdoors, for example in a large working kennel, often more frequently have functioning scent glands. Whereas dogs who have lived their lives primarily as indoor pets often do not. Though not a proven hypothesis it is an interesting theory as to why some dogs may still have an active scent gland, while others do not.
Growing up in Montana my love of the Siberian Husky started at a young age. It has been quite a journey so far. There has been much to learn and still a lot more yet to learn! I truly believe that we are never too old, too experienced, or too full of ourselves to learn something new. I also believe that knowledge is useless unless we are willing to share it with others.