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We said goodbye to her this morning.

Do dogs (or people) take on the personalities of the names we give them? I can’t be sure, but I’d never name my dog Cheney, unless I wanted a mean-tempered cowardly cur. When she was a freckle-faced ball of white fluff, we named the puppy Laska Tsarevna, in honor of her Russian roots as a samoyed. Tsarevna means princess, and Laska, meaning caress or endearment, was Levin’s favorite hunting dog in Anna Karenina. Our petting princess grew up to be smart, sweet, and drop-dead gorgeous. Everyone who saw her commented on her beauty and couldn’t help wanting to pet her. You can see why, across the orange curlicue.

 photo Laska_Jan26_sm_zps7a5bd76b.jpgLaska

Laska had the perfect manners and the absolute confidence of a true princess. She evidently got in line for personality tickets a couple of extra times. When she was 8 months old, we adopted a rescue samoyed who was 11 months old. There was some dispute at first over who was in charge, but the outcome was never in doubt. Koko was bigger and stronger, but Laska was smarter and sneakier. She always got her way, but they were best friends. When he lost his battle with lymphoma 3 years ago, she mourned for months.

Laska’s distant ancestors in Siberia pulled sleds and herded reindeer, and her nearer ones were the favorite dogs for Arctic and Antarctic expeditions. The survivors were courageous, tough and charming dogs; the weaklings were fed to the other dogs. In her prime, Laska could run 10 miles with me and turn around and run with Dan 5 minutes later. She pulled a wagon for 3 miles in the Central Valley heat as a float for veterinary epidemiology in a parade. She was a working dog; when she hiked, she carried a pack with water bottles. She figured out how to catch birds out of the air, and squirrels on the run. But she would let a four-year-old take a bone out of her mouth to give it back to Koko, and a toddler climb on her and curl up in her soft fur.

She waged a gallant battle with all the courage of her breed against the encroachment of old age. But in the end, Time, that thief of all brightness and vigor, caught up with her as she neared 15 years, ancient for a dog her size. She had to rest when running, and then she had to walk instead. She ate less and less, and became fur over a shadow of bones and the remnants of her strength. And finally, the last day came, when she could barely walk, even with our help. We took her to the vet this morning, and there were no more miracles. We lay next to her on a quilt on the floor and held her in our arms and watched the light fade, and heard our hearts break, as hers quietly stopped beating.

Goodbye, sweet Laska, and may you run free in spirit, caressed always by our love.

Originally posted to Laurel in CA on Sat Jan 26, 2013 at 11:49 PM PST.

Also republished by PWB Peeps.

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