RIP Monty, the most incredible dog I’ve ever known

My regular readers know that my old husky, Monty, had some serious health issues since last May. Although he rebounded wonderfully just after the new puppy, Tucker, arrived in October, he crashed badly this past weekend. Yesterday morning, with me, Cathy, and Carolynne, the vet who saved his life in 2003, at his side, he died.

This post is very long. I know that many of you have come to love Monty through my stories, and a lucky few got to meet him. This post is my tribute to the dog who played such a huge part in making my life as wonderful as it is, and it’s also a catharsis. Monty and I helped each other through some very difficult times, and although it was unspoken between us or between Bella and me, I verbalized the same commitment to Tucker soon after he arrived – I’ve promised him a life that’s full of Love and Adventure.

I’ve almost always had a dog in my family, but it wasn’t until I moved to the Yukon and got settled that dogs became a huge part of my life. In the summer of 2003, Kodi, a purebred Siberian, and Kayla, a registered wolf cross, lived with me in Carcross, and we went on countless adventures. On one of those adventures right above our cabin, on Montana Mountain, Kodi disappeared – jumped out of the pickup and just vanished – and my life would never be quite the same again.

Kayla took the loss of her life-long partner very hard. The sparkle had left her eyes, and she had no real interest in doing anything. Seeing her so deeply depressed made the situation even more difficult, and I soon began the search for another husky who needed me. In late October, a new hard-luck Alaskan husky arrived at the Humane Society Yukon shelter. I got permission to visit Monty in the quarantine area where new residents are kept, and heard his sad story. About a year old, he had just escaped being euthanized by seconds the day before, when the vet assigned to do it saw that special “something” and decided to call the Humane Society instead. The needle was actually in his leg when that decision was made.

Monty tried his best to convince me that he would be a good addition to my family, and it worked. It certainly wasn’t a quick decision. I weighed all of the possibilities, and at one point convinced myself that one dog was enough. The first time Monty went on a leash-walk outside the shelter with me changed my mind – although it was clear that he had no idea what a leash was, it was just as clear that he was a very quick learner, and really wanted to please me. Five minutes later, on my birthday, October 27th, 2003, I signed the adoption papers and Monty and I began our new lives together.

Everything was new to him, even riding in the cab of a pickup. I took him to Cathy’s office to show her that I had adopted him, and when we went to leave, he tried to jump into the very high bed of the truck. Unfortunately he hadn’t expected to be on a leash, I hadn’t expected his incredible levitation, and he got halted in mid-air. I felt terrible about his resulting tumble to the ground!

As advertised by the shelter, Monty did adjust quickly to his new home. He had probably never seen a cat, and wasn’t too sure what to make of my Latimer, but his husky genes knew what a couch was. This photo was taken on October 28, his first full day at the cabin πŸ™‚

Surveying his new domain on Day 2, October 29, 2003. He and Kayla had a fenced run, about 60 feet square. I could never keep Kodi in it, but neither Kayla nor Monty ever felt the need to leave it unless invited to. Monty’s dramatic black mask made me think seriously about changing his name to “Bandit”, but I decided not to. He was actually named for the City Bylaw officer who had taken him from the City pound where he was to be euthanized, to the no-kill shelter.

The whole family together on November 16. Cathy was just my girlfriend then, and had her own home in Whitehorse. She’d come down on weekends with her cat, Jasper.

Within a week or so of his arrival, Monty got sick, and we had a rough couple of months. It began with a cyst that developed as a reaction to a vaccination and quickly went downhill from there. This photo taken on November 17 shows the coat he had to wear outside to protect the huge bare patch on his neck and back, and the drain tube. I took some photos of the wound at its worst, and it just makes me sick. Daily trips to Whitehorse were required for a while (a 100-mile round trip), and without incredible support from Yukon Veterinary Services (a clinic that no longer exists), Monty may not have survived. I often wondered why Monty still trusted me, but he seemed to know that the sometimes-painful trips to the vet were needed, and getting to sleep on the bed with me seems to have been all the reassurance he needed.

On December 15th I cut his bandages off for the last time, and on the 24th, 4 days after this photo with Kayla was taken, his stitches came out. What better present could I get on Christmas Eve than a healthy puppy?

Monty would have preferred to not have to deal with cats, but Latimer was determined that the big guy was going to be his snuggle-buddy, and by the time this photo was taken, on December 29, 2003, Monty would often resign himself to being loved.

This photo, taken by Cathy on August 22, 2004, is probably my favourite of all the photos I have of Monty and me together. With Kayla as well, we were canoe-camping down Lake Bennett a few miles for the weekend.

The main beach on Lake Bennett at Carcross is dog heaven. This was shot on October 11, 2004.

In the front yard on July 2, 2005, with the White Pass & Yukon Route railway bridge and station in the background. Cathy and I had bought a house in Whitehorse in February that year, and I started spending more time in town and less in Carcross, though the whole family was at the cabin most weekends.

Monty and Cathy in the front yard on July 2, 2005.

An afternoon nap at the city house on January 6, 2006.

In the White Pass, heading home from Skagway, on February 23, 2006. I had just bought the 2001 Subaru Outback that Monty and Kayla were in, in Calgary a month before. It was much more comfortable for them than the pickup cab.

Cathy’s parents came to visit in the summer of 2006, and as you can see in this photo shot on August 9th, Charlie might have spoiled Monty a bit! Every now and then, a piece of toast would somehow fall right into Monty’s mouth πŸ™‚

A beautiful Fall day to blow off some steam on the beach at Carcross, with Monty down low at full speed and Kayla browsing the high bank – October 5, 2006.

In late January 2007, we decided to give dog-sledding a try to get us all some exercise and fresh air, and spent over $1,000 for a sled and the other gear needed. Monty caught on quickly and within a few days quite enjoyed it, but Kayla wasn’t a fan once the initial new-fun period wore off, and we didn’t stick with it very long. You can read more about that at The New Mushers – the Blind Leading the Blind.

Happiness is…. a HUGE bone! Carcross, May 26, 2007.

How’s that for a bizarre position to choose for a nap? Carcross, June 23, 2007.

Monty loved water about as much as he loved cats – that is, not much! For a good stick, he didn’t mind getting wet, though he wouldn’t go very far in. Carcross, June 23, 2007.

Montana Mountain and Lake Bennett were our main playgrounds for years, and this photo from a Montana Mountain day on June 26, 2007, struck me as the perfect one to use as a meme for this famous Will Rogers quote a couple of years ago. Whether you call it Heaven, the North side of the Rainbow Bridge or any other term, I know that Monty, Kayla, and all the other dogs I’ve loved will meet me there some day.

If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went. Will Rogers quote.
Taking a break from a tough late-summer day of grizzly and caribou spotting on Montana Mountain – August 19, 2007.

May 12, 2008 – there’s simply no better way to celebrate the arrival of Spring than to dig into the moist dirt! Dirt-dog loved those wonderful smells. We had moved into the house we’re in now, with 3 acres of awesome dirt to sort through, in December 2007.

As great as the dirt at the new house was, though, it was pretty hard to beat the sandy soil at the Carcross cabin for serious mouse-hunting. That was ground a guy could really get into πŸ™‚ – in this case, on May 20, 2008.

Kiss, kiss, kiss. Mom!! Cathy and Monty among the wildflowers in an abandoned gravel pit along the South Klondike Highway on June 15, 2008.

Monty in command of the White Pass, on August 27, 2008.

Country dog heaven – moose antlers to chew on! At home on August 31, 2008.

“I’m not begging, Mom, I’m guarding you – see the stern face? I don’t charge for that, I do it out of love. But I accept tips.” October 23, 2008.

In late January of 2009, I suddenly developed seizures that locked me up – before a drug program was started, they made me unable to speak or move voluntarily, with uncontrollable tremors. I spent a few days in the Whitehorse hospital and Cathy was off work for a week watching over me. Fairly heavy doses of dilantin controlled the seizures to the point that I was more or less functional, but there was a lot I couldn’t do, including driving (and that was a huge handicap given my lifestyle). This was one of the very difficult times that Monty helped me get through. Rather than repeat the story, I invite you to read my original story about Monty, my Seizure Alert Dog. Despite being told by a neurologist that they would never go away and I should just rely on the dilantin to control the worst of it, I weaned myself off the drugs and the seizures stopped after about 4 months.

In very early Spring, the first patches of bare ground under the trees were always the chosen spots for afternoon naps. Kayla would occasionally do that, but Monty was the real sun worshipper. April 28, 2009.

Monty in his prime, at about 9½ years old. March 9, 2012.

When Cathy and I left Kayla and Monty in the car to go for a cafe lunch, their treat was always French fries with ketchup. Yuuuuum! This was at the Pine Tree Restaurant in Atlin on June 30, 2012.

Cathy’s parents returned in the summer of 2012, and it was wonderful to see Charlie in particular with Monty. They really did develop a special bond.

The boy knew comfort. “If you want the best seat in the house, you’ll have to ask the dog to move…” August 29, 2012.

On March 8, 2013, we had the best of days and the worst of days on the same day. We sold the cabin which we never used anymore, and Kayla got very sick – the emotional rollercoaster was difficult. Kayla failed rapidly, and spending over $800 at the vet accomplished nothing. There was no diagnostic reason for her failing, she was just old. On Monday the 11th, I made the extremely difficult decision to have her euthanized.

Monty hated open-grate or railway bridges, but on April 8, 2013, he was well out onto the Carcross railway bridge before he realized what he’d done. Look at his toes spread as wide as possible to get back to shore safely. He had frozen and I started to go out to carry him back, but then he figured it out.

Car rides were always exciting – even last week, “want to go in the car?” would get him going. Here he is in his usual lead-dog mode, on May 22, 2013. Two weeks before, I had flown back to Calgary to pick up a new-to-me car, a 2010 Cadillac – not as dog-friendly as the Subaru, but still enough room for Monty and possibly a second dog some day. It actually ended up carrying 3 dogs on many outings for a few months.

The beach at Dyea was always a big hit with all of the dogs, with new smells and usually unlimited room to run and explore as we usually went mid-week when there was nobody else around. June 15, 2013.

Monty and I were always out on adventures of one sort or another. This was a day-long hike on Mount McIntyre (“Mount Mac”) in Whitehorse, 9 days after the Dyea trip above.

We visited this bald eagle nest along the Yukon River several times. This photo was shot on July 31, 2013 – the following week, I got lots of photos of the young eagles and their parents.

“Regal” was a term that we heard fairly often when people commented on Monty. This photo from September 2, 2013, is a good example of that.

Monty would often choose to be out in the snow, and putting new straw in his doghouse each Fall was a big deal to him – he loved new straw! This was shot on January 14, 2014 – a very heavy-snow year.

We had a spell of deep cold in February 2014. On the 4th, it bottomed out at -31.2°C (-24.2°F), but I had to go into Whitehorse anyway. After being very patient while I dealt with a long list of errands, my buddy got to go for a good run at Schwatka Lake on the way home. “Look, Daddy, I can fly! πŸ™‚

Although we were all okay, it was fairly clear that Monty needed a pack. He just hadn’t been the same since Kayla died, and while not actively searching for another dog, we had been keeping our eyes open for one. Almost 11 months later, an online photo gave Cathy and I the same message – this was the one. On February 7, I flew to Calgary to adopt a female husky-cross puppy from a litter that had been rescued from Morley, Alberta, by Rocky Mountain Animal Rescue. Cathy and I were thrilled beyond words at how Bella’s first meetings with her new family went. Not only was Monty great, so was Molly (our cat), who walked right up to her and rubbed her head on her. This photo was shot on February 16, 2014, when we had been together for a week.

Wen Bella first arrived, Monty wasn’t too sure what to make of her, and the first couple of weeks were a bit strained as they tried to come to some sort of understanding. By the time I shot this photo on March 25, they had realized how much fun they could have together – Kayla could never hope to keep up with Monty, but Bella gave it a good shot πŸ™‚

Before too many weeks had passed, they were pretty much inseparable, by her choice and his. This was shot at Tutshi Lake on April 9, 2014.

I loved watching Monty teach his little sister – she was always watching to see how to deal with new things like her first unfrozen water. On May 6, 2014, she learned that you can drink from the beach puddles at Carcross.

The sun worshipper at his happiest, baking in the hot sunshine in his yard on May 15, 2014. He had the most wonderful smile, and there’s nothing I wouldn’t do to make him smile.

The cats in our family never get much mention, but that’s not because they’re not as important. Latimer and Jasper both died in 2008, and Cathy and I decided that we wouldn’t get another. But things happen, and we ended up adopting my son’s cat, Molly, in late 2009. As with the cats before her, she really wanted to be Monty’s buddy, and occasionally, like on June 6, 2014, he would humour her. You might notice that we’re pretty strict on colour coordination πŸ™‚

Monty was never a fan of being brushed, but on June 29, 2014, he let us take a load of extra hair off. With 2 huskies and a very long-haired cat in the house, going to work with her clothes hair-free was simply a silly idea for Cathy.

My buddy and I explored the historic townsite and beach at Dyea again on November 3, 2014.

One of my all-time favourite photos of Monty, taken on the trail around the Whitehorse airport (a fairly regular walking route for us), on November 6, 2014. What a magnificent animal!

On the same walk as the photo above, Bella is about to pounce on Monty, and he’s pretending that he doesn’t know what’s coming πŸ™‚

Bella and Monty at Tutshi Lake on January 14, 2015.

Monty loved afternoon naps, and by about 1:30 each weekday, and sometimes on weekends, would come and get me if I hadn’t already initiated it. Bella was usually happy to join us. Cathy shot this on January 17, 2015.

In August 2014, after a dozen years of boarding kennels and house-sitters, Cathy and I had decided that we didn’t wanted to travel anymore without all the fur-kids, so bought our first motorhome. Buying it at the end of summer, we didn’t get to use it much that first season, but we got an early start in 2015, and were in Haines for a 5-day Easter weekend.

In July 2015, we took Monty to the vet, as his nose had started bleeding and he was off his food. After some tests and a rhinoscopy (nasal probe done under anaesthetic), the diagnosis was that he had nasal cancer, and should be expected to die by November. We were stunned. But we were also quickly determined to make his last summer his best one ever.

Monty was getting too sore to lay on even a carpet on the ground, so we bought him a padded camp chair, which he loved. He had discovered padded camp chairs himself during our time in Haines, by helping himself to a friend’s chair when he got tired one night. This photo and the next one were shot on August 15 and 16, 2015, at Kluane Lake, during the final days of a 17-day trip in the motorhome – our closest friends MJ and Jim had rented a motorhome to join us, and it was an amazing trip.

Finding/creating things that Monty would eat became more and more of a challenge. When I shot this on August 28, 2015, I would often have 7 or 8 things on the counter and would go through them one by one until he accepted one. Sometimes only a couple of pieces and then we’d move on, trying to make an actual meal. Barbecued hamburger, steak, perogies, black forest ham, etc, etc. By this time I had decided to hit the road with the RV for a month or so – one last Adventure for Monty.

On September 9, 2015, the fur-kids and I headed down the Alaska Highway in the motorhome, towing Cathy’s Tracker behind us, and got the hoped-for reaction from my boy. Cathy would fly to Edmonton to join us for part of the trip. I knew when I left on this trip that Monty may die during the journey, and had myself as prepared for that as I could be.

Generally, RV mornings were wonderful for us. When I got out of bed, all the kids came out of the bedroom to stay close to me. This was shot at a rest area east of Prince George on September 15.

Among the adventures, we met the mother and daughter who had adopted 2 of Bella’s sisters, and had a wonderful afternoon with them on the Bow River in Cochrane, Alberta. It situations like this, Monty, instead of a normal tail wag, had what we called a “helicopter tail”, waving round and round in circles πŸ™‚

One more photo from that trip. We’re always happy to let tourists pose with “a real husky!”, and Monty was always gentle and tolerant. I had Bella, who, as beautiful as she is, was seldom noticed in situations like this.

By the time we reached Stewart on the way home in early October, Monty was very sick, and I half expected him to just not wake up one morning. His bleeding was getting worse and worse, and I sometimes had to pull to the side of the road to clean him up. I was as gentle as possible, always said “Daddy help” before I started and as I did it, and a kiss on the head finished each job. It was a relief to get him home.

Cathy and I had been thinking for a few weeks about getting another puppy, for a long list of reasons, but mostly to give Monty the amazing Teacher one more shot at helping us build a wonderful family member, even if he could only help for a few weeks. Cathy saw a photo online, I agreed that this was the one, and on October 11, I drove to Watson Lake to get the youngest and by far the smallest puppy I’ve ever adopted – this photo of Monty’s new pack was shot the next day. You can read more of that story at Road trip to get a new puppy.

We were in for a big surprise. All of a sudden one morning, 5 days after Tucker arrived, a new Monty got out of bed. He asked for and ate a dog-food meal at his old feeding station for the first time in 5 months, had good energy, and was clearly back as leader of his newly-enlarged pack.

Bella may be the one who benefitted the most from Tucker’s arrival. She immediately turned into the most wonderful mommy-dog we could have hoped for. Watching Bella teach and protect Tucker has been very special – her play-time with him is always gauged to his abilities. Until recently, when Bella needed a break, she clearly asked Monty to help – she would go to bed, and he would take up a baby-sitting position like this one on November 6. As active as he is, Tucker never moved when Monty was in charge.

Laying in front of the woodstove became a favourite spot about 3 years ago, and by the time I took this photo on December 13, 2015, he was spending much of his days there.

In mid-January, Monty suddenly improved even further for no apparent reason. On January 29th, I took this photo of him and his pack while on a walk around the property, and created a poster for a “Tweet”.

If you believe that money can't buy happiness, you've never paid an adoption fee
The final photo was shot on February 18, 2016 (with Tucker tightly wrapped around Monty’s bum), by which time I was well into planning a 3-month-long cross-Canada trip in the motorhome with the whole gang.

A week ago, Monty suddenly crashed hard. I won’t go into the details but when we went to the vet’s yesterday morning, I had only the faintest glimmer of hope that he would be coming home. Incredibly, the vet who had saved his life in 2003 had just returned to the Yukon after many years away, and was able to help us give Monty our final gift – freedom from pain.

It was an amazing journey with this boy. This post was mostly for him and me, and for Cathy, and for everyone else who got to know Monty. Monty helped shaped my life, and I will forever be grateful to him for that.

I believe in reincarnation. In my belief, if you try hard to be better and better through your life, you get to come back, for up to 7 times. Monty won’t be back again – he got it perfect this time.

Have fun on the other side of the Rainbow Bridge, buddy – I’ll meet you there!

I have no words to properly describe my thanks to the entire staff at All Paws Veterinary Clinic. Their level of care for all of our fur-kids, and their compassion at the hard times, have been the best we could ever hope for.


RIP Monty, the most incredible dog I’ve ever known — 27 Comments

  1. A beautiful tribute to Monty. So sorry for the loss of one of the “fur-kids”

  2. So very sorry, Murray and Cathy, for your devastating loss. I know only too well that feeling of emptiness when one of our ‘kids’ crosses to the other side. I’ve enjoyed reading the adventures of Monty and his pack over the years. Please know that he has touched my heart in an unimaginable way. He will never be forgotten. Heaven just got it’s best and brightest furry angel. Deepest sympathy to you all.

  3. What a wonderful tribute to Monty. All my thoughts are with you and Cathy and the rest of the four legged which no doubt will also miss Monty. Hang in there, friend, we are all so very fortunate to have dogs in our lives and dogs like Monty are exceptional.

  4. This is such a gift! I was the administrator at Mae Bachur who authorized that adoption. It is so lovely to see how beautifully Monty lived. But I’m so sad that Monty’s life has ended and I’m sorry that you are now grieving. I do too, everytime I hear about one of ‘mine’. I’m just so glad when I know they have enjoyed a really great life. Thank you for being such a great shelter dog adopter.

  5. What a wonderful tribute, Murray, you have me in tears. Beautiful photos, wonderful words. I guess I must have met Monty briefly last May when you were parked down by the harbor. Sending smells of forests and rabbits and the great times you guys had together.

  6. Thanks Murray for having the courage to write Monty’s story. He was a magnificent boy, beautiful and regal in the photos that brought tears. he had a sweet and tender way about him with a gentle lick to say hello. Sincere sympathy to you and Cathy and to Bella and Tucker who will miss him so much. Sending hugs all round.

  7. More tears than words, I am honored to be a tiny part of a spectacular life that was so special.

  8. Iam at a loss for words, I too feel your great loss. Truly, Monty “lived Long and Prospered”!


  9. Hello Mr. Murray & Friends,

    Please accept my deepest sympathy for the departure of your Pal Monty.
    A New Chapter has arised through the files of your Memory.
    Long Live Monty!


  10. I sat with my coffee this morning and read your beautiful tribute to Monty and studied all the pictures, and had a little cry. Sharing your story gives me hope for all the good people and animals in this world. What lucky dogs to have found you both and also to have that fabulous Yukon to play in.

  11. All our disagreements pale by comparison for the love you shared with Monty. It would be nice to see you post an article on the man who originally bred this type of husky, Leonard Seppala, a most famous dog driver from Alaska who saved a whole community during a diphtheria crisis.

  12. Very touching story. You and Monty honoured oneanother on a beautiful way..

  13. Over the years, I have really enjoyed the Monty stories and pictures. My personal favorite is the one of him standing on the doghouse (?) with the lake behind him. This was a wonderful tribute to Monty; he will be missed by many. My sympathy to you and Cathy.

  14. So sorry to hear about your loss Murray but so nice to look back on a full and rich life. RIP Monty.

  15. I’m so sorry for your loss. There is no pain as sharp or world-altering as the loss of a dog. Monty was a good boy and he hit the jackpot when you adopted him.

  16. My condolences to you both Murray and Cathy. What a wonderful tribute to your Monty!
    Thank you for sharing his life in the Yukon.

  17. Such a beautiful tribute to Monty. My deepest condolences to you and Cathy. Monty couldn’t have gotten a better family to love.

  18. The post we faithful followers of your fur kids family adventures had been dreading despite otherwise recent good news about Monty. Thank you so much Murray, for sharing his wonderful adventures & gift of life with us over the years…god bless you all!