After reaching the 3-dog mark, things were pretty quiet for awhile. The dogs were learning how to be a team and I was learning how to be a musher. As Denali and Knox matured and got faster, I could see that Dexter’s interest was fading. I knew I wanted to keep mushing, so I started thinking about dog number four.
There was a second litter planned between Denali’s parents and I was excited by the prospect of owning another well-bred, easy to manage dog. Sadly, the breeding didn’t work out, but I was given the next best thing—an opportunity for a pup bred out of Mia, Denali’s sister.
Mia and Denali are very similar. They’re great leaders and both have boss bitch attitudes. I didn’t know much about the litter’s sire (Merlin out of Kelim Siberian Huskies), but I trusted they’d make great offspring.
Willow (originally “Snow”) was born June 10th, 2015. I was told I had first pick of the girls after the breeder made her choice. I knew right from day one that I wanted the oddball with the mismatched ears.
Two months later, Willow was ready to join my pack. My cousin and I piled into my SUV with Denali and drove up north to camp in New Hampshire for the weekend, with plans to nab the pup on our return drive. We hiked the Franconia Ridge Traverse that Saturday—a hike that truly destroyed our asses. The next morning we packed up camp and headed to Sibersong, where Willow was freshly bathed and waiting. (I wish I could say the same for us.)
Denali was very confused by this new little girl, encroaching on her all-dude pack. It must have been very stressful for little Willy—her mom looked almost identical to Denali and yet this new, strange dog gave her nothing but grief.
Despite the rocky beginning, Denali learned to tolerate Willow’s presence. Knox, on the other hand, was thrilled to have a pup around that was willing to play with him and wasn’t Dexter.
My first run with Willow on the team was magical. I had never run four dogs before, and her presence even seemed to give Dexter a boost. Each dog ran better with a partner at their side. Denali was more focused in lead with Knox and Dexter was less intimidated by his female running mate.
It wasn’t long before I bumped Willy up to the lead position with Denali. She’s fast, smart, and intense—and runs in perfect unison with Denali. She’s every bit the rockstar sled dog I wanted, with the added bonus of being a really sweet pet.
If an evil Disney-style witch turned me into a dog, I’m 100% sure I would be Willow. She’s a serious worker when there’s a job to be done, but take the harness off and she’s a lovable weirdo with a tendency to expose herself.
She can be a bit nervous, though, especially around strange men. (A girl after my own heart.) She doesn’t like to be squeezed and gets a bit anxious if you try and hold her—same. After all, she’s the smallest one in my pack, weighing in at a whopping 38 pounds.
People often ask me if I have a favorite dog, which is hard to answer (other than “not Dexter”). I’d definitely take a dozen more Willows, though.