Back in 1997 when Sam and I were first married, we moved to a small town in Western Iowa to take a full-time pastorate in a little Christian church. Sam had been into sleddogs and mushing for about 15 years while living in Scotland in the 80’s and 90’s, however he’d not had any dogs since returning to the States after his divorce. Living in Florida there weren’t many opportunities for mushing, and the poor Siberians that lived there were usually miserable – between the heat and the sand fleas, and you can’t blame them.
Once we were settled into our new home in Iowa, the mushing bug bit Sam hard and I agreed to allow him to get a small team of dogs for recreational purposes only. Boy was I a sucker! I had never been involved in any aspect of the dog world (with the exception of owning a few strays as a kid, which never lasted), and I had no idea what kind of mess I’d just agreed to. Before I knew it, we’d made a quick trip up to the upper peninsula of Michigan and had acquired 3 dogs, and Sam had also made arrangements with a Canadian kennel to purchase a pregnant female named Ginger Grant (her litter was all named after characters on Gilligan’s Island).
Ginger was a piebald Siberian which means she was spotted, and when she was clean and brushed up she was the most beautiful girl I’d ever seen. However, when she first came to live with us in Iowa in October 1997, she was so skittish we weren’t able to get close enough to touch her for three days. She wouldn’t eat, she didn’t trust us, she wouldn’t rest; she stayed in our mudroom the whole time she was inside, cowered in a corner shaking like a leaf. Finally on the third day, whether from exhaustion or the fact she understood we weren’t there to harm her, she let us get close enough to give her some food and water. We were so worried that she was going to miscarry if she didn’t eat or drink, and we were so thrilled that she was finally responding to our gentle urgings. That moment was the start of a beautiful relationship.
Ginger was the first inside Siberian I’d ever had. But she was the best ever. She and I became fast friends and she loved nothing more than to hop up in bed with me after Sam had left for work and we’d sleep in late. In all honesty, I don’t know which one of us snored louder! During the day, she would curl up on the couch and nap or watch in wonder as I’d attempt to keep our little rental house clean. And when we’d go outside to play with the other huskies, she’d lounge on the front porch and watch them run around the yard like the crazies they were. She was very regal in her mannerisms. She rarely got riled, never snapped at the other dogs, was the best house dog a person could ask for – except at bath time.
As her pregnancy progressed, we kept a close eye on her. I was forever feeling her bulging belly, counting the puppies inside, anxious to see how many we’d have – hoping they’d all look like her. One Sunday we came home from church to find our front door open and the house a ransacked mess. My first thoughts were burglary, but once I got inside and noticed all the dirty laundry had been drug out and chewed up, the pillows had been dragged off the couch, there was a half eaten can of spicy nuts on the floor….I knew who was responsible. Yep, Ging-ybug was nesting! The time was close.
Two days after Christmas, she went into full labor. We’d set up a whelping box in the corner of our office a few days earlier, and when we woke up that morning, we found her sitting in it – panting like mad and licking herself. That was a long day for sure. She finally gave birth the her sixth puppy in the late evening on December 27th, and we were overjoyed and exhausted. She was a champ and was the perfect mother right from the very first birth. This was by no means her first litter, and I was so thankful for that. She cared for her puppies in the most tender way, and she allowed us to paw and google over them as much as we wanted to.
Out of the six that were born, five of them thrived. Four boys and a tiny little girl. Sam wanted to give them strong names based on historical figures – Sir William Wallace (Will), Robert the Bruce (Rob) , Sir Gallahad (Surge), Geronimo (G), Mary Queen of Scots (Maz). The weeks flew by, and before we knew it, we had to take the litter up to Minnesota to fulfill our end of the bargain – pick of the litter for Ginger’s breeder. She chose Surge. He was a bright puppy. Inquisitive, but not overly curious. Smart as a whip. Determined not to let his brothers get the best of him, and the second best looking of the bunch. After a short stay in Minnesota, his breeder whisked him off to Canada to begin training him with her team. We all expected great things from Surge, and we were not disappointed.
Surge was a 5 time Iditarod runner (he finished twice) and ran in 5 other major mid-distance and long-distance races. He was a powerful and handsome boy, with his mother’s sweet disposition and some of her looks. He sired three or four litters of his own as well. His legacy lives on in the lives of these young dogs he’s left behind. Sam and I are so grateful to Karen Ramstead for allowing us to share the life of Ginger Grant until she passed away suddenly in 2000 in my arms. She was an amazing dog and she produced amazing dogs; Surge was a spectacular example of her quality.
You will be missed young man!