Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Who Picked Whom?

Or what came first, the chicken or the egg?  In all reality, when all is said and done, it would not matter and it truly would never change a thing.  How did I end up with malamutes? I had a passable knowledge of the Iditarod and "arctic" dogs per se but if someone had told me 10 years ago, I would end up adoring malamutes and deciding to make a life around TWO of them, let alone more, I would have laughed hysterically.  The trouble all began for me when someone who worked for me asked me to "have a look" at her last puppy; who just so happened to be on his way to the pound.  Bob knew right away this was a fated idea but as in all cases over our many decades together, he never said no and gave me the freedom to decide for myself.  The first glimpse I had of my dear Kodi boy was this 4-year-old little boy carrying this huge puppy dangling him the entire length of his own body as Kodi struggled to get loose.  I was sitting on my front porch waiting for them to bring the puppy over for a look and no sooner had Kodi spied me (or he just seriously wanted loose from this little kid's grasp) than he ran full tilt across the yard, up the stairs and jumped into my lap.  I received my first of many years of Kodi hugs.  At this very moment, Bob pulled up in the driveway and sat in the car shaking his head muttering "it's all over".  In a nutshell, yep, pretty much.

From the very beginning, I began to realize that this was no run-of-the-mill dog.  This dog was by far the most creative, the most energetic, the most dedicated dog I had ever come across.  When we decided to keep Kodi, we had a 13-year-old black lab and a heinz 57 part lab, part bassett 10-year-old dog who ruled the roost.  Little Pele didn't care that he was ugly - he just cared that the world knew who was in charge.  From the beginning, Kodi was larger than Pele, quicker than Molly, by far more "creative" on any plane but he was the gentle giant.  He never wanted to make waves, although sometimes he did just because he was Kodi.  He drove Molly absolutely crazy as he grew, never hurting her but making his presence known 24/7.  She was a docile old girl who only wanted peace and tranquility, which on the advent of Kodi quickly ended.  He was forever nipping her back legs or circling her barking ferociously, begging her to engage with him.  In all the time they spent together though, there was never a time that she bit him or challenged him.  She would square off with him head to head and bark or lunge at him in play but she just tolerated his antics as he tried to grow into the rest of his life.  Pele on the other hand made it very clear very quickly that he was running the show and would tolerate nothing less than obedience from this new recruit; no matter how big he got.  The first weekend we had Kodi, he managed to nip him in the face and Kodi never was the same again with other dogs. He would always be the non-alpha. Kodi quickly became adept at striking first, striking fast and getting the heck out of there.  His mischief became fodder for my entertaining family and friends.  There was always another Kodi story to tell. 

If he wanted something to do and the 2 old dogs were just not going to respond, he made it his business to try and fix that.  He would take the igloo dog house that one of them was in and just start dragging it. We came home to find it dragged across the deck one afternoon (and it was a large deck), wedged on its way down the stairs with lovely teeth marks embedded all the way across it.  We figured he must have wanted it put in another location!  He would become clever about finding Bob's tools every time he had a spare moment to grab one and proceeded to refashion ALL of Bob's shovels and brooms, any tool with a handle so that they were now meant for shorter people!  Or other tools were meant now for HANDLESS people because the handles were no more!  He would run past with a garbage can lid, then a garbage can!  Oh Bob loved it!  On the rare occasions that Bob forgot about Kodi and his boredom and put down his leather gloves, we'd have a race going on as Kodi streaked around the yard over and over with Bob's gloves in his mouth trying to entice him to give chase.  It was pretty obvious he was not being too stimulated by our 2 over-the-hill dogs!  I started to notice that Kodi was different in many ways from our past dog breeds though because of the socialization.  He would push a chair over to the kitchen window and climb up into it and literally sit in the chair and look in the window.  He wasn't particular; he would either watch us or he would watch TV when he wasn't already in the house.  If he was in the house, he definitely was near you and constantly in need of interaction of some kind, more so than any other dog we had ever had thus far.  We began to finally realize that so many of his antics were just Dennis the Menace reflex moves because he was bored and needed something to keep his interest held. 

One summer night while I was in my office working just at dusk, I saw the shadow of "something" outside my office window.  It honestly looked like a bear!  I thought then maybe it was a man - but why on earth was he lifting my big hanging planter off the hook?  That didn't make a lot of sense to me but on looking further, just as he managed to free it from the hook and it crashed to the deck making a lovely mess, I realized a bit too late it was Kodi.  When I flew out the door to chastise him, he as usual donned his innocent marmaduke look as if to say "oops...you didn't want me to do that probably".  Another sunny afternoon, I was outside painting the house and as I have a terrible fear of heights, I was already a ball of nerves considering I was on this huge extension ladder and painting at the very highest part of our house.  I had put the ladder just so as Bob had shown me but it wasn't helping me with my nerves.  I was gripping the ladder as if it could possibly save me from falling and trying to just relax and paint with my other hand when all of a sudden the ladder began to tremble.  All I could think of was "EARTHQUAKE" as we had just had a pretty sizable one a few months earlier.  I was sure I was going to die on the ladder, or at the very least take it with me as I plummeted over the fence and onto all manner of objects; it was a long, long way down.  I was so scared that I couldn't even scream but started down the ladder just on the odd chance that maybe I could get to ground BEFORE the earth sent me flying to my death...only to find as I was white-knuckled grasping the rungs descending, someone or someTHING was ascending....none other than Kodi.  He had somehow decided he could climb the ladder and he had almost gotten all 4 paws up to another rung and was doing his best to get up it!  I almost had a stroke when I realized what he was doing and of course promptly finished coming down, paint bucket in hand and scolding him all the while.  My heart was in my throat and I set down all my paint supplies on the top of our huge woodpile and went into the house to get something to drink to try and compose myself again.  I had not been in the house more than 5 minutes and stepping back out onto the patio, I looked at Kodi and thought I was having a sunstroke or maybe a delayed reaction to all that adrenalin because all of a sudden, he looked so much LIGHTER in color than I remembered.  I was seriously thinking that I needed to just quit the painting for the day and go lie somewhere with a cool cloth on my forehead when I spied the paint...EVERYWHERE.  In 5 minutes, he had managed to climb up the woodpile and spill an entire can of beige paint all over himself, all over the patio, all over EVERYWHERE.  Needless to say, there was no cool washcloth in my future as it took me well beyond 1-1/2 hours to wash him, wash the patio, clean the garden and the rest of the mess that he had made in no less than 5 minutes.  I'm not sure if Bob ever knew what happened to that can of paint!  I figured what he did not know could not hurt me.

My point in all this is that had I known the breed a wee bit better and foreseen some of these pitfalls that just came along naturally in the course of raising our Kodi, I probably would have been far more prepared but then of course had far less stories to tell! It finally did dawn on me that this poor dog was sorely missing something in his life and then it became my mission to figure out what that was.  As seasons change and life evolves, over the course of very little time, Molly eventually died and we were left with the half-pint Pele and poor Kodi whose daily quest now seemed to be how much trouble he could get into.  This was of course in SPITE of being walked, exercised, and played with on a regular basis.  As of yet, we just did not understand the breed.  I was devastated by Molly's death but I knew in her case that I had to replace her simply because it was not going to be fair to Kodi to expect him to live with such a small, old dog the rest of his days.  I am not sure why I thought about malamutes as a choice simply because I had already lived with Kodi long enough to know that I was missing something in the translation!  However, I diligently set out on line to find a malamute "companion" for him still knowing relatively zero about what I was doing nor what I was getting into! The ride of my life!  Always preferring to rescue a dog as opposed to just "getting" one, I searched the Washington State Malamute Association's rescue pages http://www.wamal.com/adoption.pl  and lo and behold, when I looked, there she was - Denaya.  She was beautiful and I knew just seeing her she was THE dog.  I immediately set about trying to adopt her but unfortunately, it was too late.  Someone had already adopted her.  However, I asked them to keep me in mind if anything ever went wrong with the adoption but then set about trying to find the second "perfect dog" for Kodi.

We drove hither and yon looking at dogs.  While I would feel for them and did want to see them adopted, just nothing clicked.  Of course, I would take Kodi and he would literally try to crawl up the tail pipe of our car trying to get away from these dogs so I was becoming not a little discouraged.  As to Pele, he would just growl at them, no matter what their size, and I figured we were in it for quite some time on our quest for the "perfect" mate.  Out of the blue, I received an email and then a phone call that the dog I had originally picked had been returned (I never knew the reason but suspect I do now); she was mine if we wanted to adopt her.  We literally raced across the state within a day to "meet her" only to be informed we could not take her home because she had been so severely malnourished and abused that she was still being brought back to normal and she probably could not withstand being kenneled even for a short while.  We would have to go back home, prepare everything and come back yet again to get her.  We could have let it go at that of course; too much trouble, there are other dogs in the sea but of course we went back to get her!  Here again, however, a little knowledge goes such a long way.  We really still knew relatively zip about malamute behavior.  We knew even less about a rescued dog of this nature and how severe or deep the abuse had gone.  All that was on our minds was we had a companion for our Kodi and it was going to be perfect! It did amaze me that upon introducing them a few weeks later, it very nearly was perfect!  Denaya gave him a little doggie smile and looked very content to meet him, whereas Kodi was just beside himself that he now had a real live fresh young dog to play with and to boot, she was gorgeous to look at! (I have no doubts this is what he thought because he remained head over heels in love with her his entire life.)  He could not have been happier.  Pele gave it his indifferent cold shoulder as if to say he knew who was still top dog and that was that - and walked away smoking his cigar.

Not quite perfect.  Several hours later, Denaya let us both know why she probably was returned!  Within a few hours of meeting her "prince" she had bitten Kodi on the face and managed to reduce our dining room to a bar room brawl.  She quickly let Kodi and everyone else know who planned on being the alpha (if not to include the omega and everything in between).  I quickly adopted the idea that "Houston, we have a problem".  Whereas I was delighted with our new girl, I began to very quickly surmise that I had just bitten off a huge task for all of us and there were going to be many, many rocky moments to come.  Those will follow as the saga continues.

This website on Alaskan Malamutes says it all and it probably would have been a wise choice to have visited it or a like site many years ago but hindsight is always 20/20!  http://amyty.com/ned11/map.html

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