Our Samoyed pack is now a foursome: Jamie, Alice, Nancy, and Isaac.

We never anticipated having four dogs. Sure, we're huge fans of Samoyeds, and it can be a lot of fun to watch a pack of intelligent social animals doing their thing together, but right now we have way more day-to-day dog-care responsibilities than is ideal for two people with full-time jobs. How did we get here?

Doubling Up, Again

The answer is really pretty simple, and has to do with the widely accepted fact that Samoyeds are happiest and healthiest when they have a companion to keep them mentally and physically active every day. Some dog breeds are fine with being an only dog, but Samoyeds have been living in big groups for tens of thousands of years, and have a deep-rooted need for like-minded companionship.

Samoyeds have their own particular way they like to socialize and play, and they instantly know what to do with one another. At dog parks, we've often had to physically separate our dogs from other breeds that play very rough or are obsessed with demonstrations of dominance or submission, but a group of Samoyeds is a whole different vibe. 

When we got Jamie, within a few weeks we started wondering if we should get him a companion, and a few months later we had a chance to add Alice to our pack. The age difference is 9 months, so they've gone through the prime of their lives together as essentially same-age playmates. They've traveled all over North America and have had a blast. Now they're senior dogs, still enjoying life but not with the wild and crazy energy of their youth.

Jamie and Alice's playing style has evolved over the years. Left: at Lake Of The Woods, Oregon when they were 2 years old. Right: back at the same place at age 10.

As we explained when we got Nancy last year, we were keenly aware that Jamie and Alice only have a few more years left, best case, and we didn't want one of them to be suddenly alone in their old age when the other one goes first. Getting Nancy certainly addresses that concern, but in recent months we've felt exactly how we felt when Jamie was a young solo pup: this dog needs a playmate!

Coincidentally (or predictably), our friend Aaron, who owns Nancy's brother Strummer, was feeling the same way. He, too, had a puppy and two older dogs (Noodles and Levon), and then he lost Levon to kidney problems much too young in January.

RIP Levon, the sweetest dog I've ever known.

So once again, as a year ago, we've gotten two siblings from Summerhill Samoyeds, one for each of our packs. Isaac has come to live with Jamie, Alice, and Nancy, while his brother Zevon has joined the pack of Noodles and Strummer.

Nancy and Isaac are around a year apart in age, just as Jamie and Alice were, and we're looking forward to giving them lives full of the sorts of experiences Jamie and Alice have enjoyed for many years.

Birth dates of our four Samoyeds. In the big picture, they're two pairs going through life together, with a few overlapping years as a 4-dog pack.

So far, it's working exactly as we'd hoped. Nancy and Isaac have their fun every day, while Jamie and Alice relax (although Alice still has some puppy madness moments even at age 11).

Nancy and Issac, on the day they met.

Does this sort of reasoning mean that it's inevitable we'll get two more in a decade or so? It's way too early to think about that!

Picking up Isaac and Zevon

Summerhill Samoyeds in British Columbia is where Jamie, Alice, Nancy, and Isaac were all born. For Jamie, Alice, and Nancy, we drove from Seattle up across the border to pick them up, and brought them home the same day. But getting Isaac and Zevon was more complicated, both because the US/Canada border is currently closed to passenger vehicles in both directions due to COVID-19, and also because we live in Montana now.

We made plans to have a long-haul truck driver bring the puppies across the border on March 7, and we were planning to meet him somewhere along I-5 in Washington to pick them up. But on Thursday 2/25 we got a phone call: the trucker's plans had suddenly changed, and we needed to meet him 48 hours later, Saturday 2/27, a full week before we were planning to be in Washington.

There are three mountain passes between Butte and Seattle, and on the day we got that phone call one of them (Fourth Of July Pass in Idaho) was closed for a while to clear multiple accidents in icy conditions. Lookout Pass (at the MT/ID border) and Snoqualmie Pass (in the Cascades near Seattle) had both required chains in the last few days as well, so we knew we were going to have an interesting drive.

We scrambled to cancel or reschedule a few things so we could take Friday off, and late Thursday afternoon I drove Alice and Nancy an hour east to drop them off with Noodles and Strummer. We decided to take Jamie with us on the trip, so that the pups would have an adult Samoyed to alleviate the stress of the transition. Jamie's an experienced traveler and much calmer than Nancy or Alice, so he wouldn't be any trouble to take along.

We packed up that night, and I studied how to install the chains on the truck to be ready for whatever we needed to do. The next morning, we were on the road by 7AM.

The first challenge that day was Lookout Pass. It started snowing just west of Missoula, and the snow was coming down pretty good as we headed up the pass. We got across without any trouble, and were relieved to see that Fourth Of July Pass was all clear after the troubles they'd had the day before.

Snow in western Montana, then one lane of traffic moving slowly up and over Lookout Pass.

Eastern Washington was mostly blue skies and dry pavement. We stopped at Old Vantage Highway near the Columbia River to let Jamie stretch his legs before heading up into the mountains to cross Snoqualmie Pass.

It was snowing hard near Cle Elum, and then when we got up to within a few miles of the pass we ran into a traffic jam. The Washington DOT had been blasting to clear avalanche areas just beyond the summit, and they had all westbound lanes closed while they were clearing debris off the highway.

After an hour or so, we started moving again. We were in a slow-moving caravan of hundreds of vehicles nearly all the way to North Bend, then we drove into the rainy Seattle area on Friday evening. We checked into a cheap dog-friendly motel near Sea-Tac, relieved to be in position and ready to get our puppy on Saturday!

Saturday we drove north to a truck stop near Everett, where we waited to hear from the trucker. The was a bit of confusion at the last minute regarding timing, but then suddenly we saw a truck driver walking a Samoyed pup!

Our first glimpse of Isaac! We chose this pup as ours because it was the first one that Jamie sternly corrected, right after the pups got in our truck. We let Jamie choose who he wanted to raise.

We took the pups for a short walk, then headed south to Seattle and east on I-90. The weather was great, and we had nothing but dry pavement all the way to Couer d'Alene, Idaho, where we checked into a Motel 6 late Saturday night. We stopped several times to walk the pups, including some snow fun at the Cle Elum rest area.

As it turned out, Sunday was great weather, too, and we didn't run into any fresh snow or ice all the way to where Alice, Nancy, Strummer, and Noodles were waiting for us near Three Forks, Montana. It was time for everyone to meet the puppies!

We drove back home to Butte that evening, our first time with all four dogs in the truck. It was pretty cozy – we may need a bigger truck eventually!

It was a busy 72 hours to get the pups on short notice, but now a week later we're really glad it worked out that way. Can't imagine just getting them home today instead of a week ago!

Going forward

A few quick thoughts now that we've spent a week with Isaac:

  • He reminds us of Jamie as a pup, more than Alice or Nancy. Relatively calm, thoughtful, not nearly as wild as Nancy or Alice as puppies. He doesn't pay quite as close of attention to us as Jamie did right away, but he has Samoyeds to pay attention to, and Jamie just had humans around. I like to think Isaac's personality is like what Jamie would be if he were raised by wild animals named Nancy and Alice.
  • Isaac has slept on the foot of our bed every night, and has slept past 6AM every morning. Another way he's a lot less work than Nancy!
  • When we got all the dogs together for a reunion yesterday, Zevon and Isaac played rough like Nancy and Strummer for a while, but they eventually calmed down and lay on the porch with Jamie and the humans, while Nancy and Strummer continued their energetic antics. Those two are amazing, but we're enjoying the fact the new pups are a bit easier to deal with.
  • At home, Isaac tends to spend the day with Nancy, then lays down near Jamie in the kitchen in the evening.

That's enough for now, and of course we're going to spend years documenting Isaac as we have the other dogs, on the Jamie Samoyed Facebook page.

Welcome, Isaac!

Waiting for dinner.