This happy, high-energy husky spends her days exploring the Washington wilderness, starring on social media, and advocating an end to puppy mills.
When Amber Johnson decided to invite another canine companion into her life in 2015, she and her husband, Andrew, were in the middle of relocating from Seattle to Snoqualmie Pass in Washington State, and their stress-levels were running high. But they knew their existing dog – a golden retriever named Ozzie – needed a buddy. And fate convinced them to take the plunge.
Given their active lifestyle, Amber and Andrew knew they wanted a Siberian husky. So when a trusted breeder in Washington had a litter born on May 1 — the same day Ozzie was born a year earlier – they couldn’t pass up the opportunity. “We literally moved into our new home on a Friday in June, and picked up Ripley from the breeder here in Washington on Saturday,” says Amber. Upon meeting their new pup, however, the new homeowners knew they’d made the right decision. “We were stressed, but I’m so happy we did it.”
After exchanging a few initial growls, Ripley and Ozzie became close companions. Ozzie immediately took on a “big brother” role and was always watching out for his baby sister. But despite being an excellent guardian, Ozzie’s calm, well-mannered demeanor wasn’t enough to tame the challenging qualities all huskies share. Luckily, Amber and Andrew were prepared. They’d done plenty of research on the breed beforehand.
“Siberian huskies are insanely active and will go through a destructive phase,” says Amber. “We actually had to build Ripley a 10’x8’x8’ playpen in our basement for when we were at work.” But Ripley quickly learned how to escape the confinement. Using positive reinforcement and a great deal of patience, Amber crate-trained her “Husky Houdini” to prevent her from getting into things she shouldn’t.
Between the ages of six and nine months, Ripley’s behavior became more challenging. “We would hike in the snow for hours, yet when I came out of the shower after returning home, I would find destroyed curtains or pillows,” says Amber. But she and Andrew refused to give up. Instead, they did what any good pet parent would do – they tried harder. “We were able to adjust various things in our lives to accommodate Ripley’s needs and we now live in harmony,” says Amber. Today, Ripley no longer displays destructive behavior. She’s well-trained, and the couple’s lifestyle satisfies her high-energy needs.
After realizing that hiking wasn’t enough, Amber taught Ripley and Ozzie mushing commands. Today, they Bikejor, Skijor and Mush together. According to Amber, she and Ripley often travel ten miles, three to four times a week. “Even with all the chaos in the beginning, Ripley has been the best dog ever,” she says. “She is confident and smart, and ready for anything. She has never been afraid of new situations so having her by my side has been truly a blessing.” In 2016, Amber and Ripley climbed Mount St. Helen’s. Ripley stuck right by Amber’s side throughout the entire climb.
Thanks to her Instagram account, @PawsthatWander, Amber was able to capture Ripley’s puppyhood, the beautiful Washington scenery, and her connection with Ozzie on camera. Her photography skills, combined with her adorable furry subjects, quickly gained the attention of over 200,000 followers. Sharing their life and adventures through Instagram has allowed Amber to connect with other dog moms in the area. They hike and talk about their dogs, and even call themselves the “Offleash Sisterhood”.
But a new friend group isn’t the only benefit to arise from Ripley and Ozzie’s social media stardom. They’ve also been featured in various magazines, and have become involved with Pincause, an organization that creates and sells pins as a way to raise money and awareness for puppy mills. The adventurous “siblings” model the products to encourage their followers to support the cause. And their good will doesn’t end there. “Recently we were guests of honor at the Frankie’s Friends’ Mutt Ado about Nothing Gala event,” says Amber. “Frankie’s Friends raises money to help people who need money to pay emergency, life-saving vet bills. This organization has saved thousands of animals all over the country.”
To support her busy lifestyle, Ripley eats a diet of champions. She and Ozzie are fed a top quality pet food made of only the best ingredients. In addition to their daily meals, they’re given an organic, whole food supplement for dogs made locally in Seattle. According to Amber, it has improved their skin and coats, and is great for settling digestive upsets. “We also use a wheatgrass and spirulina supplement,” Amber adds. “It has coconut in it and has really helped digestion in both my dogs.”
Amber also relies on CBD oil capsules to ease the one behavior problem Ripley might never shake – separation anxiety. Like most huskies, Ripley gets anxious when she’s separated from her companion canine. “When Ozzie is with me, Ripley gets very nervous. She paces and drools huge puddles of saliva on the ground. It’s no way for a dog to live, so we give her a couple capsules and she is calmer and more herself,” says Amber. “We are lucky enough to live in a state where this type of medicine is available. Nothing else has worked for her, so this has been a godsend.”
Just one look at Amber’s photos is proof that while couch cushions are replaceable, dogs most certainly are not. This one-of-a-kind husky is confident, loveable, dignified and (almost) as well-behaved as her big brother – all thanks to a family who loved her not in spite of her quirks, but because of them. “Honestly, she’s one of the best dogs ever,” says Amber. “I can’t imagine life without her.”