Qaralii (ka-RALL-ee) was not supposed to stay with me. There was a plan, and puppy Q had an amazing home lined up. And then, at a day old, Qaralii picked me— crawling a few feet away from her littermates to fall asleep draped over my foot as I sat in the whelping box. This was a feat she repeated frequently as a young puppy, and evolved into her "trick" of ensuring she always had a spot touching me by simply sitting on one of the other dogs if they happened to be in "her" space. Such consistent and focused devotion was Qaralii's hallmark - she loved what and whom she loved, and nothing was going to keep her away.
I'm just lucky, I guess, that one of the things Q loved most happened to be me. It's hard to memorialize a canine comet- a bright, shining star that blazes through your life with joy and devotion, oddly mature empathy and stability, completely immature silliness and light, eager willingness to do *anything* you want, as long as it's together— that often silent and stolid presence at your side you take for granted and think will always be there. And then suddenly, she's gone.
Qaralii was a thoughtful, bold, and incredibly stable puppy, unfazed by anything. I could have walked her into a marching band in the middle of a 3-ring circus, with cannons going off, and she would have been content to be at my side, wiggling her entire body in introductory joy any time someone moved towards her. She was a contradiction - her body saying "silly!" and her face sometimes looking sad as she gazed soulfully into your eyes. Rest assured, she was rarely sad, and then generally only when some desired treat was withheld, or when she was left behind for an errand.
She was incredibly athletic, and had a "popcorn dance" where she would levitate in joy and excitement, popping straight up in the air with all four paws off the ground. She practiced this signature move daily at meal times, and frequently when playing or greeting me after an extended absence. Q was a creature of habit - she had certain spots- "her" dog bed, "her" chair, "her" spot on the floor where she watched me prepare meals, lying at attention ready to pounce like a Border Collie eyeing sheep. She loved pestering Conaway and Tikaani by rolling right up into their faces and smacking their muzzles with her front paw, rolling over in wriggling delight if they yelled at her.
She was devoted to Nashira, wanting to grow up to be just like her big cousin. And Qaralii LOVED to run and play freely, bouncing and leaping, twisting in the air like an Olympic gymnast, only to race off in another lap of "chase" - her mother Calista and Grandma Tikaani were her most frequent partners. People could not get over Qaralii's whole-body-wiggle in greeting - wagging her tail so hard in jubilation and welcome her whole body curved from side to side to compensation. She always knew when someone needed a face lick, or a (happy) body slam.
Qaralii had a Big Dog Bark - loud and deep. If you didn't realize it was filled with joy and excitement, you'd think she had some big Hound or Guardian breed in her, sending out a warning. But her bark was just a reflection of her personality - large and loud and not hestitating to ring out. She would sing occasionally, too, generally when Sakari started a pack howl. Q sang with enthusiasm and a slightly confused look on her face. She wasn't as perfect in pitch as her Grandma Tikaani, or as focused as Aunt Sakari. But she would sing with her whole heart with her pack.
Outside of her family, Qaralii easily completed obedience training with style, and endured her first road trip to UKC Premier as a 3.5 month old puppy with the unflappable equanimity of a seasoned campaigner. She was a natural and reliable working dog - earning her United Weight Puller title with qualifications in 3 straight competitions. More telling, she was an outstanding bikejoring companion- keeping her head up and tug tight as she challenged her running-mates to perform. Watching Qaralii move was like seeing a ballet dancer - style and grace and no wasted movements, no matter the speed; a banner of silk streaming past you on the wind.
At 6.5 months old, JUST like her mother, Qaralii earned her UKC conformation Championship in a single weekend, in four straight shows. Her first day in the ring she also placed first in Northern Group, and was sent to the Best in Show ring. At the end of a loooonnnngggg day, she was still wagging her tail and standing - which is a great achievement for such a young dog. She followed this up with very limited showing and strong progress towards her next title. This summer was to be our time to campaign again and finish her Grand Championship.
She enjoyed everything- a squirrel sighting, a rousing game of tag with her pack, some time to simply bask in the warm summer sun and listen to the breeze. She was unfailing gentle with new people — coming with me to the office and expecting everyone to spend time with some conversation and few pets. She was unutterably confused by anyone that walked past her without stopping - "I'm late for a meeting" was simply not in her vocabulary. Q LOVED puppies and spent countless hours as the Nanny supervising and playing with Nashira's puppies.
I waited a bit longer for Qaralii to have her first litter, because in many ways she seemed ready, yet also still puppylike. I shouldn't have worried- she was a natural mother, doting on her puppies and dealing with the clamor of nine demanding babies with grace.
She was a stunning puppy.
And growing into a lovel girl!
Qaralii can be silly!
and has excellent conformation!
She's always ready to go.
And knows just how to get the most out of a nap.
As her puppies reached the age to start leaving, Qaralii became very picky about her food, which was a startling change. She lost weight, and seemed mildly lethargic. Occasionally she would shiver - but this was winter albeit mild, and she was losing her coat in clumps as always happens with Mama dogs once the puppies are weaned. A trip to the vet and her bloodwork indicated that she was in acute kidney failure. Immediate testing documented no apparent genetic or congenital abnormalities, no diseases like leptospirosis or Cushings. A tick panel showed new Lyme and Ehrlichia disease, built on a foundation of an Anaplasmosis diagnosis from a couple of years ago for which she was treated and ostensibly recovered.
Given the seriously concerning bloodwork, Qaralii was seen by a Veterinary Internal Medicine specialist, who unfortunately confirmed a poor to guarded prognosis and strongly suspected the root cause was a side effect of the anaplasmosis, lurking in Q's system for months, waiting to strike. A drug cocktail was diagnosed in hopes of stopping further degradation of kidney function.
For three glorious weeks, Qaralii improved- at first seemingly almost normal, then with what seemed like minor and inconsistent setbacks. She spent the weekend before her follow-up bloodwork enjoying the beautiful spring weather and playing chase with Tikaani in the back yard. The vet remarked on how he would have never guessed she had issues when he took her blood sample, and I allowed myself to dream. The results, however, were devastating - her kidney values had doubled their decline, and we added another medication as a Hail Mary.
In retrospect, those three+ weeks between the Specialist visit and her death are a gift whose value I can never describe. Q and I went for walks, we snuggled, we shared confidences while I hand fed her chicken thighs and Cheerios….and always, always she wagged and wiggled and smiled. While we started the new medicine, Q stopped eating completely, no matter how tempting the treat. She began to exhibit signs of discomfort, without any indication of improvement. Our wonderful vet made some 'flexible' practices in this time of COVID19 and social distancing, and after a morning focusing on being together, Q left me peacefully laying on a blanket with the sun on our faces, the cool wind blowing steadily, and the birds singing an accompaniment of revival and spring. It is no surprise to me that Qaralii's last movements were a slow, thumping wag of her tail and a wiggle as she lay, to turn her face closer to me.
Qaralii was one of those dogs you dream about- with the love and the joy and the ability to do anything. I am blessed with every second we spent together. Like so many incandescent lights, my Q shined brilliantly, but briefly.
Qaralii's full name is Ellam Qaralii which means the Stars, or Constellations in Yup'ik, a native Alaskan language. She was from the Reach for the Stars litter, and her mother's name is Yup'ik, continuing a long line of native Alaskan names.
Godspeed, my Q. I will always see you shining brightly and joyfully in the night sky,.