Finally, the puppy we’ve been waiting for has arrived! On Valentine’s day, when these pictures were taken, he was twelve weeks old and had been home with Younger Son and his Lovely Wife–who visited us that day to introduce him–for all of about eighteen hours. He was a bit confused, but not afraid or shy, just self-contained and curious.
His name is Lyko (pronounced Lee-ko), which is Greek for Wolf, and he’s now fourteen weeks old and weighs 25 lbs. We’ve known him for two weeks now, and we’ve all fallen happily under his puppy spell. He knows we’re all his peeps now too, and he’s one happy, confident boy. I call him the Little Big Guy, but I won’t be able to much longer because he’s stretching up and out right before our eyes. Furthermore, if he grows into those ears and feet, he’s going to be one big dog!
Gannon’s death last spring etched a Malamute-sized hole in our hearts plenty big enough to embrace this little guy, with lots of wiggle room left over. Lyko isn’t as furry as The Big Guy was; and because of that, it’s possible that he won’t shed as many green garbage bags’ worth of inner coat as his predecessor blew off on a regular basis.
Not for nothing is the process of Malamute shedding called “blowing” their fur. It really does blow off, creating hordes of large white Malamute fur bunnies in every corner of the house. You’d have to see the quantity to believe it.
Under their coarse guard hairs (which are only skinny sprigs on Lyko right now and look as though he’s trying to grow a body beard [see pic, below]) is a virtual treasure trove of incredibly soft undercoat that they shed in huge quantities twice a year and in smaller batches the rest of the time.
I always thought it would be nice to gather all that downy inner fluff and have it cleaned, carded and whatever else they do to make it into yarn so that I could knit a sweater. It would be soft and cuddly—and definitely warm!
YS, however, considered the idea macabre in the extreme, so I backed off. (Nevertheless, just between you and me, I still think all that snowy white fluff would make a beautiful yarn, just perfect for a sweater or shawl.)
If someone had told me years ago that I’d wind up being a confirmed Alaskan Malamute lover, I’d have said they were a few ants shy of a picnic. No way, no how. I was a cat person all the way. No canines for me.
I’m still a cat person–with just the one rather notable exception; I just can’t resist those beautiful northern dogs with larger-than-life personality written all over them, from the tips of their velvet-soft ears to the end of that bushy tail that waves like a flag over their back. Proud, intelligent, stubborn animals, each and every one. I love ’em all.
Malamutes come from a long line of strong working dogs who pulled heavily-laden sledges over ice and snow and frozen lakes in the far north for their living. For centuries, sled dogs were the best form of transportation available in the far North, for travel between villages or out on the trail hunting.
Like the wolf, northern dogs can travel comfortably across long distances, their powerful leg muscles and backs enabling them to trot at a steady pace for days if they have to. And their double coat makes them well suited for harsh winter conditions.
Malamutes are social animals, but they do have a decidedly independent spirit. They’ve been bred for centuries to be independent thinkers, so that if guided to run somewhere that was potentially dangerous, they could take matters into their own paws, so to speak, often saving their masters’ lives in the process. A lead dog’s keen instincts could keep a sled on the trail in a storm, or avoid dangerous cracks on frozen lakes, or even warn his master when it was best to stay off the ice altogether.
Lyko is clearly bright and independent, and he’s delightfully laid back as well. He doesn’t get too messed up about anything, and he’s cheerfully willing to do whatever you ask of him once he understands what you want.
Unless, of course, he can think of a better way:
When he’s been with us, we’ve been helping to train him to do his business outdoors in the back yard, which entails catching him just prior to the act and getting him out the back door as quickly as possible. Once he’s performed, we shower him with praise and a treat.
We have a large back yard, though, and it’s easy to lose sight of him in the winter when we’re inclined to stand indoors to wait rather than out in the cold and snow, so we were assuming that when we let him out, he was doing his business somewhere in the yard before coming back to be let in. Treats followed.
Suddenly he was standing at the back door to be let out every three minutes. Puppies do, in fact, pee fairly often, but they definitely don’t have to go every three minutes!
The Little Big Guy had, in fact, developed a fun new game that went like this:
- Stand at back door to be let out
- Instantly get whisked outside
- Explore back yard for 2 minutes
- Stand at door again to be let in
- Sit and receive treat–a tiny piece of kibbled puppy food
- (Peeing and/or pooping optional)
So next time we’re dog-sitting him, our new “people” rule will be to grab a coat and throw it on so that we can go outside with him and actually see him doing what he’s out there to do before we pass out treats. Smart as he is, he’ll catch on fast that there’s now a new game in effect: no pee/poop = no treat.
Oh yes, he’s plenty smart. I can see we’ll have our work cut out for us, keeping on top of things.
And that’s just fine by me!