When he was six years old, Mikalya's Vargen (pron. var-i-en) of Wayreth was awarded a prize from Pedigree Petfoods declaring him the Bravest Pet in the UK. This was a surprise to nobody who knew him, and his story.
From the beginning Vargen was a remarkable dog, who took life seriously yet also loved to have fun. A gentle giant, he would bowl his friends over with his enthusiastic greetings, but many other times would behave like the perfect gentleman. When playing with human members of his pack, he would deliberately aim his lunges and bites to avoid harming us.
Vargen was also surprisingly intelligent - intelligent enough to see the potential offered by a semblance of stupidity. He belied this image on several occasions, though - the most memorable being when he alerted his owner, Catherine, to the fact that she had forgotten one pill in a complex course of chemotherapy.
For at the age of three, Vargen was diagnosed with advanced Lymphosarcoma, and given only two weeks to live.
Both he and Catherine refused to accept this verdict, and fought with all they had. Following two years of extensive chemotherapy the professionals had to agree - Vargen was declared free of the disease.
There followed three trouble-free years, where Vargen enjoyed running lead on Catherine's team, a task made harder by the fact that Catherine herself is disabled, and unable to run up the hills as most mushers do. Despite this the team, led by Vargen, performed creditably at Aviemore, the major sled dog event.
But there was always the worry that the cancer would come back, and this worry proved only too well founded. In November of 1998 Vargen became ill again. Once more he fought it, and for a brief, heartbreaking time he seemed to be winning again. But in the middle of January he stopped responding to his treatment, and Vargen finally lost his long fight at home on the Saturday of Aviemore.
Farewell, great heart. You will always be missed.
[Wayreth Siberian Huskies]
Do not stand at my grave and weep.
I am not there, I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow,
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain,
I am the gentle autumn's rain.
When you awaken in the morning's hush,
I am the swift uplifting rush
of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there, I did not die...