Mazzy Star, the deaf, three-legged old husky who was lost in Alaska bear country for eight days, is sampling the high life after making it back to her home in Whitehorse in the Canadian Yukon. That includes a steak dinner prepared on the barbecue of owner Karen Clyde and her husband, Tom Jung.
But within days, troubling news darkened the happy reunion.
A vet visit this past week to check out a lump on Mazzy Star's leg delivered bad news. Mazzy, age 15, likely has cancer. In a younger dog, the front paw could be amputated. But at Mazzy's age, surgery isn't worth the risk of complications, Clyde said. While the news was daunting, Mazzy has already proven herself a survivor.
Mazzy managed more than a week on her own near the Russian River Campground on Alaska's Kenai Peninsula before she was finally discovered by a campground employee. Jung then embarked on a gonzo road trip to zip back to Alaska to fetch the wayward pup and return her safely to his worried wife's arms.
"Where were you?" Clyde asked her loyal canine companion while giving Mazzy a big hug when reunited. After the celebratory steak, Mazzy retired to her kennel for a long snooze. The next day, she was treated to a day at the spa. After all, she had emerged from the Alaska woods skinny, scruffy and dirty.
Now, after a good wash, she's "sparkly clean" and sporting a new hot-pink collar. A handwritten "Welcome back, Mazzy" sign, made by Clyde's youngest boy, hangs inside the home where Mazzy can see it. And she's getting plenty of extra dog treats, as Clyde works to help Mazzy regain lost weight.
The family, especially Clyde, had worried they'd never see Mazzy again. She had survived many misadventures in her life, but nobody can outrun old age. The family had hoped, however, to enjoy a little more time with the old gal.
"Mazzy having cancer was what I would have expected for her age -- which was why losing her in Alaska was so brutal," Clyde said in an email. "Getting her back and having time to be with her as she ages is the best I could hope for."
So now it's back to plan A. That's the plan Clyde had before Mazzy went missing, but now it comes with a new sense of urgency. It includes watching Mazzy play with the family's two other dogs and letting her live out her days -- however many more there may be -- much loved.
One side note: Another family from Whitehorse knows what Clyde went through.
Earlier this summer in Haines, Alaska, that family lost its dog, Foxy, in the surrounding mountains and had to return to Whitehorse without her. The next weekend, they returned to Haines, unwilling to give up on their dog. As they hiked the mountains searching, Foxy was spotted and soon reunited with her family.
A brief story and a nice picture of Foxy and her owners can be found on the Facebook page for the Haines Animal Rescue Kennel.
Contact Jill Burke at jill(at)alaskadispatch.com