I arrived at our local shelter on a beautiful Saturday morning in May of 2008 to work my volunteer adoption counseling shift. I was relatively new and didn't know my way around so when another volunteer asked me if I wanted a tour of the 'back areas' I gladly agreed. I was taken through the back kennels where all the strays are held prior to evaluation and surgery. I was overwhelmed with the number of kennels there were. Some dogs barked, some ran to the kennel door, most looked lost, sad and confused.
I walked the rows and rows of kennels and then I saw them - two beautiful, pleading eyes, one blue, one brown, looking up at me, trying to communicate with me. The eyes belonged to a raggedy looking Siberian husky that was obviously matted, filthy and scared. My feet were planted and I couldn't leave her kennel until I knew her story.
This had been her third time she ended up homeless in the shelter. She was thought to be about 9 years old. I just can't fathom how someone does that. How do you load up your elderly dog that you've loved for seven years and dump her off? How do you do that and walk away? I'll bet she was so excited when you got out her leash and took her for a car ride.
Her paperwork didn't forecast happy news for this dog named Princess. Her fate had been cast due to health and age. With a big red sharpie someone had written PTS on her medical evaluation form. Naively I asked what PTS stands for, when I heard the words 'put to sleep', I felt like my heart would explode.
I immediately sought out a staff member and committed to adopt her. Now I had to convince my husband that we needed a third husky.
The drive home after my shift was torture. If my husband said 'no', her life would be over. That thought alone weighed heavily and my stress elevated. I confronted my husband and told him that we needed to talk. I suggested he sit down, I brought him a beer. Finally I blurted the words, "There's this dog". Thankfully he agreed that we needed to save her.
To say that my youngest husky, Jambalaya, and Taysia Blue didn't get along is being kind. We had fights, territory wars and bloodshed for the first 90 - 120 days. It was awful. We had to keep them in separate rooms, the whole dynamics of my house changed. This was heart breaking and inconvenient, but we felt it was our responsibility as pet owners to make this work. We listened to experts, worked through a training plan and it got better. Over the next five years it wasn't always perfect, but they did fine - in fact there were times they would go off together to nap or find trouble as only a husky can.
The medical problems were equally as challenging. Taysia Blue was regurgitating her food on water as many as twenty times a day. She was eventually diagnosed with Megaesophagus. The good news was that we had a name for it, the bad news was that there was no fix, no cure - only management, carpet cleaner and a different way to feed her. We learned to feed her by having her stand vertically on her back two legs and let gravity work its magic.
Taysia Blue loved being the center of attention. She would plant all four paws in front of you so that you would either trip over her or pet her. She truly loved her life and as I am so lucky to have shared our five and a half years together. Each time I looked at her I thought about all the dogs like her that weren't so lucky. Thousands of dogs, just like her, die in overcrowded shelters every day across the country. Each time I looked in her eyes, I was moved to do something about it.
I really had no idea what I was doing, but I set out in late May of 2010 to start a rescue. I figured that we would save eight or ten Siberian huskies per year. The one thing that I knew was that the rescue would be named for, and in honor of Taysia Blue. Without her, I would not have had the passion or seen the need. In June of 2010, Taysia Blue Siberian Husky Rescue in Nebraska, Inc. was an official corporation; we filed to become a registered charity in order to achieve 501c3 status. We saved money for the filing costs and to pay for a year's worth of insurance. With about $100 in the bank, we took in our first dog. We were official - We had one volunteer, one foster family and we saved one dog and posted her on the website in early October 2010.
We saved forty-seven Siberian huskies in our first year of rescue, ninety-one our second year and over a hundred in our third and we haven't looked back. We are still a young organization, but we aspire to be the best all volunteer rescue organization on the planet. We're a long way from that lofty goal, but it drives us to always be better, to evolve and change as an organization as we identify new challenges and needs. All with the goal to save more lives. Taysia Blue is with us every step of the way. She is the face of the rescue - as we use her to bring some levity and laughter to a very stressful, sometimes sad mission of saving dogs. She is there to remind us of the happy results.
Taysia Blue's legacy continues and hopefully we'll continue long after I am gone. She will forever be that little husky whose legs were too short, her jaw too crooked, that little husky who was a bit too crabby to take to events. Yet she has left quite a paw print. I knew it the day when someone contacted me about adopting "a Taysia Blue". "You mean a Siberian husky"? "Well, sort of, one of those Taysia Blue Huskies is what I want".
Taysia Blue lived to be almost fifteen years old. She was full of funny quirks; life just isn't the same or as humorous without her. Everyday of her life she would look up at me with those pleading eyes and I couldn't deny her anything. Rescuing Taysia Blue has been the single most rewarding thing I've done. She inspires me to do more, to make a better world for animals. She helped me find my purpose and my passion.
Taysia peacefully left us on February 10, 2014. She will be missed, but her spirit and her legacy will endure.