The Story Behind Our Most Badass Husky Hero

Meet Bear, one of Snowy Owl’s husky heroes. Bear wears Doggles. In this photo, he’s patiently awaiting the call of “HIKE!” from the musher on the sled behind, at which point they’ll hit the trail.

Bear’s an extremely shy husky boy, but nothing burns his nervous energy like the sense of purpose he feels when he pulls a sled. It’s fair to say that Bear is probably most confident when he’s running the trails. And now he does so with a little added style.

Bear’s Background – Why the Doggles?

Our handsome boy Bear was born in January 2016. He’s an Alaskan Husky who came to Snowy Owl in September 2018 as a rescue from a kennel in Ontario.

One of the hardest workers currently running at Snowy Owl, Bear is a cautious and timid character who takes a long time to warm up to strangers, especially men. His current anxiety is almost certainly a result of the conditions he spent the first couple of years of his life enduring. You’ve got to put some serious time in to get Bear on your side.

He runs in the “Wheel” position on a sled dog team, meaning he’s at the back, where power and determination are crucial. Bear was awarded Employee of the Month in January 2020 too!

While huskies are certainly built for pulling outdoors in the coldest of weather, they can still succumb to illness and injury. When Bear first arrived he had a bout of kennel cough, which was quickly treated. However, in summer 2019 Bear’s eye issues began to appear. He started displaying symptoms of severe light sensitivity, squinting even when light levels were low. Bear, normally so hesitant around strangers, sometimes wouldn’t notice when someone was nearby and would become startled by their sudden appearance.

Husky Hero’s Career in Jeopardy

Snowy Owl Dog Sled Husky Hero Bear DogglesWith the winter season quickly approaching, we feared that Bear’s days running in a sled dog team might be over. His favourite activity was becoming a disorientating and uncomfortable experience. Not only was Bear’s running career in jeopardy, but his regular quality of life may have also suffered if nothing was done.

There were numerous, potential causes for his condition, some fairly benign, others more serious. Dogs diagnosed with Glaucoma eventually have to have their eyes removed due to the pain the condition can cause. Tumours that affect eyesight often produce a life expectancy counted in weeks. Snowy Owl has always been dedicated to a commitment to maintaining the highest standard of welfare for our pack, so we set to work to figure out the cause and a cure for Bear.

Staining his eye’s with fluorescein at the vet revealed significant inflammation, with an eventual diagnosis of Chronic Superficial Keratitis, more commonly known as Pannus, an immune-mediated condition affecting the cornea of the eye. At first non-painful, it can progress and result in pain and even blindness if left untreated. Ulcers had begun to develop in both of Bear’s eyes, so procedures were performed to alleviate them, which were initially unsuccessful. It was determined that he had Indolent ulcers, which are typically non-healing ulcers that persist over long periods and don’t respond well to medical therapy. A referral with an Ophthalmologist was next, which revealed that the Pannus still was uncontrolled, but the ulcers had healed.

They’re still highly susceptible to reoccurrence, so a recommendation was made to use Rex Specs (or Doggles if you like) to protect Bear’s eyes. The Doggles limit UV light bouncing off the snow which is irritating and increase the chances of ulcer recurrence.

Bear Adapts to Doggles

Snowy Owl Dog Sled Husky Hero Bear DogglesBear, was not completely on board with wearing his Doggles at the beginning. As a dog who generally does not like most people, he was not keen on people grappling with his head and face every morning before work! But eventually, either through an appreciation of his improved circumstances or maybe just through resignation, Bear got used to having his Doggles put on him every day he ran. And boy does he run!

But the Doggles are not a miracle cure, not by a long shot. A series of medications have also been used to try and improve Bear’s situation. A lengthy process of trial and error eventually came up with a relatively effective cocktail of corticosteroids, immune-modulating drugs and antibiotics to help him, without any severe side-effects. Eye drops are also applied multiple times a day, along with painkillers when required.

Snowy Owl Dog Sled Husky Hero Bear DogglesKennel Manager, Mackenzie, Sums Up Bear’s Current Situation

“Right now, we’re trying to manage Bear’s pannus. Unfortunately, we aren’t able to heal his eyes, so it’s all about management and trying to keep his disease at bay and preventing pain.”

What Does Bear’s Future Look Like?

No one can say what Bear’s future looks like for sure, but changes in his medication, along with possible surgery in the future look likely. There’s no cure for the condition, but treatment can halt and hopefully reverse some of the worst of it. Bear will continue to run for as long as he wants to, and his Doggles have given him that opportunity to do so with more comfort. At least for a little while longer.

If there’s one thing we do know for sure, it’s that our guests love Bear and his Doggles!

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