Wolfdog in the House: Seeing My Muse Through Responsible Eyes

Shadow wolfIt’s easy to forget that this relationship could ever be anything but wonder-filled and fun. Kainan the wolfdog is out in the yard with my other teenager dogs, gallooping about in a silly, carefree morning melee that resembles tag-you’re-it.

Why yes, I did make that word up.  “Gallooping.” Just the way it bumps off your tongue perfectly describes Kainan’s unique gait as he works to control those gangly legs and big feet. Guh-LOOP-ing.  He is on the cusp of graceful…I give him a few more months.

I think it is fairly clear that Jim and I are completely in love with this boy as we help him live out his wags to riches story as a member of our family. He is so charming; he has become my most generous muse for story after story. His distinctive howl serving as my new morning alarm clock has been the most natural fit in the world.

However, as I tell stories about him, as Kainan gains a bit of a following, I have to wonder if I am painting a clear picture about life with a wolfdog. Have my stories to date have created an all-daisies-and-sunshine image of life with this boy? Do I even fully understand what the realities of life with a wolfdog may be? After all, Kainan kind of just dropped into our world. We didn’t exactly plan to acquire a wolfdog.

For many people, these wolfdogs are beloved companions and I totally understand it. There is something so amazing about having a creature living in your home that is beautiful, loyal, and, at the same time, inherently mystical.

Whether or not you agree with the concept of crossing a domestic dog with a wild animal to create a species that lives in the gray area between the two (and I actually don’t agree with the concept on many levels…but we’ll chat about that another time), there is no doubt that people are fascinated by wolfdogs. In the right hands, these animals can be incredible teachers and are undeniably appealing. Ah, but there is that tricky “in the right hands” thing.

It reminds me of the late 1980s/early 1990s when Disney started the Dalmatian frenzy. Now, for all of my friends who adore Disney, I am not taking the dear man’s name and namesake empire in vain. I’m just stating fact. The re-release of the original animated 101 Dalmatians, quickly followed by the live-action version, and then the make-Dalmatian-fanciers-pound-their-heads-against-a-wall 102 Dalmatians movie had everyone seeing spots. People rushed to own their own little cartoon puppy. Lots of people. In response, lots of people happily created supply to meet demand. It was a catastrophe.

The dogs in the movie were charming. The Dalmatians snoozing all around my desk right now are also charming, beautiful canine characters. I can’t imagine my life without it being full of spots. They are affectionate, smart, athletic, and…well…hysterically fun. If ever a dog was born with a sense of humor, it is the Dalmatian.

But are they the right dog for everyone?  Most definitely not. No breed of dog is right for everyone…just as wolfdogs aren’t right for everyone.

Despite what I would like to believe about my own popularity, truth be told, my stories about Kainan haven’t likely thrust wolfdogs into the spotlight (oh…I made a funny!) in a Disneyesque manner. My blog is just a few billion followers shy of Walt-status. However, I am speaking out…people are reading…asking questions…and a few have expressed a desire to live with a Kainan of their own. Who wouldn’t want one?  How cool is it to share your home with the big, not-so-bad wolf? Right? Right?

PlayingAs I watch Kainan gallooping (you’re starting to like that word, aren’t you?) from the yard, through the dog door, and into the house to collapse in a happy, panting puddle at my feet, I wonder if I just might be Nancy Disney? (Ok, that does have a nice ring to it.)

Uh oh. Time for Responsible Nancy to put on her educational hat.

Admittedly, life with Kainan so far has been pretty smooth. Ah, but Jim and I are not average dog owners. We are Crazy Dog People. Yes, I’m going to own that and make it a formal title. We take in dogs of all shapes and sizes. We train dogs. My business is dog-centric. We have even helped rescue wolfdogs in the past. We are not rookies.

However, all the experience in the world does not a good, responsible decision make. Anytime anyone is thinking of adding an animal to their world there are many factors to be considered.  Homework must be done. Most importantly, you have to be willing to walk away if the animal in question is not a good fit for you.

I think anyone considering adopting a wolfdog should have to read Living with Wolfdogs, An Everyday Guide to a Lifetime Companionship by Nicole Wilde, author and canine behavior specialist. (Best last name EVER for someone who is a wolfdog expert.)

I have long admired Nicole Wilde as a dog trainer and I have been fortunate enough to attend dog training seminars she has conducted. She knows her stuff. Let’s pretend she is our retroactive adoption counselor.

Nicole (I decided we are on a first name basis) would say something like, “So…you think you want a wolfdog? Let’s have a chat about that idea.”

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Brave Kainan…who stands several inches taller than any dog in our house…falling to the ground and making himself very tiny when our two in-charge Dalmatian boys even look at him.

Nicole: Why do you want a wolfdog? Do you think you’re getting the ultimate watchdog?  Wolves are actually very shy by nature and would rather retreat than confront an intruder.

Nan/Jim answer: I can tell you first hand that when our dogs go charging into the yard to scare off what they would have us believe must be an eight foot tall cyclops, brave Kainan is more than happy to hang back with the humans…perhaps standing behind the humans. It’s not a problem. We feel certain we can protect Kainan from the boogeyman.

Nicole: Wolfdogs are highly social, pack-oriented animals that require a lot of time, attention, and socialization. Are you willing to make that commitment?

Nan/Jim answer: Party with the wolfdog! Yay! He will likely have a better social life than we do.

Nicole: Wolves are very social creatures and don’t care to spend a lot of time alone. If the humans can’t be home most of the time, the wolfdog will need a canine buddy. Can you provide adequate companionship for a wolfdog?

20140930_092423Nan/Jim answer: I’m sorry. Can you repeat that question? The 20-someodd dogs in this house all decided to lick a body part at the same time. Alone is not an issue here. Space on the bed is. Kainan is already tickled pink with his ready-made family.

Nicole: Do you have neighbors? Do you like them? Do you want them to like you? If the sight of something that resembles a wolf in your yard doesn’t put a strain on your relationship, then the wolfdog’s howling just might.

Nan/Jim answer: Neighbors? What neighbors? We live on 72.5 acres of country bliss. Ok, we do have some friends who live to the west of us. While they have been very patient about marauding donkeys and pigs, we do have a secure dog yard and will see to it that Kainan does not make any unscheduled visits to their home.  Any howling will just blend in with the resident coyotes.

Nicole: Wolfdogs are known to be amazing escape artists. Most require six foot fencing…and even a fence of that height may not do the trick. Just how secure is that secure dog yard?

Nan/Jim answer: We have indoor/outdoor runs in our house that keeps Kainan safe and comfy while we are away. We supervise him when we are home. So far he has shown no desire to test any physical boundaries because there are no couches visible on the other side of the fence. We will, however, modify our fencing if necessary. We hear that maximum security is the new landscaping chic.

Nicole: How do you feel about digging, chewing, and relentless curiosity? (Relentless curiosity…her words and they describe Kainan PERFECTLY.)

Nan/Jim answer: This one seems a bit redundant to the Crazy Dog People whose two darling Dalmatian girls have tunneled an underground condominium in the yard fit for the Royal family. “Curiosity” is not a problem. We have already been introduced to Kainan’s incredible ability to reach anything on any surface. Oh, and the wall in the upstairs hall is apparently quite tasty. As is the corner of one ottoman. And the magazine that just came in the mail today. And still, we wouldn’t trade him for all of the intact drywall in the world.

Nicole: Wolfdogs are very intelligent, can be quite independent, and do not respond to harsh training methods. Are you willing to learn about wolves’ vocalizations and body language? Will you explore alternative training methods essential for successfully living with and training a wolfdog?

Nan/Jim answer: We embrace the opportunity to learn more about our new friend. Obviously, your book is a great resource (no, we are not just sucking up!) and we are lucky to have great support from our friends at Freedom Song Wolf Rescue. Our training methods are already centered on reward-based techniques, so you are preaching to the choir on that front. Kainan already knows sit, down, shake hands, speak, and sit politely while I deliver your dinner. Our wolfdog is smarter than your honor student.

Nicole: Last, but not least, have you checked to see if it is legal for you to own a wolfdog in your area? They are illegal in many cities.

Nan/Jim answer: While wolfdogs are not legal in the city of Tulsa, out here in Creek County, just outside of Mounds, Oklahoma, pretty much anything goes. We’ve even seen a kangaroo in a nearby paddock. Yep. A kangaroo.

At this point in the interview, I envision Nicole Wilde dabbing tears from her eyes, hugging us, and telling us that we are perhaps the most perfect home in the world for Kainan. And I think we are. We are very committed to him.

Of course a little warning from our friends at Freedom Song keeps bouncing around in my head and it’s the one thing that keeps me from getting too complacent about Kainan. Wolves and some higher content wolfdogs do not really mature until 22 months or older. That means we really don’t yet know how wolfie our wolfdog is going to be. His temperament could change as he matures. It could.

20140901_103907But I also know that Jim and I are prepared for whatever may come. Sweet wolfdog (my bet) or eventual big, bad wolf (hard to imagine)—we’ll stick with our boy.

For now?  Well, Kainan is wonderful, sweet, funny, affectionate, and seemingly quite happy to be with us.  Honestly, it is all sunshine and daisies right now. Well, mostly sunshine and daisies. There is the issue of that one last piece of pink-frosted vanilla birthday cake goodness that, instead of being MY treat, went into Mr. Hey-Look-What-I-Can-Do’s belly.

Still…he’s totally worth it.

Forbidden Love. Furry Romeo Meets Spotted Juliet.

Brooke and KaineIt’s a story as old as time. From Romeo and Juliet, to Jade and David in Endless Love. Star-crossed lovers, denied by family and friends, but determined to be together. Sigh…wipe a tear from your eye.

What is it about THAT boy. You know the one…the slightly rebellious boy who walked into your high school and made teenaged girls’ hearts flutter while the parents of teenaged girls developed creases between their eyebrows and gray hairs at their temples.

Forbidden love. The irresistible, wrong-side-of-the-tracks guy meets the seemingly out-of-his-class girl and beats the odds.

It’s like putting the last yummy piece of birthday cake on the back of the kitchen counter where you think a really tall wolfdog can’t reach it and then telling him not to touch it. I should know. I have that going on…and I have my own little love story blooming.

Imagine Kainan in a leather jacket, collar turned rakishly up, and our little Dalmatian show dog, Brooke, in a cheerleader outfit. I think they would break out in their own howling musical version of Grease if they could. “Hopelessly devoted to youuuuuuuu…”

PlayingOh sure, when we first brought Kaine into this high school…ummm…brought him into our home, Brooke ignored him, as any girl of breeding and privilege would. She turned her head. She told him to talk to the paw, despite his heart of pure gold. And he went about his business, ignoring her right back and playing with the other mixed breed dogs.

Well played, Romeo. Well played.

Suddenly, Miss Brooke only has eyes for Kainan. She is flirting. She is trying to get him to play with her. She wants to lie next to him on the bed and always puts her dainty front legs across his big paws. She licks his face and he very gently plays “bite the muzzle” games with her.

Lawrence winOh yes, it’s love. And OH YES, it’s a forbidden love. I can hear the screams of Brooke’s breeders and co-owners echoing from across the miles. (So yeah, she has co-owners…that’s what sometimes happens when a purebred puppy shows promise for the show ring. I claim her cute little face. They own the tail-end.)

But you know it’s true, animals are not immune to attraction and, given the opportunity, will select specific mates just as humans feel a spark for a certain someone. It’s why male birds puff up and dance about. It’s why elk bash their heads together and lock antlers. They show off…they compete for the affection of the fair maiden.

In the world of purebred dogs, there are arranged marriages…and some don’t work out.  I just finished reading Pukka’s Promise, Ted Kerasote’s follow-up to Merle’s Door. In the book he describes being on the waiting list for a puppy from a breeding between two Labrador retrievers he greatly admired. But when the time came, the female lab refused the attention of the chosen male.In fact, she would have nothing to do with him.

Rather than resorting to less-than-romantic artificial means, the breeder listened to the female lab, waited for her next heat cycle, and found another nice boy that met with her approval. Beautiful, healthy puppies followed.

It’s another somewhat classic boy gets girl despite the odds story.

Alas, dear Brooke and sweet, handsome Kainan. While your affection for each other is charming, I must tell you that…that…well, perhaps I don’t have to tell you right now how your story must end. No…you can enjoy your little dance for now.

Someday in the not-so-distant future, before Mother Nature gives Brooke truly serious ideas, Kainan will have a little appointment with the veterinarian. A simple snip-snip will put a permanent halt to any future plans our little star-crossed lovers may have for creating new designer puppies. Oh the tragedy of it all.

I am fairly sure, however, that while you can apparently cross anything with a poodle and sell it for thousands of dollars (sorry doodle owners, no offense intended to your beloved companions, but it’s true), a wolfdog/Dalmatian cross might not have the same marketing appeal. I challenge my Photoshop expert friends to toy with what that cross might actually look like. Yikes.

So have your innocent fun for now, Brooke and Kainan. No need to run away. No need to hide your crush. It’s ok. For now.

Speaking on behalf of all of the ladies in the world who, like me, have once-upon-a-time-long-long-ago had THAT boy take our breath away…we understand. We understand.

Sigh.

Wolfdog in the House: Outfoxed by a Wolf?

closeupYesterday I was making a grand attempt to do chores. You know, that housework stuff. I truly should have been born a rich, rich woman so I could hire lovely people to do this stuff for me. I am not good at it. So. Not.

And I have this lovely houseful of dogs who truly believe I should play with them instead of sweeping, doing dishes, and folding laundry.

As I was moving through my to-do list (and goodness knows I’d rather be working on my ta-da list!), a certain wolfdog named Kainan kept trying to convince me that it was time for lunch. Because he is still so thin, I’m feeding him three meals a day so we don’t have to feed him too much at once.

He is very, very fond of the phenomenon of regular meals.

Every step I took found him there, underfoot, looking hopefully toward the dog room where he knows I prepare his gourmet delights (HE thinks I’m a good cook…go figure). Repeatedly, I told him, “It’s not time yet, big guy. You have to wait.”

He remained unconvinced.

Finally, as I was standing in the bedroom folding, folding, folding (I believe the neighbors sneak their laundry in with ours…) and memorized by yet another episode of anything on HGTV (my satellite crack), Kainan walked very deliberately into the room carrying one of the metal dog bowls that WAS on the counter…where the dogs supposedly can’t reach.

Houston, we have a tall one.

He walked straight up to me, executed a perfect sit while holding his head very high, and dropped the metal bowl so it bounced, clanged, and landed right in front of my toes.

Subtle. And clever. And correct. It was 1:00 p.m. on the nose.

Oh funny wolfdog. Message received. Lunch was promptly served.

Looking forward I realize that not only do I have a wolfdog who just might outsmart me…I have a wolfdog who just might be able to do my taxes.

This could be the start of a beautiful relationship, indeed.

Wolfdog in the House: He has a Name and a Tummy Ache

Kainan homeLet the trumpets sound, let the chorus sing…Jim and I finally agreed on a name for our wolfdog. It is either the most perfect name in the world, or we just grew very tired of thinking about it.

His name is (drum roll…and if you don’t like it PLEASE don’t tell us…there is no turning back. Seriously. Have mercy): Kainan.

Why Kainan? Well, yesterday (yes, just yesterday) Jim was watching the movie Outlander and the hero in the movie is Kainan.

Haven’t seen it? Well, it came out in 2008 and it’s about a spaceship that crashes on earth during the time of the Vikings, say around 709 AD. Apparently one soldier, Kainan, was the only survivor of the crash. Well, there was also an alien monster stowaway known as a Moorwen who went off on a reign of terror turning the Viking tribes against one another and almost costing Kainan his life because everyone initially blamed Kainan for the death and destruction. Ok Viking guys…do you really think one dude from outer space could do THAT much damage on his own? Clearly the work of an alien monster/dragon thingy.

So anywho, Kainan proves what a great, loyal, good-at-everything guy he is—it helped that he killed a giant, ferocious bear that was about to munch on the lead Viking guy—and is accepted by one of the Viking clans. I didn’t watch whole movie, but I am fairly sure that Kainan went on to face near-death, slay the alien dragon, and win the heart of the fair maiden. What wolfdog wouldn’t want to be named after this guy?

In reality, we didn’t so much name Big-Bad after movie version Kainan as much as we said, “Hey, cool name,” but I felt the need to tell you how we got there after all these days of uncertainty.

So then I Googled Kainan to see what other meanings it had out there. You know, you want to be sure there was never a mass-murderer named Kainan. Alien-dragon-slaying-space-traveler-soldier Kainan? Yes. Psycho mass-murderer Kainan? Absolutely no.

Ok, there were no “100 unmarked graves in the vegetable gardern” Kainan headlines. Whew.

It is the name of a restaurant in Virginia Beach. The restaurant gets good reviews—especially for their 25¢ lumpias. For the record, I don’t have a clue what a lumpia is, but I feel certain that wolfdog Kainan would be more than happy to tear through the buffet of “his” restaurant. We’re good with this use of his name.

Kainan is also the name of a city in Japan and the name of a university in Taiwan. Interesting note here, despite the fact that the city of Kainan was founded in 1934 and played some role in World War 2, and Kainan U was established in 1917, These two Kainans come up after Kainan the restaurant and Kainan the space-traveling hero in a Google search. Our priorities according to Google are: Food and entertainment followed by history and higher education.

Finally, I visited the “name the baby” websites to see what meanings the name held. Kainan means beautiful (yes, he is!), honor, and tribute. Well that sounds lovely. It is also a name that describes someone who is dynamic, of good energy, and one who holds freedom dear. As long as he doesn’t take that freedom thing too seriously, all of the meanings seem very nice and fitting.

For those of you who are still snickering about the fact that it took us more than two weeks to come up with a name for our wolfdog, I want you to know that I blame my parents. It’s a genetic defect.

I know this because it took my parents eight days to come up with a name for me after I popped into this world. Yep. Eight days. They—in a pre-ultra-sound era—were somehow 100% convinced I would be a boy. This after having previously produced two daughters. They were so convinced that the only name they had pre-selected was Jeffrey.

Well didn’t I just ruin their plans by not having a stem on the old apple? This was back in the day when hospitals didn’t cut the umbilical cord and toss new parents out to fend for themselves within a day or two of experiencing the miracle of birth. My mom was in nooooooo hurry. She kicked back and let the nurses take care of her…and me. It was a sweet deal. This meant that they were also in no hurry to figure out what the heck to call me. Baby Girl Gallimore suited them just fine and dandy. Finally a family friend said, “Oh good grief, just name her Nancy.”

A poetic start to life, don’t you think?

Ok…you’re really here for an update on Big-Bad…ummm…Kainan. He is doing well. He has settled into our home and into our hearts with amazing ease.

Feet

His feet at about 10 days of healing and now.

The sores on each of his big pads that caused him initial lameness have almost completely healed. He has gone from an emaciated 38 pounds to a respectably scrawny 54 pounds. In another 15 to 20 pounds he’ll just be slender. We look forward to hitting that goal.

He continues to play extremely well with our dogs and he gives the grumpy older guys their space. He is so very appropriate in his interactions with his canine cousins. While we will not take him for granted, we do not feel the need to monitor his every move at this point. He is really just a big sweetheart.

Mealtime is still a huge deal for him, starvation will do that to a carnivore. Initially he showed a few signs of resource guarding over the old food bowl. I’m happy to report that with some simple training and patience (I outlined that in a previous post), he now allows me to pet him while he is eating without any signs of concern, even wagging his tail as I wish him bon appetit.

The only true problem we have been having has nothing to do with behavior. Kainan’s tummy has been in a bit of an uproar since his rescue from the wild and wooly streets of Tulsa, OK. It’s not surprising. When we found him he was burdened with a load of hookworms.

Add to that the fact that he obviously had not been enjoying many good meals as a nomadic wolfdog in the city. I’m not entirely sure he inherited any of the mad hunting skills of his wild ancestors. This is likely good news for the squirrels, bunnies, and other small furry creatures that crossed his path. Frankly, with the temperament he has displayed to this point, I think he might actually enjoy having a kitten of his own to cuddle.

After a couple weeks of non-stop diarrhea (sorry…I have warned you in the past that you probably don’t want to risk reading my posts while trying to enjoy a meal), non-stop dialogue with our veterinarians, and input from our friends at Freedom Song Wolf Rescue, we may finally be on the path to getting Mr. Touchy Tummy under control.

Things came to a head last Thursday night when Kaine (see…it has a great shorter nickname version too) gave us a bit of a scare. He had experienced several bouts of bad diarrhea and he was lethargic, uncomfortable, and actually had a fever of at least a couple of degrees.

We took him to the veterinarian the next morning for blood work and to rule out niggling concerns that he might have some sort of foreign body hanging out in his stomach or intestines.

His blood work came back normal (yay!) and the vet did not suspect any foreign body or obstruction (double yay!).

We decided to approach his stomach issues from a twofold approach, change his diet and give him medications prescribed by our trusted veterinarians to sooth his stomach. Based on recommendations from the Freedom Song experts, we have pulled kibble dog food from Kaine’s diet. Even though we feed our dogs high quality kibbles from Fromm (Gold and Four Star varieties) and Wellness (their limited ingredient Simple formula), apparently some wolfdogs do not tolerate commercial dog food diets.

Kainan’s menu was initially switched to some cooked chicken we had on hand (two paws up on the Kaine scale) and we have been gradually introducing a raw diet (an enthusiastic four paws up). At this point we are using prepared frozen raw diets from  the Nature’s Variety Instinct line of dog food. These diets have been well researched, offer a complete diet, are easy for us to use, and get great ratings on the Dog Food Advisor ranking system (if you want to see how your dog food measures up visit www.dogfoodadvisor.com). As we move forward, we will likely also give him some raw turkey necks and chicken parts so he can have the benefit of chewing up some raw bones.

Don’t panic here…cooked bones splinter and are dangerous, raw bones (though never pork) can be chewed and digested well and provide many benefits. Yes, raw diets can be controversial, but I’m not going to debate that here and now. It’s really something each individual must research. There is a lot of good information out there about raw diets and right now it appears the best route to take for the welfare of our wolfdog.

I’m pleased to report that our new regime is having great effects. Kainan’s “output” is starting to firm up and look much better (why yes, I AM a poop expert). He is feeling much, much better too. He is bright, happy, and frisky. We saw him lope across the yard in playful pursuit of foster puppy Piper yesterday. That was a beautiful sight to see.

10628313_10204848789243189_794661893457081233_nKainan’s body is healing. He has energy. He is relaxed and happy. He finally has a name. It appears he also has a home.

Welcome home, Kainan. We love you, big guy.

This Day

20140710_192150I’m not writing about wolfdogs today. I’m not writing about dogs in general today. I’m not writing about donkeys, horses, mules, hogs, or even squirrels today.

Nope, I’m setting all of my favorite topics aside to write about 9/11. But it’s not what you think.

Of course this day holds meaning for me—for everyone worldwide. I remember this day clearly in 2001. I had just turned 40 years old and I never dreamed the country that seemed like such a safe place could be paralyzed by fear, even for just a moment. Of course, I’ll never forget that day.

Today, however, I’m actually writing about 9/11/2002. That was the day we all anticipated as a gloomy anniversary; a day to reflect on terrific loss and devastation. I might have gone down that path, if not for my co-worker at the time, Weltha Wood.

Weltha is a wonderful, bright, delightfully bohemian woman who proudly marches to the beat of her own drum. She has a beautiful smile and amazing eyes that capture your gaze and almost dare you to try to look away.  She can be a bit of a force when she wants to be. I have always enjoyed her very much.

On 9/11/2002, Weltha taught me a precious lesson. As I prepared to join a nation in somber remembrance, Weltha greeted the workday with one of her terrific smiles.

“Today,” she proclaimed, “is my birthday.” My heart sank a little for her at that moment.

“Oh…this must be so hard for you,” I responded thinking how terrible it would be to have your birthday overshadowed by such a terrible event.

“No,” she said shaking her head. “This day was my day long before terrorists tried to make it their day. I refuse to let them take my day. This is MY birthday.”

And as I let her words sink in, I realized how very right she was. I would not let evil control this beautiful day either.

So I returned Weltha’s smile with a genuine one of my own and wished her a very happy birthday. Now, each year on 9/11, the first thing I think about is Weltha’s birthday. I make a point to wish her a happy birthday every year, even though we haven’t worked together for over a decade. And every year she thanks me.

I wonder if she realizes she is the one who really gave me an incredible gift on her special day.

Today I will bow my head in silent remembrance, but only for a moment. The rest of this day I will hold my head high in celebration of life, liberty, and the fabulous birthday girl.

I won’t let them steal this day from me either, Weltha. Happy, happy birthday to you.

Wolfdog in the House, Day Nine.Five: Let the Training Begin!

2014-09-05 22.55.29It’s breakfast time and with the first empty bowl I pick up in preparation, I am greeted with a huge display of loud, frantic growling.

Oh no, it’s not Big-Bad the wolfdog. He’s standing quietly in the middle of the eager-to-eat pack of dogs, patiently waiting for the chef (that would be me—these are the only creatures on the planet who consider me an excellent cook) to dish up another delectable meal.

The ruckus is coming from Robby, another of my foster dogs. I have no idea what breeds came together to create Robby, but whatever they are, they are demanding and vocal. Frankly, though he really is a sweet boy, he can be a tad rude at times. Ninety-nine.nine percent of the time mealtimes are “those” times.

“Robby,” I say calmly, but firmly, “Go sort.”

Upon hearing the cue “sort,” Robby turns and scrambles toward the bedroom where he will wait for his breakfast quietly—blissfully quietly—in a crate. Yes, he will stand there, door wide open and wait. This is the resolution we have arrived at for his feeding time frenzies.  It’s my favorite dog training rule: If your dog displays a behavior you don’t like, teach a behavior you do like that can replace it.

Robby in the dog room doing a rather impressive impression of the Looney Tunes Tazmanian Devil falls in the Don’t Like column. Robby turning and racing off on cue to wait calmly in his crate for his morning meal? Do Like column with a gold star—and most days he does it without me even asking. This also means that I have stopped cursing his name and not-so-secretly wanting to strangle him.

And this is what dog training should be. It should be creative. Every dog should be a puzzle to be solved. Problems should not be met with anger, force, punishment, or aggression; they should be met from the viewpoint of a teacher.

I wish I could tell you that I always approach every “opportunity” my dogs throw my way with such zen-like patience, but I’m human. Oh-so-human. My first reaction to Robby’s canine tirades was to scold him and try to have him stay in the dog room in a calm fashion. It was a huge fail and in trying to deal with Robby right then and there, I was frustrating the other dogs.

Ok, Nancy. Step back, look at the situation, come up with a plan that reduces stress instead of increasing it. That’s how we arrived at the “go wait in your crate” plan and it works like a charm. Robby knows his job. He knows I will arrive with his food and I will get to praise him for being such a good, good boy. A+++ for both of us.

So back to Big-Bad and the integration of the wolfdog into our home. It’s gone well. Really well, in fact. It would be easy, at this point, to be lulled into a false sense of what’s-all-the-fuss-about-wolfdogs attitude.

Big-Bad is calm and friendly. He gets along amazingly well with our dogs. His primary play-buddies of choice are Cinder and Gretel, the two German shepherd mix girls that we found and are fostering. His body language is a joy to watch as he plays with his new BFFs.

He displays clear, easy communication. His body stays loose in play, with lots of soft curves as he dances with the other dogs in the give-and-take wrestling match of good, appropriate play. His tail stays relaxed and wags lazily from side to side. He places his large mouth across their backs, their necks, or reaches up to take hold of a leg, just as they do to him, and he is always gentle, displaying perfect restraint.  If one of his friends tells him to back off, he does so, immediately bouncing backwards with his head held low, tossing it from side to side in a playful, good-natured display.

In the yard, he is starting to join in their games of tag, though we have yet to see him really run. The sores on the large pads of each of his feet are healing, but they are still tender. He currently joins in these games by trotting smaller circles inside their large, looping race track around the perimeter of the yard. As they spiral inward around him he waits for his chance to jump in the action as they all fall into a jumble of panting, sparring silliness. Soon I know he will likely lead the race and Jim and I sure look forward to seeing this boy in a full gallop. It will no doubt be a thing of beauty.

For now, as his body heals and gains strength, it appears that our wolfdog is very pleased with his new lot in life. He is very content. He seems relaxed. He has a happy light in his eyes. He does not get frantic about anything. When the other dogs erupt in one of their “We are sure there is a tiger in the back pasture” rampaging sprints through the dog door, Big-Bad just watches them with an amused expression. It’s as if he has some internal sense for when a situation truly merits a reaction…and when it’s really just our donkeys trotting across the field.

It would be easy to assume that we won the wolfdog lottery and that our boy is just going to be easy-peazy. It would be simple to just sit back and watch this new relationship unfold. But that would also be irresponsible.

Jim and I are not rookies in the dog world and we do have some experience around wolfdogs. We also have the benefit of counsel from our friends at Freedom Song Wolf Rescue. Our chats with them combined with our own knowledge help me remember that the wolfdog we have today, may be a very different animal from the healthier, stronger, older wolfdog we will have in the days, weeks, and months to come.

So as we enjoy seeing every play bow, as we help him settle into our home and lives, it would be foolish of us to play “wait and see” with this growing boy. Now Nancy and Jim the trainers get to step forward to embrace this amazing opportunity.

I have officially started testing the waters a bit with this guy. He is, after all, only eight to 10 months old—a puppy that won’t see full maturity for another year or more. And we have to remember, there are two voices sharing the conversation inside Big-Bad’s beautiful head. One voice is that of a playful, silly adolescent dog. The other voice is his more primal side; the voice of his wolf heritage.

Right now I imagine that the voices in his head sound something like this:

20140907_090606Dog: This place is GREAT! Food, fun, friends…what more could a guy want?

Wolf: Yes, this place is great. But those friends…are they going to try to steal your food? Grrrrr.

Dog: Oh no! Those are my friends! Plus, She-human makes sure we all have food. There is more than enough.

Wolf: Really? But don’t you want a little more? That small spotted dog over there…bet you could take hers.

Dog: Well, no…I can’t. I shouldn’t. I won’t. Plus, it’s time for us all to go into the yard to play!

Wolf: Yeah, about that yard. It’s ok, but have you looked beyond the fence? There is all that open room, and all of those trees in the back. Don’t you want to go out there to explore?

Dog: Dude!  There’s no couch out there. Plus it gets really dark at night…and the food and belly rubs are inside. The yard is fine. I love the yard.

Wolf: Ok. Fine. You enjoy your fancy-pants life here. We’ll talk again in a month or two.

So far dog seems to be winning over wolf, but that can change. There are reminders every day of the wolf within. First, one look at Big-Bad says wolf. Anyone can see it. And then there is his bark, or lack thereof.

Big-Bad doesn’t bark, but boy does he talk. He says arrrr, and raaah, and harrumph, all in a deep, James-Earl-Jones-esque timbre. And then, in an easy leap up the scale to a new octave, he throws his head back to let loose a joyful AR-ROOOOOOOO. Dogs and humans like try to imitate his song, but he is the master. He doesn’t sing the song, he lives it.

As we continue to get to know each other, I have starting testing Big-Bad’s limits a bit. I have examined his teeth. I have handled his feet and doctored the sore spots on each. I have trimmed his toenails.  He accepted this attention better than certain dogs I know (glances accusingly at several dogs in the room…).

Jim has taken him for rides in the car. He has introduced him to new people and even kids. Beyond being a bit unnerved by some squealing kids running toward him in the park (they unnerved me too), he has been flawlessly friendly to everyone.

We have asked him to sleep in his secure run in the dog room. We have asked him to sleep in a large crate in our bedroom. We have allowed him to sleep loose in the house. He has complied with all of these arrangements…though being shut away in the dog room was initially met with some plaintiff wails…”I’m soooooo lonely back here. Hellllooooooo? I don’t want to be aloooooone.”

I hear you on that one buddy…you are a pack animal through and through. That lobo-solo crap is a bunch of bunk. In fact, the night we did ask you to sleep off in the run, I believe I awoke a few hours later to find you snuggled on the couch with the He-human. Yeah, he didn’t think you should be alone either.

So the one remaining test for me was his attitude about mealtime. Many dogs are prone to guarding high-value resources and food certainly ranks at the top of the resource list. For the first week here, I let Big-Bad eat in his run without being disturbed.

Once he had a chance to settle in, I decided it was time to test the waters a bit. We had already been asking him to sit for food treats, as well as prior to having his food bowl placed on the floor. Two days ago, I did that routine at feeding time, but then took it a step further and stayed with him, reaching out to lightly stroke his back while he ate.

Ah-hah! First challenge revealed. As I ran my hand along the soft fur of his back, Big-Bad froze. His body became rigid. He kept his head low, over his bowl, but stopped eating. His ears pinned back. His eyes took on a glassy look as he rolled them to look up at me, exposing little moons of white on the sides.

There it is. I found my first “opportunity” with my wolfdog. It wasn’t extreme, he did not growl, or try to snap at me, but I also did not press him. I gave him one more pat and then calmly left the run to let him eat in peace. Though he has gained 12 pounds in his first 10 days in our care, he is still quite emaciated and each meal is a big deal. I didn’t want to confront him, or exacerbate things by snatching his food away. I wanted to develop a training plan.

He displays no ill temper during food prep time. He does not get grumpy with the other dogs; he waits patiently for me to dish meals up. He has already learned to run into his dog run where he sits before I will serve him. Now he will find a few new steps added into his mealtime routine. I will work with him gradually, while keeping things fair and easy as we learn to trust each other. He will learn to trust that I won’t steal his food, and I, through training, will learn to trust that he won’t react badly to my presence during mealtimes.

My first step in the teaching process has been to simply stroke the length of his back two or three times right after I let him have his meal. It’s very casual, it’s as I turn to leave the run. I pet him a few times with my back to his head and bowl, I praise, I walk out. He has accepted this attention beautifully, with no stiffening, no adverse reaction.

Next, I am going to introduce him to clicker training (Today! We will start today!). I’m very excited to start this method with him because I know he’s going to respond so well.

If you are not familiar with clicker training, here is a really, really condensed explanation of the theory behind it. Basically, the animal learns that the click sound is a bridge between the display of a specific, desired behavior, and a reward to come. So, for example, if a dog who has been properly introduced to the clicker comes and sits in front of a person instead of jumping up in greeting, he would get a click and a reward (generally a food treat in the training process, but it can be anything that the dog finds rewarding).  The trainer is capturing and marking the desired behavior at the precise moment it is offered and rewarding it, thereby increasing the likelihood that the dog will offer the behavior again.

With Big-Bad, I plan to introduce the clicker and then use it at mealtime. I will have him sit, I will click, and I will give him his food bowl. We will do that a few times. Then I will stay while he eats and I will pet him lightly. Each time he displays relaxed behavior when I pet him, I will click and then drop a higher value food treat into his bowl. He will find that my attention is not only non-threatening, but that it also earns him something even yummier.

The next step will involve a wonderful tool called the Assess-A-Hand, developed by renowned trainer Sue Sternberg. This is a great tool that is used by shelters and trainers across the nation. Basically, it is a fake hand that allows you to test and train with a dog that has resource guarding issues without putting any of your own digits at risk. I am a big fan. BIG.

Assess-A-Hand

Information on Assess-A-Hand is visible ON the Assess-A-Hand. This doggy looks like he might bite it. Poor A-A-H!

In a few days, a bit further down the training trail, I will have Assess-A-Hand touch Big-Bad lightly on the face while he is eating. Brave little Assess-A-Hand will also reach into the bowl, perhaps even sliding it a bit away. Each time Big-Bad accepts this attention appropriately, I will click and add a higher value food treat into his bowl. I won’t push him too hard, I will teach him gradually. I’m so excited to start this process.

The important thing here is that we are not going to wait for him to possibly develop serious resource guarding issues; we are going to preemptively teach him that such behaviors are not necessary.  There is no need for him to act out aggressively, and there is certainly no need for me to respond in kind. It’s a line of thinking and methodology I have learned from amazing mentors in my never-ending, always-evolving journey as a certified professional dog trainer and it works.

I think I’ll also get some M&Ms so I can click and treat myself too. Fair is fair, after all.

Oh, and his name! I bet you’re dying to find out what we finally decided for his real name…yeah, us too. Sigh.

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Photo proof of a relaxed wolfdog…as well a proof that I really need to clean the dog snobbers off of my windows.

 

Wolf-Dog in the House, Day Six.Five: He’s a Budding Artist

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This morning I found him lying quietly on our back patio, serenely gazing out across the back pasture as the sun just started giving the day a good-morning kiss. Two of our other young dogs were out in the dog yard engaged in a rowdy play session, but dear Big-Bad wasn’t quite up to joining in the chase just yet.

One of the remaining injuries from his past life are sore spots on the main pad of each of his large paws. It could be wear from walking a good distance; I suspect it is also the result of traveling on hot pavement. Whatever the cause, his paws are still sore and though his teen-wolf brain is starting to feel the urge to jump into the middle of all the play, his aching feet still have him sidelined.

That’s going to change. We had our first hiccup of change yesterday.

While at work, my phone chimed and this text came through from Jim…who was currently serving as the zookeeper. Ah the joys and challenges of the home office.

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Now I will admit to you that at first glance, I thought that the couch had been chewed up. On closer inspection, I realized that no, it had just been redecorated.  With mud. Lots, and lots of mud.

My reaction?

Laughter. The kind of laughter that inspired the text shorthand “LOL.” The kind of laughter that made people around me smile and say, “What? What?”

My celebration was twofold.

  1. Big-Bad was obviously starting to feel better. MUCH better.
  2. I wasn’t the one at home cleaning the couch.

And you know, had that been a chewed couch instead of a mud-streaked couch, I would have still laughed…perhaps with  a few tears of remorse mixed in…but I would have taken it in stride. That’s what you do when you are crazy dog people. You take stuff in stride, you learn from each “mistake,” and you teach. Note the word “teach.” It’s my new dog training soapbox. You TEACH, you don’t correct. There’s a huge difference and I have a feeling I’m going to talk about it a lot as Big-Bad teaches us about life with a wolf-dog and we teach Big-Bad how to fit into life at Tails You Win Farm.

I think, judging from Big-Bad’s initial example of creative expression in the couch painting category, that we will all be great teachers, and good-natured students.

Brooke and Cookie go to ChinaNote to Big-Bad…Is that all you’ve got? (It’s possible I’m going to live to regret that challenge) This couch-painting thing is not new for us. It’s why we have a Craigslist leather couch. Your new housemates are MASTERS of mud and mayhem. I’ve even seen looks of respect on your face as you inspect some of their finer work in the yard.

Now I know that was just your fledgling contribution to the dog-wear-and-tear that is part of the charm of our home. Yes…charm.  As you gain weight and become healthy, I know you will also gain energy, and stamina, and a greater creative flare. And that’s ok. We’ll be here watching (hopefully!) to guide your efforts in a productive direction.

Or we’ll be here to laugh whatever off. We’re really good at that too.

Oh, and for those following along, the update on the name-game. You notice I still refer to him as Big-Bad and that likely leads you to conclude that we are still undecided on a final handle for this guy. You would be absolutely correct.

Jim has suggested Akela…after the lone wolf  in The Jungle Book. A good name to be sure, but to me, it’s a bit like naming a Dalmatian Pongo or Perdita, you know? Plus, since Spanish was the language I learned (on the path to a Bachelor of Arts vs a Bachelor of Science that would have required math and beyond…NOT my thing), my brain is stuck on the Spanish rule that things ending in “o” are masculine and things ending in “a” are feminine. I can’t shake it. I’m sorry. And Big-Bad is anything but feminine.

Jim is mulling other names and my veto power is on shaky ground. I have submitted Malachi for consideration. It means “my messenger” and I think Big-Bad is just that. Our messenger. I’m just not 100% sure what the message is yet, but I’m listening.

This beautiful, now-frail, but soon-to-be strong animal is the perfect combination of two things we hold very dear: dogs and wildlife. Maybe Big-Bad is here to remind us that we have to treasure, respect, and protect the worlds on both sides of our fence.

Or maybe he’s here to tell us it’s time to redecorate.

He’s right on all counts. The story continues…

 

Wolfdog in the House, Day Four.Five: Learning More

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Yuma in the foreground…what’s-his–name in the back.

Yesterday was a big day for…for…yeah, still no name yet. We’ve had 24 hours to mull it over since my last post, and still nada. We’ve got nothing.

Jim calls him Buddy or Bub a lot; I have started calling him Big-bad, but I should probably cut that out lest the great powers in the universe fail to recognize that my tongue is planted firmly in my cheek when I use that name. It comes out something like “Bib-bab” when you actually put your tongue in your cheek while saying it. Anyhow, we need a name to avoid having my potentially poorly selected nickname become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

I actually suggested the name Christian yesterday. As in Christian Grey Wolf. I cannot begin to tell you how fast Jim vetoed that name. So fast. Can’t say I blame him. (To give you a quick book review here, I sum 50 Shades up as a massive, horrible literary car/train/plane wreck, and yet people (ok, women) everywhere just can’t seem to stop looking. I know. I read it. Don’t judge.)

Moving on with our PG-13 content (missed out on G because I do say testicles later). Yesterday was indeed a big day for our wolf-boy. Jim and I took him to meet Karen, Terry, and Stephanie from Freedom Song Wolf Rescue. We were eager to meet with them so we could learn more about our new foundling. Of greatest interest to me was finding out just how much wolf content vs dog they saw in his soft, furry mix.

We met at a park under the shade of a couple of trees. Big-bad was a bit unnerved by some squealing kids running near him (me too, big guy, me too), but then greeted Karen and Terry like long-lost family. Just as we were all making nice and introducing ourselves, Stephanie arrived with her two sweet daughters and Yuma—basically a younger, healthier, more enthusiastic version of Big-bad. (Seriously, I promise that won’t be his name!)

Our wolfdog was very interested in Yuma until the point where Yuma fell into the role of annoying kid brother and Big-bad was in no mood to play. It was hot, it was a bit stressful, and our skinny guy just pretty much wanted to crash in the shade and enjoy a belly rub or two or five, which we all happily provided while Yuma entertained himself by good-naturedly mauling Karen. (For future reference, a good-natured mauling does not result in permanent damage or loss of life/limb.)

10678831_745359785524595_8164635533662719818_nSo what did we learn? Well, the experts from Freedom Song believe that our wolfdog is at least mid-content wolf. With no knowledge of his actual parentage, they assess wolfdogs based on physical characteristics…legs, feet, the shape of the head and ears, coat, and overall conformation. Taking all factors into consideration, they feel that our guy is at least half wolf content. Grey wolf, to be specific. (Jim, are you SURE we can’t call him Christian? It’s just a bit hysterical, really…)

They agree that he is a youngster despite some tartar on his teeth. Poor diet is likely the culprit there. Based on physical characteristics—the size of his canine teeth, and the size of his testicles (or current lack thereof, bless his heart…pretty sure no man or beast wants the words “aren’t they cute” used to describe his man bits)—it was determined that he is about eight months old. Oh, and he’s about 30 pounds underweight (I would gladly give him about 15 of mine…).

After that assessment, they launched into an obviously often-used panel discussion that I shall call “Your Wolf And You.” These are rescue people. They are deep in the trenches of caring for a breed of animal that is, to some, a fad, a mere novelty. You know, it’s cool to own a wolf, right?

I feel their pain/determination. I’m a founding member of our local Dalmatian rescue group that was formed in 1989…just before Disney re-released the animated version of 101 Dalmatians and then, just to mess with us, came out with two live-action movie versions as well. Oh goodie! (Disclaimer for my Disney-loving friends: I do know that Disney meant no harm to Dalmatians/Dalmatian fanciers…but MAN did the fine folks of the Magic Kingdom screw with us to the tune of 50 to 75 Dalmatians per year through our little rescue for a bit there.)

When you care about a breed that surges into the limelight…or a breed that requires a great deal of special knowledge as well as commitment to care for it properly…well, you get a bit possessive.

It’s easy to sometimes feel that you are the only people in the world who can properly care for these dogs…THIS dog. In the case of the wolfdogs, I’m sure a lot of people acquire these guys as cute, fluffy little cub-pups with no clue what it will be like to try to live with the mature animal to come. Oh Freedom Song, I hear you. I understand.

You should see the gyrations people have to go through to adopt a dog from me. There is an application filled with leading questions. There are reference checks. There is the face-to-face meeting. There is the home check. Yeah, it’s not an easy process and if everything doesn’t line up, I will tell you no. We are picky. We have to be. The dogs that come to us have generally “failed” in at least one home; it’s our job to make sure the next home is right.

Jim and I listened carefully to everything Karen, Terry, and Stephanie had to share. Some of it we already knew…but we listened to it again, carefully digesting all of the valuable information. On some level, I know that our new friends really just wanted us to hand Big-bad over to them. You could see it in the way they handled him, in the way that they really didn’t want to hand the leash back over to us.

They’ll read this, and I want them to know that I am not criticizing them at all. They are wonderful, kind, concerned people. They know these animals well. They know they can come with challenges. They know a lot of people get them and fail.

Jim and I know that too.

But another thing we all know is that in rescue, you eventually have to trust others. You share your knowledge; you make yourself available to help guide the way. You have to allow yourself to believe that other people can learn to care for these special animals.

Jim and I are good candidates. We both have so very much experience with dogs. We see more dogs through our home over the course of a year than most people see in a lifetime. I am a certified professional dog trainer dedicated to positive reinforcement methods. I have trained not only dogs, but everything from horses, to llamas, and even pet hogs.

Jim also has years of training experience and has shared his home with several Nordic breed dogs in the past, in addition to the husky-malamute cross we have now. He has always been fascinated with wolves and wolf/dog crosses.  He’s no rookie.

Our farm is in a county where wolfdogs are legal. We live on a spacious acreage with no homes immediately adjacent to our property. We have good fencing for our dogs and can modify our yard enclosure to foil any future thought that half of this guy might have about answering the call of the wild. Meanwhile the dog half is welcome to come inside to crash on the couch with us. He has already demonstrated that he’s very good at that.

Plus, we really want to see this through. We want to help Big-bad get healthy. We want to experience dog/wolf behavior in this closer-to-nature form. Most importantly, we want to do it right. We are more than a little bit in love with this boy.

For now, he is no trouble. He is calm, he is playful and appropriate with our dogs. He goes into his indoor/outdoor dog run happily (as long as there is a food reward involved). He is smart and willing to learn…we are smart and willing to teach/learn.

We know there may be challenges. We know that in a few weeks, when this guy is 100% healthy and showing his true colors, we may wave the white flag and turn him over to more experienced hands…but I really don’t think so. I think we can do this. I know this wolfdog is the manifestation of a dream long held by Jim, and I feel he’s here for a reason. Our friend CC has suggested that Big-bad is Jim’s spirit guide. Maybe he is…or maybe we were put here to be his. I suspect it’s a combination of both.

In the meantime, we will reinforce our fencing (making it taller and dig-proof), we will begin training (I think clicker training…it works for dogs and killer whales alike, right?), and we will all figure this out together—me, Jim, and Big-bad. I think we will all be A+, gold-star students.

Soon we will give this guy a name. Really we will. It won’t be Big-bad or Christian. According to Jim, those names, along with John Mahowlkovich and Jack Nichowlson, aren’t anywhere to be found the short list of possibilities. Sigh.

And we will stay in touch with our friends at Freedom Song. They are such kind, caring people. As we were parting company yesterday, I looked Terry directly in the eyes and promised him that we would not let them down. And we won’t. Ultimately, it’s not about what Jim and I want…or what any human wants…it’s about what is right and best for this wolfdog. We won’t let him down.

When we got home from the big meet and greet yesterday, a very tired Big-bad walked up to the house.

He huffed.

He puffed.

He…

He…

Walked inside and promptly fell fast asleep. Hey Mr. Big-bad-sleepy-head, you should write a bedtime20140902_091243 story all your own.

I’ll help you with that, too.

Wolfdog in the House, Day Three.Five: Wakey, Wakey!

20140901_103907This morning I awoke to a gentle tug on my hand. As I peered through still-heavy eyelids I saw my wrist…but no hand. The hand in question was in a wolfdog’s mouth being used as a chew toy.

No, the next scene was not me pulling away a bloody stump and screaming in horror. The next scene was me asking, “Whatcha doing there, buddy?” And the response was a playful paw slap to the top of my head and the delighted reply, “Wooo, wooo, wooooooo!” Which I believe translates to something along the line of, “Oh good, you’re awake, will you be fixing my breakfast soon?” And yes, he was being very gentle in all of the aforementioned chewing and slapping.

And so began Day Three.Five. I say three.five because technically he was only with us for part of the day on Friday, “he” being the wolfdog that we are currently fostering. If you did not read my post yesterday, get with the program.

Oops…that did NOT sound reader-friendly. Let me rephrase that…

If, perchance, you did not read my post yesterday, let me give you the Reader’s Digest version:

 Our friend CC’s neighbors found a really, really, really skinny husky-type dog and CC asked if we (me, Jim, and Dr. Lauren) might be able to help with said dog because we take in and rehome lots and lots of stray dogs so after a vet visit and after determining that he’s a wolf cross dog Jim brought him home and he’s here now with us getting healthy and we are learning about wolfdogs and what it’s like to have one as a house guest.

 Did you read that really fast and in an all-in-on-breath-way as intended? Good for you. If you want the full initial scoop, click here. We’ll wait for you.

Waiting. Waiting. Waiting. Back?

Ok, so now you’re up to speed and know that Jim and I have a yet-to-be-named wolfdog in our house. So far, he has been a complete and total delight. Ok, yes, he has had a couple of accidents in the house, but who hasn’t? (Jim, don’t answer that…)

For the most part, however, he knows to go outside “when nature calls.” He knows how to use our dog door. He knows he has to go into his dog run to eat his meals. He knows how to take his dinner bowl right out of my hands because he is a very hungry wolfdog and I am apparently a very slow waitress.

He gets along with our resident dogs and likes our foster dog Cinder most of all because she totally gets his play style. He is a teeny tiny bit afraid of 25 pound Tink. (Honestly every dog that crosses our threshold is a teeny tiny bit afraid of Tink the Terror, so that just means that Tink knows no species boundaries in her reign of supreme world-as-she-knows-it domination.)

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Why yes, that IS dog hair on my couch. Thank you for noticing.

He likes Nylabones. He likes dinosaur toys. He likes to snuggle on the bed and couch, but gets hot fast and really prefers to crash on the cool concrete floor.

By the way…if you are a crazy dog person, I highly recommend stained concrete floors. Jim can stain them for you…heck, he can design and build your whole, awesome, crazy, dog-friendly house. (Note, I do not get any sort of commission for plugs like that. It’s just me bragging on his mad skills. However if this plug results in some huge, billion dollar house design and construction deal, perhaps we can discuss some sort of tiny promotional consideration)

Back to the wolfdog.

He does NOT like bananas. He does like turkey, chicken, beef…basically anything that once had a face or had potential to have a face (can’t rule out eggs). My apologies to my vegan friends, but he’s a major carnivore and you just really can’t ask a wolfdog to stick to the salad bar.

He tolerates a toenail trim. He likes to be brushed. He thinks belly rubs are the bomb and naps are a priority.

20140901_083609I know we will continue to learn more and more about him as the days pass and his health is restored. He is already a bit friskier today than he was yesterday, so who knows what’s in store when the honeymoon is over. But we’re game…we’re ready to find out. And we won’t take him for granted. We don’t take any new house guest for granted. Keeping everyone here safe and healthy is our priority.

This afternoon we will take the yet-to-be-named wolfdog to meet the ladies of Freedom Song Wolf Rescue. Hopefully they can help us determine his age—I’m usually pretty good at guessing, but he has some physical mixed messages going on that I will explain in another installment—and they are going to look him over to see just how much wolf they believe is in the mix.

Information from these rescue experts will be very valuable as we move forward in this fascinating walk near the wild side. So far, he just seems to want to eat, sleep, play and chew, ever so gently, on our hands. 

I’m putting Day Three.Five in the win column.