George at 6 months

George at 6 months
George on his first night walk in Butte, at Montana Technical University

As of today, June 7, George is 6 months old!

Jamie, Alice, Nancy, Isaac, and George at age 6 months

For each of our other dogs, I've done a blog post shortly after their arrival, covering the story of our decision to get a dog and showing lots of cute puppy pictures. With George, that didn't happen because within a few days of joining our pack he had surgery for an obstruction and our life was all about helping him recover for a while. But now that George is strong and healthy and that little drama feels long ago, it feels like time to take a look back.

A lot has happened already in George's life, so this post got quite a bit longer than our other "meet the new puppy" posts in the past.

The Decision

When Jamie and Alice were around ten years old, we started thinking about the fact they wouldn't be around more than a few more years, and we didn't want either of them to suddenly be alone. So we added Nancy to the pack in 2020. And then, not wanting Nancy to be alone after Jamie and Alice were gone, we added Isaac to the pack a year later.

Four dogs was a blast, and also a huge amount of work and complexity at times. But eventually Jamie passed away in 2022, then Alice at the end of 2023, and suddenly we were back to two dogs. We had often thought about getting another dog after Jamie and Alice were gone, and in the days after Alice's sudden death we discussed that this summer seemed a logical time to do that, when the weather would be warmer for dealing with housetraining a puppy.

But what we hadn't anticipated was how depressed Isaac would be after the loss of Alice. He's a guy who wears his feelings on his sleeve, and after Alice was gone he was down 24 hours a day, just laying around and refusing to respond when Nancy would try to get him to play. So we decided not to wait, and started reaching out to breeders in early January.

We started by contacting Karin at Summerhill Samoyeds. Jamie, Alice, Nancy, and Isaac were all Summerhill pups. But Karin had no litters planned for the next few months, so we expanded our search. I contacted a bunch of people, and it's all a bit of a blur now, but eventually – if I'm recalling the details correctly – our friend Melinda Amoratis put us in touch with Margaret McFadden of Snowstar Samoyeds out on Prince Edward Island, and through Margaret we learned that Anne O'Neill had a litter born on December 7 in Colorado and one of the pups was available!

We read everything we could find about Margaret and Anne, and we liked their approach. They both had questionnaires for prospective owners that made it clear they were committed to giving every pup a safe, healthy, happy home and we filled out an application that Anne sent us. As we later learned, Anne did the same type of due diligence with us as we had done with her: reading old blog posts about our dogs to get a feel for what kind of home we would be, and so on. After we were all comfortable that this was a good fit, Anne said we could count on a male from her litter. Yay!

While we started planning all the details of picking up a puppy, George was growing quickly as a member of Blitzen's "Reindeer litter" of 5 boys and 3 girls, sired by Calla Compton's Maverick. George had the puppy name Donner and wore a black mark to distinguish him from the other pups, and we watched every one of Anne's posts to see him growing.

George's official puppy photo at age 8 weeks. Anne tagged Megan and I in this photo, 6 days before we picked him up, and a few people noticed that, which was fun. Those people were then in on the secret in the days leading up to George joining our pack.

By the way, regarding the name George: like all of our dogs, it's just a name, with no special meaning other than being his name. George is not named after King George, Boy George, George Jetson, George Costanza, or George of the Jungle, although there are moments he reminds us of all of them.

Getting George

In hindsight, the logistics of planning George's pickup were nuts. We knew that he'd be available around the second week of February, and both Megan and I had commitments for various travel around that time. We decided to make sure that the entire pack could be there when we picked up George and drove home home from Colorado, and that made for a complicated itinerary for all of us. Here's the plan we landed on, after considering various alternatives:

  • Saturday, February 3: Doug, Megan, Nancy, and Isaac drive to Spokane, to see Doug's friend Scarlett performing in a play at the Civic Theatre that night.
  • Sunday, February 4: we all drive on to Seattle, spend the night at my Mom's house. Along the way, we stopped at the Middle Fork Valley to scatter Alice's ashes.
  • Monday, February 5: we drive Megan to work in Redmond in the morning, where she checks into a hotel for the next 4 nights, then Doug, Nancy, and Isaac drive to Couer d'Alene, Idaho to visit friends and spend the night at a motel
  • Tuesday, February 6: Doug, Nancy, and Isaac drive back to Butte
  • Wednesday, February 7: Doug packs the truck for the drive to Colorado to pick up George
  • Thursday, February 8: Doug, Nancy, and Isaac drive down to Cheyenne, Wyoming and spend the night at a motel
  • Friday, February 9: Megan flies from Seattle to Denver in the morning, while Doug, Nancy, and Isaac drive down to Denver International Airport to meet her flight (and also meet Calla Compton and George's father Maverick), then we drive with Megan to George's home on the high plains of eastern Colorado, where we meet Anne, Bill, Blitzen, and George's siblings, then we take George back to Cheyenne, Wyoming for the night
  • Saturday, February 10: the newly expanded pack drives from Cheyenne back home to Butte
Isaac and Nancy leaving Butte on the morning of February 3. They had no idea what was in store for them over the next 7 days: driving across 5 states, and coming home with a puppy.
Calla Compton and George's father Maverick escorting Megan to the baggage claim area at Denver International Airport. (Maverick works as a therapy dog at the airport!)
The moment Megan met George.
The first photo of George with his new pack. Thanks to Rhonda Wheat for the photo.

What a week!

And as if things weren't complicated enough already, we had some challenging weather as well. We drove through heavy snow, heavy rain, thick ice, and other challenges across high altitudes in Montana, Idaho, Washington, Wyoming, and Colorado during that week.


George's first day with his new pack: a few photos and video from the drive from the Colorado Springs area to Cheyenne, Wyoming on Friday 2/9

Winter travel in the Rocky Mountain states is unpredictable, and one detail of the storms that week was perfect timing and luck for us. To make this plan work, we would need to cross Homestake Pass, the high pass along the Continental Divide a few miles east of Butte, on both Thursday and Saturday. A winter storm closed Homestake Pass on Wednesday, the one day that Nancy, Isaac, and I didn't need to travel, then it was open but icy when we crossed before dawn on Thursday, then more snow and chains required at Homestake Pass while we were all in Colorado on Friday, then the road was cleared by the time we crossed back over the pass at sunset on Saturday while bringing George home.

Photos from the 2-day trip to bring George home.

George arrives in Butte

George's first few days were full of bonding time with Nancy and Isaac, and I spent my days following them around with a camera.

A few photos from George's first evening at home with his new pack.
George's first morning at home in Butte.
George was a quick learner. Our house has three levels and lots of stairs inside and outside, but within 3 days George had mastered the stairs, with plenty of encouragement from Nancy and Isaac.

An unexpected turn of events

I mentioned earlier that Megan and I had various travel plans that made picking up George complicated. One of the complications was that Megan needed to leave town on Tuesday morning, after just two days at home with George. That's the reason we had to meet her down in Denver the day we picked up George - if she had come home to Butte instead, there might not have been enough time to pick up George and get Megan home in time for her trip, depending on winter weather delays on the highways.

On the day that Megan left, George hadn't been interested in his breakfast, but we weren't too worried because he was still being very active and energetic. Then, just after we got home from taking Megan to the airport, he threw up some bile. Then he drank some water and threw up again.

One of the challenges of life in Butte is that the best vets in the area, and all of the reliable after-hours vets, are an hour away in either Bozeman or Helena. I rushed George to Bozeman, where they did tests and X-rays. It was clear that his gastrointestinal tract was inflamed and irritated, but that made X-rays hard to read and inconclusive. So we gave him some drugs to try to calm his stomach and reduce the inflammation, and I took him home for the night.

The next day, he seemed a bit better in the morning and ate a little food. But then he started throwing up repeatedly in the afternoon, so we rushed back to Bozeman. After more X-rays, it was clear that there was an obstruction in his small intestine and surgery was needed. (Waiting to see if he could pass the obstruction could have done permanent harm to his intestines.)

The surgery took place that evening, while Nancy and Isaac and I took walks and waited nervously in Bozeman. The surgery went well, and they removed a toy squeaker from his intestine. At 10PM, they released George to us, and we brought him across town to a 24 hour veterinarian facility where he could be monitored overnight.

George before and after surgery late on the evening of Valentine's Day. Wellhaven Pet Hospital in Bozeman provided amazing care for him.

George's recovery from surgery went great in the long term, but those first few days were rocky. I don't feel like re-living all the details for this post, but suffice to say that I wound up driving back and forth to Bozeman over icy Homestake Pass multiple times, most of them late at night.

These photos were the evening of Thursday 2/15, 24 hours after George's surgery. He had seemed fine during the day, sleeping a lot and moving slowly, and I posted this collage with a caption referring to him as King George for the first time, ending with "act 4: his loyal servant brings him a pillow."

When I posted the above collage, I thought he was doing well, but minutes later he threw up a bunch of bile. I called the after-hours vet and discussed the details, and we decided he needed to be checked out to make sure his stomach sutures were OK. It was snowing at the time, and I didn't want to end up driving over Homestake Pass later that night after even more snow, so I gathered up all three dogs and took another evening drive to Bozeman.


Heading back to Bozeman in the snow.

George's sutures seemed to be fine, but we decided to keep him under veterinarian observation at the 24-hour facility for another night, just to be sure. Nancy, Isaac, and I spent a few hours at a nearby motel, then drove him back to his friends at Wellhaven Pet Hospital as soon as they opened in the morning. They monitored him for a few hours and he was doing great now with food and water passing through him just fine, so Nancy, Isaac, and I picked him up and then went to Bozeman airport to wait for Megan's flight.

Reunited with Megan at Bozeman airport.

Back to the good life

George had a rough start to his life in Butte, but he bounced back quickly and has been a happy healthy high-energy boy ever since.

George's extended family, including Nancy and Isaac's brothers Strummer and Zevon, who live about an hour away from us in Montana.
In May, George took his first solo hike (without Nancy or Isaac) to the top of Big Butte.

Every Samoyed we've known has had a unique personality, and George is no different. He is more of a "dog's dog" than any other dog we've had – he looks to Nancy and Isaac for direction, and pays much more attention to them than to humans. He's very bold when out walking with them, and usually takes the lead, but on his own he's still pretty timid.

This got pretty long, but we know there are some folks who will read every word. George is an easy guy to love, and it's great that so many people already know him and love him. Welcome to the pack, George!