That’s My Boy! (Sigh.)

Kainan faceI 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.

JenksWhile 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.

If I crawlWhile 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.

I like these guysWhen 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.

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Kainan on a practice ride with Jim. Eyes a bit glassy, big guy?

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.

Guess what?

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.

 

365 Days Later: Bigger, Not Badder.

goofy Kainan

It has officially been one year since the day a scrawny, malnourished, exhausted stray wolfdog stepped foot into our home.

He did not huff and puff to gain access. He did not stalk us in the woods while we were on any sort of journey to visit aged relatives. He simply looked into our eyes and we threw the door wide open.

If you have not read my early posts about Kainan the wolfdog, I’ll give you the Reader’s Digest version. Kainan was found stray in Tulsa, OK (where wolfdogs are not legal to own/house/wander) by friends of a friend. Said friend somehow thought (not a huge stretch) to contact me, my most significant other, Jim, and our equally-bleeding-heart veterinarian/friend, Lauren. That put the wheels in motion to get the young wolfdog quick care and boarding at the animal hospital while we all worked on the “what’s next” portion of this tale.

I went to visit this boy while he was boarding. Past experience in working with wolfdogs at our city animal shelter told me that he might be very stressed, fearful, and filled with mistrust. Wolfdogs don’t do well in kennel situations; wolfdogs often don’t warm to strangers very quickly.

20140901_103907What I found, when I approached his kennel run in the hospital ward of the clinic, was a calm, tired, pup with sores on all of his paws and a soft, trusting glow in his eyes.

Little did conscious Nancy know, but subconscious Nancy was already head over heels in love.

Fast-forwarding through the ensuing events, a local group, Freedom’s Song Wolf Rescue, had seen photos of this boy, agreed he was a dog with wolf content, and were making arrangements to take him into their foster program. He would need to board for about a week before they could take him.

Jim and I agreed we would sponsor his boarding at the vet where he could also rest and recover from his days trying to survive on his own.

We agreed on that until Jim had a better idea.

10628313_10204848789243189_794661893457081233_n“I’m going to pick the wolfdog up and bring him home for a few days until he leaves for the rescue.”

It was that simple. We were going to temporarily foster a wolfdog that we knew little to nothing about. Well, sure. Count me in.

So the young wolfdog came home and moved into one of the indoor runs we have in our house. This house was built for our serious dog habit, so we were well equipped to keep him comfortable, safe, and separated from our own herd of dogs. Because we should keep him separated, right? Big, bad wolf?

We agreed on that until Jim and a better idea.

“I’ll just bring him out on leash to see how he does with everyone. He’ll be more comfortable on the couch.”

2014-09-01 10.42.34And he was. And we all were quite comfortable. And that’s when subconscious Nancy peeked out from the depths of my brain to suggest that maybe this could work out. Then she skittered right back into hiding.

Seed planted.

We were to meet the fine folks from Freedom’s Song (say that three times fast!), on a Sunday afternoon to turn the wolfdog over to them. In talking with them on Saturday to plan a place and time for the next day’s transfer, I learned that our boy…um…the boy…would be going to a very good foster home near Oklahoma City. He would be housed in an outdoor pen and introduced to another wolfdog buddy. There he would gain weight and strength while awaiting adoption.

“Outdoor pen?” subconscious Nancy queried. “This boy has been lounging on your couch in air-conditioned comfort. He melts in the heat. It’s in the 100s right now.”

“But I’m sure he’ll be fine…” and with that she disappeared back into the nether regions of my cranium once again.

JIm and I talked about it extensively, for like, oh maybe five seconds.

10551488_10204877036749359_4110038824873177390_oSend our…um…this boy to live outside while he is still recovering from severe malnutrition? Oh hell…um…I mean…oh, maybe no.

Definitely no.

So I called the lovely representative at Freedom’s Song back and suggested that instead of him moving to another foster home right away, Jim and I could foster him until he was a healthy weight and ready to acclimate to the heat.

I heard a long pause on the other end of the conversation. And I knew what she was thinking.

Her inside voice was saying that these people have no idea what they are getting themselves into. And as any good rescue person does, she was running through a mental checklist of reasons why we might not be suited to keep a wolfdog and working to say the words as nicely as possible.

We talked about containment. We talked about our other dogs. We talked about the fact that we had no idea how he would behave once he was no longer weak and starving.

10678831_745359785524595_8164635533662719818_nThe Freedom’s Song folks are good at their work. Not once did they tell us we couldn’t do this. They simply told us all of the “what ifs” and the potential truths of life with a wolfdog…even just a temporary one.

“Temporary?” Oh shut up, subconscious Nancy.

We met with them, we listened to them, and we promised them we would not let them – or the wolfdog – down.

After a couple of agonizing weeks of debate and just referring to our boy as Big-Bad, Jim and I finally named our new foster friend Kainan. Don’t ask me how or why…it’s an entire story. You can read it here if you want to know the painful truth of how hard we find it to name something. Human parents, how do you do this? What a responsibility.

During the same time the great name debate was raging, Kainan gained weight, and strength, and increased energy. Whereas initially he could only sit and watch the other dogs race around him in the yard, after a few weeks of care, he slowly started joining in the games.

Kain and BernieFrom that point forward he has done nothing but thrive. At eight months of age and a frightening 38 pounds in August, Kainan blossomed into a regal wolfdog of 100+ pounds by the following January. From a tired, lethargic boy with sore paws and no stamina, he became the instigator in rowdy games of dog tag.

And through it all, that calm, steady glow in his eyes never shifted.

Did we say temporary? No. He was not to be a temporary guest. Kainan was home to stay. Our home was to be his home forever.

Subconscious Nancy emerges victorious into the light to high five conscious Nancy.

What we have learned in 365 days with a wolfdog in the house:

  1. Guard your television remotes. Your shoes. Your couches. Anything and everything he might be able to reach needs to be locked down or moved out of his reach. Mischief and thievery abound with a wolfdog in the mix.
  2. There is no such thing as “out of his reach” when you have a wolfdog in the house. Maintain a good sense of humor. Scold yourself for not supervising closer. Always remember he is far more important than any “thing” could ever be.
  3. The landscape of your yard will change. If you thought dogs could dig impressive holes, you ain’t seen nothing yet. We now have the potential for a multi-chamber, multi-level storm shelter in the back yard should we decide to finish it out.
  4. If your rather large wolfdog decides he wants to sleep on the bed, you will find yourself on the couch. Unless he has already chewed the couch.
  5. Duct tape can repair couches. Sort of.
  6. Wolfdogs are not brave, aggressive, or one bit scary. When our dogs charge into the night, racing to the darkest corners of our yard in full baying alarm, Kainan stands in the safety of the porch light, ready to head back into the house if there really is a boogie man out there.
  7. Wolfdogs apparently don’t bark. Kainan does not have a “bark” but he has lots of other ways of talking. He wuffs, he mumbles, he woo-woo-woos, and he howls. OH how he howls. It’s a more hauntingly mellifluous vocalization than any of our other canines can begin to muster and one that brings the resident coyote choir to a respectful silence.
  8. Wolfdogs are affectionate. They love tummy rubs. They love to have their backs stroked. They love to have their ears rubbed.
  9. Wolfdogs can be very independent. A bit of a split personality? At times, yes.
  10. Wolfdogs love to play. They love to pounce their dog friends. They love to chase and be chased. They love toys. Toys might be your couch…be warned and be aware. Learn from our mistakes, Grasshopper.
  11. Wolfdogs are smart and learn quickly. What you help them learn is important. It is as easy to accidentally teach bad things as it is to intentionally teach good things. I’ll let you mull on that very loaded sentence. (My example would be the people who turn a very wild, excited dog loose at the dog park and only call it to them when they are ready to snap the leash back on to head to the car. Get ready for a grand, 30 minute game of keep-away. They just taught their dog that “come” means “game over.”)
  12. Wolfdogs are amazing, mystical, loving, woolly, gentle, clever beings that are certainly not the right fit for every household, but one of them is very much a grand fit in our household.

Of course I do not speak for every wolfdog here. Obviously, my experience is limited to living with this one very special boy. The grand prize in the wolfdog lottery, in my opinion. Not all wolfdogs adapt to living in a home with other dogs so beautifully. A chewed television remote or two…or five…can be the least of your concerns with some wolfdogs. They are not for everyone, some do not easily adapt to domestic life.

BW Kainan

A wagging tail, a happy wolfdog.

But we have Kainan. Our special wolfdog. Every day I bury my face in the thick ruff of fur around Kainan’s neck and inhale. It’s cathartic and uplifting. There is no musky dog smell. Kainan smells of earth, of fresh grass, of warmth. He looks straight into my eyes with a steady gaze that melts my heart again and again. He gently grabs my hand with his powerful jaws in the role of the playful predator. He’s never left a mark.

There is a connection with this animal that is quite profound and eludes description, but I sure hope every animal lover finds something like it, whether with a dog, a cat, a horse, or…in the right circumstance (Don’t worry fine folks at Freedom’s Song, I listened!)…a wolfdog.

In the meantime, I think it may be appropriate to rethink the fairy tales of my childhood. In my story, the wolfdog is not bad at all. In my story, the three little piggies, the giant wolfdog, and the girl wearing the hoodie all become dear friends who go share some porridge with a blonde girl and some bears.

Kaine and meAnd they…we…live happily ever after.

Happy one year Kainan. Jim and I look forward to continuing this real-life fairy tale for years and years to come.

Wolfdog in the House: Busted.

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The face of innocence? I. Think. Not.

Sing with me!

“Bad wolf, bad wolf,
Whatcha gonna do?
Whatcha gonna do when they come for you?”

In this case, “they” are not the police. They are Jim and Nancy. Bad wolf? Well, If you’ve been hanging out with my blog in the last month or two, you know who that is.

Let me set the scene for you.

Jim and I were upstairs in the office/loft/lounge/dog room (every room in this house is multi-purpose…every room in this house is a dog room). We were enjoying a little rare quiet time. The dogs were fed and napping. We were catching up with the world on our computers.

Then I heard what, for a nanosecond, I believed to be Jim playing a little online video clip.

“Kainan!” Jim roared as he launched out of his desk chair, “Leave it!”

What the…the dogs and wolfdog are all right here. Wait. Where is the wolfdog?

Gone, that’s where. That animal is pure ninja. Here innocently napping one moment, gone the next without a sound. But, what about that audio (still playing in the background) suggested bad-Kainan?

“He’s got the remote!” Jim’s voice bellowed as he bolted down the stairs to grab the spotlight we keep by the backdoor for just such emergencies. I too leaped into action at this point.

Here’s how it works…whoever busts Kainan’s latest “grab and dash” heads into the yard to talk the wolfdog out of whatever he shouldn’t have in his mouth. The other partner grabs a handful of treats to distract the resident also-leaping-into-action dogs who would otherwise interfere with any search and rescue attempts.

I couldn’t see what was going in the dark yard, but here’s the audible version:

“Kainan.” (stern male voice from one corner of the yard)

“Leave it.” (even more stern now, from the opposite corner of the yard)

“KAINAN.” (caps mean even MORE stern, back to that original corner)

“GIVE. ME. THAT.” (somewhere in the middle)

Jim came back in cradling the remote control; this time rescued unscathed by wolfdog teeth. Other remotes have not been so lucky. (Moment of silence)

So how did Jim know EXACTLY what was going on? Well, apparently this is not the first time that Kainan has inadvertently turned on the television while stealing the remote control. And this is why said remote now lives in the drawer of the bedside table.

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Kainan. Busted and pouting.

I’m pretty sure I could maybe, sort of, possibly be the one to blame here. I was the last one to use that remote. I may…there is no actual evidence…but, I MAY have forgotten to put it back in the drawer after using it.

Kainan slunk back inside trying to look contrite, but I didn’t buy it. He was obviously just waiting for the next time we let our guard down.

Bad wolf, bad wolf…or is it bad dog, bad dog? Either way, whatcha gonna do?

Well, I, for one, am “gonna” remember to put stuff away…out of reach. Which reminds me. I watched that TV just last night. And I put the remote…I put the remote…

Wait. Do I hear the theme for Good Morning America? Dammit. Gotta run.

KAINAN!

I Know How Dinosaurs Became Extinct. Couches Are On The Same Path.

Stegosaurus_SenckenbergDid you know that scientists really don’t know why all the dinosaurs up and died? Oh, they have theories about climate change, a shift in predation—I think aliens have even been tossed out there as a possible explanation for the obliteration of an entire group of critters.

But no one really knows for sure what happened. Until now.

I know.

I know because Dino has died. I know when he died. I know the cause of death.

He was tough. He truly was. He thrived for a good long time.

DinoHe was a purple stegosaurus that came to Tails You Win Farm last Christmas. A toy so large—nearly 20″ from nose to tail—that some of the resident dogs weren’t entirely sure how to play with him. But they figured it out. Over the months Dino roamed the house and the yard with the help of many willing canine friends.

Some of the dogs came and went, as foster dogs will. But Dino remained. Some of the dogs did their best to kill Dino. But Dino remained.

And then HE came to the farm. And Dino learned that HE was different.

20141028_085136Dino’s road to extinction was swift and sure. It started with a small hole near the base of his neck. The beast found the weakness…the chink in Dino’s armor…and went in for the kill. The smaller members of the beast’s tribe joined in—tugging, shaking, clawing—until, until…well, it’s just too terrible. I will never un-see the violence of Dino’s death.

20141028_085040So my unscientific theory is that long, long ago Kainan the wolfdog’s great-great-great-great-great-great-great-(picture a lot more greats…like nearly infinity greats) grandfather roamed the earth and developed a taste for giant lizard. You get the picture.

Kainan’s ancestors were responsible for wiping out the dinosaurs.

20141024_081500And now?

Worldwide Couch Protection League. Donate today before all of the comfortable seating in living rooms across the world disappears.

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Wolfdogs in the House: And Then There Were Two

2014-10-18 23.22.50The sound emanating from the dog room had a mournful timbre—an intense, beautifully eerie vibrato. Kainan’s head swiveled with ears riveted as he listened intently. Then he threw his head back to answer the tenor’s cry in his own rich baritone.

If I had heard this duet while walking through the woods at night, well, I would have been entranced and in need of new undies all at once. I would love to book this act for Halloween night. There are no sound effects in the world to rival this hair-standing-on-end opera.

So yes, the title of this piece reads “Wolfdogs in the House.” Yep. You read that right. WolfdogS.

Just over a week ago, my Facebook feed started blowing up with people sharing a photo of a dog that was at the animal shelter in Owasso, a nearby town. The dog had a certain “look,” if you know what I mean. And because of his look, he was deemed illegal within the city limits. He was in trouble.

When it comes to rescuing animals, the Facebook alert system can have the same effect as the beam of bat-infused light that prompts Bruce Wayne to squeeze into his tight, abs-built-right-in suit and then bolt off to once again save the city of Gotham. My slightly less theatrical bat signal came in the form of a private message from my friend Stephanie at Freedom Song Wolf Rescue.

10726645_766054940121746_1459711085_nThe question seemed almost tentative and was followed quickly by a pleading-eyes photo. I could imagine Sarah McLachlan crooning in the background, “…in the arms of the angel.” I could even feel Stephanie holding her breath as she awaited my reply.

“You got room and willing to do it again?” She asked.

I understood her hesitation. It was just over a month ago that Jim and I welcomed Kainan, our resident wolfdog, as a permanent member of our family. Right after that yes-he-can-stay decision, Kainan started stealing everything. He developed a taste for sheetrock. He took it upon himself to join our rank amateur dogs in redesigning the landscape of our backyard.

Oh yes. I understood her hesitation all too well.

But one look at that photo and of course I agreed to go get this boy out of the shelter. I am admittedly an easy mark. We agreed that I would spring him from the shelter, get him checked over by my veterinarian, and then house him for a few days until I could deliver him to Stephanie’s house.

On the following Thursday, after his required 72 hour holding period had expired, I made the 30 minute drive to the Owasso animal shelter to liberate our new temporary (picture that word chiseled in stone) boy. The shelter staff…who first reported that it was a female wolfdog and later changed that report to “oh, wait, it’s a male,” (ummm…so girls have…and boys have…yeah) had told us that the wolfdog was thin and very frightened. I was not worried. I have always had good mojo with shy/frightened dogs.

When they first brought him out to me, I could tell that he was nervous and unsure…you know, the old “what the hell now” expression clouding his expression. I sat down in a chair, not directly facing him, and within a few moments, he carefully sniffed me and decided that I might be OK. Considering that at any given moment I probably have the scent of no fewer than 25 dogs wafting around me like the dust cloud that follows Charlie Brown’s buddy Pigpen, I have to believe I’m a tad appealing.

As I helped WD2 into my Jeep I will admit to a tiny “what have I gotten myself into now” moment. Another wolfdog in the house? With all of my dogs? With Kainan? Well, hello hindsight, my taunting friend. You’d think I’d learn, but hey, planning things in advance can be so crazy overrated, right?

First stop with WD2 was a visit to my dear veterinarian friends who have basically grown numb to me walking through their doors, unannounced, with yet another dog or critter, domestic or otherwise, in need of their attention. I believe I even heard one of the staff members close a phone conversation by saying, “I have to go. Gallimore just walked in with another wolf.”

I think I’m becoming a bit too predictable.

WD2 was nervous, but behaved well as Dr. Henson gave him an exam. I remember one moment when the good doctor, who was crouched down directly in front of WD2’s muzzle, said, “Do you think he’ll tolerate a blood draw for his heartworm test?”

“Uh. Sure?”

I’m fairly certain my wishy-washy answer did not give Dr. Henson the rush of confidence he hoped for, but we had one great tool on our side. WD2 was thin and really hungry. I held a piece of food for him to nibble while Dr. Henson aided by Chris, the fearless veterinary technician, quickly drew a small amount of blood from WD2’s front leg. He never knew what hit him.

One hurdle down, it was time to head home and get this guy into the house. By myself. With 20-someodd other dogs vying to be the first to sniff his nether regions. Yay.

In just the span of time we were in the car together, I was already seeing some differences between WD2 and Kainan. They were equally wolf-like in appearance, but behaviorally, Kainan had always been pretty easy going. This might have had something to do with the fact that, at just 38 pounds when we initially rescued him, he was nearly starved to death and very weak. But even with more than 30 pounds gained (and still gaining!), he was still a relatively placid, albeit more playful, boy.

20141018_104434WD2 wasn’t in much better shape at 46 pounds, but he was different. He paced the back of my Jeep. He tried to dig into the floor. He wanted to climb into the front seat. He wanted to climb into my lap. He tried to “borrow” my purse. He immediately started chewing on the tarp that covered the floor of the cargo area (the tarp in place because I learned the hard way that some newly rescued dogs do unspeakable things in the back of your vehicle. The very hard way. )

It was a drive home that required me to watch the road and the rear view mirror in equal parts. Of course I knew that WD2 was stressed, so it was not fair to judge him too quickly, but still, there was just something that felt very different to me about this wolfdog. The old gut instinct was waving a red flag. It wasn’t a fearful feeling, but maybe a feeling that this guy was more of a handful than my sweet Kainan.

More of a handful? Those words struck terror into my heart. While we loved having Kainan as part of our family, living with him had not exactly been a walk in the park. His curiosity, mischievous nature, and propensity for kleptomania required constant supervision. I could not imagine Kainan squared. I could imagine the policeman being interviewed on the evening news, “We’re really not sure what happened. It appears that the house was somehow chewed down from the inside out. We found the human residents just sitting in a corner rocking and babbling nonsense.”

I did arrive home safely and managed to get WD2 into one of the indoor/outdoor runs in my dog room. As my herd of anything-but-subtle dogs flooded in to check out the newcomer on the other side of the fence, he displayed classic, wimpy wolf behavior. If you have read some of my previous posts, I mentioned that wolfdogs are not brave or confrontational. Beyond their impressive appearance, they make terrible watch dogs.

True to his wolf heritage, when confronted at the fence, WD2 pressed himself into the back corner, immediately sat, kept his muzzle pressed down to his chest, and bared his teeth—not in a menacing growl, but in a submissive grin. All of these behaviors were a clear message to the resident canines: Please, oh please don’t kill me.

Then Kainan came in. He stood very still and erect as he stared at the newcomer. Long lost brother? Grand reunion? Well, initially Kainan seemed kind of excited to see WD2. Excited until the moment I went in the dog run to sit with and sooth my new foster wolfdog. For the first time in our relationship I heard Kainan issue some low grumbles at the fence. Awww…he didn’t want to share his she-human with another wolfdog (come on…just let me have this one).

WD2 started to relax and began sniffing noses with the other dogs and the nose-out-of-joint Kainan.  I believe WD2 really wanted to come out to engage in a rowdier-than-I-was-ready-for play session with some of my dogs. There was play posturing at the fence, but Jim and I decided that since this was just a short stay (seeeeee…we don’t keep them all!), it might be best to just keep everyone separated.

2014-10-23 14.16.19WD2 continued to show me that he might have a bit more wolf attitude in the wolf to dog ratio than I was prepared to handle. I watched him as he tested every part of the fence in his run. I watched him nose the gate latch to see if he might be able to open it. I watched him look up to the top of the six foot fence and I immediately wondered if I would be running out to buy material to add a secure top to his run.

At feeding time, as I entered his pen, WD2…every bit as hungry as Kainan always was/is…immediately stood on his hind legs, putting him easily at eye level with 5’9” me, wrapped a front leg firmly around my shoulder, and, in this secure tango hold, proceeded to grab at the food in the bowl. Nothing about this was threatening to me personally, but he was being very rude. Food spilling everywhere, I wriggled free from his unwelcome embrace and backed out of the run to regroup.

Wow.

I forgave some of this behavior. WD2 had experienced a hard week with lots of change, so stress and starvation undoubtedly played into his overly enthusiastic attitude at mealtime.

But still. There was just something different about this animal. Maybe that word was the key: animal. WD2 seemed more primal than Kainan—a bit more flighty and unpredictable. I never felt he was dangerous, but I certainly believed he could be a great challenge to live with and to keep safely contained.

20141018_104256On the following Saturday, I made the drive to Jones, Oklahoma with WD2 actually relaxing in the back of my Jeep. He was a very good boy for the drive there and when we arrived at his new foster home we were greeted by a chorus of howls from the other residents of Freedom Song Wolf Rescue. It was a beautiful serenade, though it put WD2 a bit on edge.

Stephanie, her daughter, and their young wolfdog Yuma welcomed us. Again, unlike the very gregarious Kainan, WD2 was a bit hesitant during the introductions and took a few moments to warm up. Once he seemed comfortable with his new human friends, I hopped back in my Jeep, happy in the knowledge that I had played a part in saving this beautiful boy, but happier still that he was now someone else’s beautiful boy.

During the 90 minute drive home, I had time to think about my expanding knowledge of wolfdogs. This brief time with two wolfdogs in my care provided some very clear lessons that confirmed everything I have read as well as what I have been told by my Freedom Song friends. First, temperaments in wolfdogs vary greatly. Some—like Kainan—are very tractable and can make wonderful companions, while some display more classic wolf behavior.

Second, had WD2 come into our lives BK (before Kainan), I doubt there would be a wolfdog living in our midst. Though he was sweet, based on our brief relationship, I did not feel I could have successfully integrated WD2 into our home. Third, and perhaps most important, WD2 taught me that we truly won the wolfdog lottery with Kainan…he is smart, affectionate, a wonderful companion, and a great ambassador for his kind.

Of course, as I see him dart out the dog door with something red in his mouth, I am reminded that his lovely disposition doesn’t mean there won’t be challenges.  Ah, and now Jim is yelling something about a favorite shirt. Uh oh. Time to run. Literally.

Heeeeere wolfdog. Gooooood wolfdog. (Really. Good wolfdog.)

2014-10-23 18.03.55

Kainan and our Australian cattle dog, Boog. An easy, welcome fit into our home.

Wolfdog in the House: My, What Big Feet You Have

Kainan 9 14 14As I stand in the dog room waiting for Kainan to throw up, I have a little time to study his conformation. Oh yes, you read that right. I’m waiting for Kainan to throw up.

Don’t worry, he’s not sick. He’s sneaky…and a thief…and he just stole and swallowed half a bag of large marshmallows…bag and all. Sigh. Mr. Look-what-I-can-do strikes again.

How he reached the marshmallows from their position on our very high, very deep kitchen island is beyond me, but that seals it. There is nothing in this house our wolfdog can’t reach. NOTHING.

Anyhow, as with all stolen items, Kainan raced into the yard with his sugary, fluffy prize. Of course the flap-flap of the dog door inspired our other dogs to give chase, and the chase inspired Kainan to swallow his prize whole, instead of possibly being forced to share it.

And that, my friends is how we arrive at this pre-vomitus moment. Jim and I decided that a potential intestinal obstruction would be a bad thing. A few doses of hydrogen peroxide should do the trick. Yep, he’s drooling and making that funny smiley face that always precedes the “gulping head bob” portion of the about-to-toss show.

A rough price to pay, Kainan…have you learned your lesson? I doubt it. What you likely learned is that you should not get caught when you snag a forbidden prize in the house.

With a little “wait-for-it” time on my hands, I took the opportunity to study Kainan and wonder just how much wolf our wolfie guy is. When we look at him, it’s easy to see that he is part wolf. The physical characteristics are there…but it’s also obvious that he is a mix of parts. Let’s review.

Following are some wolf characteristics I found courtesy of Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary’s website. Let’s see how Kainan stacks up.

  • Wolves’ nails are darkly colored.Wolves do not have clear or pink nails like some domestic dogs do.

10551488_10204877036749359_4110038824873177390_oCheck. All black toenails…figures I’d end up with a teenager who is into the Goth lifestyle. And his nails are sturdy, he is already excavating a new storm shelter in the yard.

  • Wolves do not have blue eyes, this is a domestic dog trait only.

Check. Beautiful, light, golden brown eyes that make all the bitches’ hearts go flutter.

  • Wolves have highly slanted almond shaped eyes with heavy dark eye lining.

Good natural eyeliner. I’m jealous. Almond shaped, yes, but perhaps not as extreme as a wolf’s eyes would be. A little domestic dog showing through there?

  • Wolves have extra large feet, with two protruding front toes. Not smaller, rounded feet like domestic dogs.

Check. His nickname could be Bigfoot. And yes, those front toes do protrude. He could easily wear cowboy boots. He’s a good Oklahoma wolfdog.

  • received_m_mid_1409405286251_621389b0b728bf7396_0Wolves will not have sharply defined white tail tips like many domestic dogs. Most often wolves will have black tail tips.

Check. Looks like he dipped it in a bucket of black paint.

  • Wolves have a caudal mark/scent gland, often called the precaudal gland, (a dark spot positioned a few inches down from the base of the tail)

Well looky there. Check. Some breeds of domestic dogs will have this spot too, so don’t start eyeing your dog suspiciously if you see a black spot on his tail. The hair in this spot on Kainan’s tail is actually different from the rest of his fur. Interesting.

  • Wolves’ chests are very narrow causing their long legs to be close together ending in large feet that are splayed to the side. Shoulders & hips are narrow for faster acceleration.

Check, check, check. See Kainan, you should be proud of your scrawny chest and skinny butt. Someday, apparently after you gain control of those gangly legs, you should be able to run really, really fast. Chin up, big guy.

  • Wolves’ back legs have a significant cow hock (hocks turned in…basically knock-kneed in the rear) look to them when at a standstill.

Um. Yeah. Check. Back to that “scrawny is good” parenting stuff.

  • Wolves have a banded pattern of longer fur ticked with stiff black hairs that creates a v shape draped across their shoulders. This band of fur is called a dorsal cape.

Shadow wolfIt’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s Superwolfdog!  Yes, he has his cape. It’s really impressive if he raises his hackles. Nifty little sideways Mohawk hairstyle. Check.

  • When they walk, wolves’ tails will not curl up or over their backs like a dogs tail will. Wolves’ tails are extremely straight.

Ok, Half a check. Kainan’s tail does hang straight down most of the time, but if he gets silly he can ring that sucker up over his back in a flash. This is one of the areas where he deviates from his wolf heritage a bit. There appears to be some Husky/Malamute influence popping out from time to time…and yes, we may have proof of that. I’ll explain that in just a bit.

  • Wolves can have many vocalizations, but do not bark like the typical domestic dog does.

So true. He woo-woos, he garumphs, he howls, but he doesn’t bark.

  • Male wolves testicles will be peanut sized all year round (and not fertile) until a period once a year in the winter months that correspond with a female wolf’s estrus. After mating the testicles will shrink down again so as to be barely noticeable, unlike a male domestic dog whose testicles remain the same size all year.

Well, now isn’t this embarrassing for Kainan? And, as I have learned from another blogger friend’s experience, isn’t this blog entry going to accidentally attract a whole new class of readers through the “search” option? Sorry to disappoint, new readers…it’s not what you think. No porn here, just peanuts. And yes, check. Our soon-to-be-huge wolfdog has little nuts for nuts. Sorry Kainan. Hope that doesn’t scar you for life. (Kudos to me…I refrained from adding photographic evidence here.)

  • Wolves have smaller, rounder, thicker, well-furred ears, not larger, thinner, or pointier ears like German Shepherds.

(Insert game show buzzer sound here) Major non-wolf characteristic on the wolfdog checklist. Kainan has lovely, the-better-to-hear-you-with ears that are larger, pointier and a bit less fuzzy than a wolf’s ears would be.

All-in-all, and despite knowing nothing about our foundling’s parents, it is easy to surmise that one of his parents was closely in touch with his wilder roots. But we also know there’s some good old dog in there too. Thanks to the miracle of science, we actually do know that now.

You see, we did a little DNA test on our wolfdog friend. Now, keep in mind, the test clearly states that it is not designed to detect wolf or coyote content, and it’s not likely 100% accurate as it is a home administered test,  but we thought it would be fun to see what dog breeds the Mars Veterinary Wisdom Panel DNA kit might reveal.

The Wisdom Panel home kit claims to identify 200 breeds and varieties of dogs including all breeds recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC). The Wisdom Panel Professional (a blood test available through veterinarians) recognizes more than 235 breeds, types and varieties, also including all AKC breeds. A complete list of the breeds in each test’s database can be found on the Wisdom Panel website.

It’s an easy little test…you just use two special swaps to gather a little sample from the inside of your dog’s cheek. It’s thankfully not too annoying; it takes just 15 seconds per swab. Dogs seem to tolerate that amount of time with relative good humor.

Our test was conducted and shipped off about three weeks ago. Today, the results are online and…drum-roll…Kainan is likely a mix of Malamute, husky, and stump-the-DNA-testers.

One of Kainan’s parents, according to the test results, appears to have been a mix of primarily malamute and husky. The other parent, well, I bet the fine scientists at Wisdom Panel are still scratching their heads a bit. They tossed some “could be” breeds out there in the notes section of the results, but our bet is that that other parent was a gray wolf or at least high percentage wolf—a species that their test is not designed to detect.

Yeah, we knew that going in. We just wanted to screw with them. Jim and I are fun that way.

So we now have confirmation that our growing larger by the day, comical, in-touch-with-his-canis-lupus-roots pal is likely part husky/malamute, and…wait for it…wait for it…there it is! Part barfing wolf.

20140930_093441revYep, there are those damn marshmallows. Still intact in their fluffy goodness. Still perfectly encased in their plastic wrapper. You know, I could almost…well, no. That would just be gross.

Oh, wolf/malamute/husky dog. Perfectly good marshmallows are now in the trash. And you know, all you had to do was ask. I’d have happily shared them with you, dear boy.

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.

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.