I realized today that with the addition of Big Paul the draft horse to our family, I have been remiss in giving any updates on Kainan, our resident wolfdog. Kainan has been a busy, wonderful, disgusting, and adorable boy lately, so obviously he deserves some blog time.
As you may or may not know, Kainan is a young wolfdog (a mix of malamute, husky, and wolf) Jim and I helped rescue last year. In the process of fostering him while he regained his health from extreme starvation, we kind of, sort of fell head over heels in love with him. He quickly became a permanent part of our family.
Now, after more than a year with Kainan, I sure can’t imagine life without him. He is an education and an adventure all wrapped up in a big, woolly, handsome package.
Recently, Kainan has dipped his toe into the pay-it-forward pool as an ambassador for Freedom’s Song Wolf Rescue, a local non-profit organization
Freedom’s Song was founded to provide safe haven for homeless or in-need wolfdogs, and to educate the public about the measures that must be taken to live successfully with a wolfdog. They also work very hard to dispel the big, bad, evil wolf myths and to teach people the value of wolves in nature.
As part of their educational effort, the volunteers at Freedom’s Song give programs at area schools and, if a calm, willing candidate is available, they like to take a wolfdog along for the students to see firsthand. Kainan is calm. Kainan is friendly. Willing? Well, yes…and no, no, no. I’ll explain THAT part later.
The busy, wonderful, adorable adjectives listed above describe Kainan’s performance so far at area school programs. I could not ask for him to be a more delightfully appropriate representative of his wolfdog family.
While the Freedom’s Song folks give their presentation, Kainan remains with me in front of the audience. We never allow the kids to rush toward Kainan, or, conversely, allow Kainan to rush toward the kids. Some of the kids are nervous about meeting the big guy. At the conclusion of the presentation, the students who want to (and HOW could you not want to?) are allowed to come meet him, two at a time, in a calm, orderly fashion.
I have to tell you that Kainan would prefer I just take the leash off and let him roam the audience at will. The moment he sees the kids file in, it’s game on. Apparently the curious/outgoing gene won out over the shy/reclusive gene that is dominant with many of his relatives.
While we wait for the meet and greet portion of the program, Kainan watches the crowd intently. He pulls on the lead a bit to see if I’ll give enough slack for him to at least reach the front row of admirers. If that fails, and this is the adorable portion of the program, he will lie down and try to belly crawl to the students because SURELY the stealth approach will gain him access to these wonderful smelling kids.
When his moment finally arrives and the first kids approach, Kainan remains very calm and accepts their attention without a trace of shyness, and with no over the top antics. You might think we spent hours training and socializing him, but the truth is that Kainan is just a really good guy. He is even happy to pose with the kids for selfies. It makes me wonder how many Facebook profile photos feature our handsome boy.
Now let’s talk about the “willing” and “disgusting” descriptors. While Kainan has integrated into our home really well, and while he is amazingly appropriate and fabulous once at the school programs, it’s the getting-to-the-school portion of the event that poses a problem.
Kainan is not fond of the car. He gets carsick and always has. When I say carsick, you may picture a dog that gets drooly, a bit queasy, or one that may even throw up. If only that were the whole picture with the K-man.
Of course the first trick is to even get him into the car. Kainin weighs about 110 pounds. He does NOT jump willingly into the car. He does not even pretend to cooperate when you try to help him get into the car. In fact, he can make his big, lanky body go as limp as a well-worn rag doll when he sees the open door of my Jeep looming.
When we finally do get him into the car, it’s both a good thing and a bad thing. Mostly, it’s a potentially very, very bad thing. You see, within the first mile traveling in the car, there is a high likelihood that Kainan will do the unspeakable. You know, the thing that can make throwing up look pretty mild.
It starts with lots of drooling. Then you see him move to the back of the cargo area where he starts circling in a tight, hunkered little spiral. Oh. Dear. Dog. NOOOOOOOOOO!.
The sight of a giant wolf dog doing “the” circle in the back of your car causes panic to crawl straight up from your stomach to prickle through the top of your scalp. You can call to him, you can plead, you try to pull over in the nick-of-time, but you won’t make it. You can’t stop the inevitable.
On our first trip to a school assembly, I was flying solo. Jim helped me toss the big guy in the car and we headed out. I hadn’t fed Kainan breakfast so I was actually confident that all would be well. Foolishly, naively confident.
Within the first 3/4 of a mile, with the drool flowing freely, the circling commenced. Everything pretty much went into slow-mo at this point. Picture me, eyes wide and glued to the rear view mirror, my mouth forming an exaggerated “O” as a drawn out “Nooooooooooooo” spilled out.
I immediately pulled over on a side road to try to head off the tragedy. I was too, too late. So very late.
Fortunately, I had the foresight to put a big tarp in the back of the car. This would be a quick and easy clean-up. Just a tiny little speed bump on the road of life with Kainan.
I got out, leashed my big boy and let him hop out of the Jeep (do you see my mistake here?). I pulled the tarp out of the cargo area, cleaned it up as best I could, refolded it, and proceeded to load everything back into the Jeep – all while holding firmly onto a wolfdog whose main mission was to stay as far away from the vehicle as possible.
The tarp and cleaning supplies went back into the Jeep really easily. Kainan? Not so much.
So here’s the scene passersby were treated to: A slightly crazed looking woman standing perplexed at the back of an open Jeep, with a huge, drooling wolfdog miserably hunched at the very end of a six foot leash.
The old “load up” cue was falling on very deaf wolfdog ears. If he could speak, I believe he would have said, “No way in hell, woman.” Desperate to stay on schedule, the show had to go on, I proceeded to try to lift Kainan into the Jeep. I’m a big, strong gal, but I have to tell you that when a 110 pound wolfdog decides to go not-a-bone-in-my-body limp on you, the scene turns immediately into a slapstick comedy.
I lifted his front end toward the cargo area. Kainan’s rear end promptly fell out from beneath him like strings of well-cooked spaghetti sliding from a fork. We both ended up panting, flat on the ground. Regroup, circle, and try again. And again. And again. Finally, with no small amount of baby talk mixed with a good amount of cussing and grunting, I shoved a pouting wolfdog into the Jeep.
“Goooooood boy, Kainey! Goooooooooooood.” As we got back underway, I made all sorts of promises about how much fun he would have at the school. His reply was a shiny, slimy smear of slobber on my right shoulder. Ugh.
Carsickness is not an unusual problem in young dogs. It takes time, a little training, and a bunch of short, happy car rides to help relieve the problem. In Kainan’s case, on our most recent trip, I also used some essential oils for calming and stress relief. I chose peppermint, lavender, and Stress Away oils that I rubbed onto my hands and petted on Kainan’s neck and chest about 15 minutes prior to the car ride. I also put some lavender on a paper towel and stuck it into the Jeep’s air vent, which I had blowing on high and cold to keep Kainan comfortable and to also diffuse the lavender scent throughout the interior of the vehicle.
If nothing else, I was sure relaxed.
My other secret weapon? Yummy bites of chicken that I doled out as long as Kainan remained calm and settled in the car on the thankfully short ride to the middle school.
No drool. No throwing up. And thank-the-dog-gods, NO number-two in the back of my Jeep. Progress!
Kainan had a great time at the school. He got lots of attention, hugs, and pats. It was a good experience all the way around. I think it was even a tad easier to get him back in the Jeep for the car ride home.
By golly, Kainan is going to make a great ambassador AND, evenutally, a great Jeep dog. I love being able to give back to Freedom’s Song Wolf Rescue. They do such important work for these amazing animals and were ready and willing to help Kainan when he was rescued. If Kainan can contribute to their mission with his wonderful, adorable qualities, we’re happy to work through the disgusting part to help them out.
Education is the key to understanding and to successful co-existance. A new generation is learning about wolves and wolfdogs. A young wolfdog is learning about the rewards of riding in a car. Here’s hoping for success on both fronts.