Zephyr -- by Tara Cicatello

Born May 1, 2016; Zig x Bailey (both King dogs); part of the Weather Systems litter

It was love at first sight.

I met Zeph when she was four months old. While most of the dogs were not yet at our winter location, Lil’ Bear and Zephyr arrived early. There were two pens with four puppies each in them, most being Zephyr’s siblings. I put her in the first pen, but all the other pups banded together and started bullying her. She was pretty good at defending herself, but even after several minutes and my attempts and getting them all to play, they still were after her.

I moved her to the second pen, and the same thing happened- the ‘everyone gang up on the new girl’ mentality was clear. I took her out of that pen, and not really knowing what to do, decided to take her home for the night.

It was a most joyous eve, settling in to a new place with this little spunky puppy whom I just met. She was so full of happy and curiosity and life; I knew we were destined to be best pals.

She came home with me most evenings until she upgraded to the adult dog yard with her very own dog house. Her house was conveniently located right in line with my walking path home, so we got into a nightly routine: letting her off her tether,  running around the apartment complex a few times, flying up the stairs, waiting excitedly for me to let her in, and barreling inside for fun and love. This pattern held true for a handful of regulars who joined me for nightly snuggles, but the others would take turns. Zephyr was constant.

If I didn’t bring her in for a night or more to give others their space, she would whine and howl and make sure I knew I was forgetting her. The adult dogs didn’t always get along with her- she was rambunctious and always wanted to play. She would storm in and lick any dog that was joining us all over the face, whether they liked it or not. “Kill them with kisses!” I would laugh, as she would continuously lick them on the lips- they did NOT like that! They would growl at her and give her looks, but she would mercilessly continue giving them all sorts of love. 

And so our love affair blossomed that winter. Though I wasn’t training her myself (she was running with the Pup Squad all season), our bond was obvious. And she was doing awesome! Reports were that she was becoming a great little leader and did very well in any position with most of the team. My heart was booming with pride.

The following winter (2017-18) she was a yearling, and incorporated into the adult training program. I spent every day with and amongst the team, including Zephyr. She still spent most nights with me, but I was watchful of making her too spoiled.

After training runs I would let her off the line, and she would run to the house, harness still on, waiting to be let in. Was I training her, or she training me?!

She sat out of my one mid-distance race of the year due to mild soreness, but was ready for go-time come Iditarod. And Zephyr was a little all-star, as I knew she would be.

There was a time on our last run that I felt like our race was close to its end. I knew we were trailing and had been warned. It was a gorgeous but too warm day- bluebird skies and sun shining brightly as we trekked our way to Unalakleet. I thought I was miles behind the next musher (though I found out later I was actually ahead!), and had a moment on the trail with the dogs, thanking them for getting us this far. We all were feeling sluggish with the sun, but Zephyr suddenly wiggled her body with excitement. I had her in team, but she clearly wanted to be up front, so I put her in lead.

It was truly a magical moment, as she gave it her all, rallying the team forward. I was beyond myself with emotion and pride. Little Zephyr honey knew, we all could feel it, and by golly we weren’t going down without a fight. It was one of those incredible ‘mom’ moments, absolutely beaming with pride at my team, my girl (assuming that’s what it feels like if you’re a mom!). We knew each other so well, day and night both training and having fun; she could feel my sadness, and in true Zephyr fashion, made everything a bit brighter.

Zephyr honey is the epitome of joy. She is a true little leader that rises to the occasion when needed. She's spunky and playful and can be sassy when she wants to be. She is easy-going and gets along with almost everyone. From wheel to team to swing to lead, she cooperates wherever she is. I have had the privilege of watching her grow from a goofy pup into an even goofier adult, and I am so very thankful for that <3 

By: Tara Cicatello