Adopting an Alaskan Malamute

I run into Whole Foods to pick up a few last-minute items to make dinner for my fiancé and his friend. They had been doing the manliest activity of all manly activities—jack-hammering the concrete behind the house we had just bought and were remodeling before moving in after the wedding. So, naturally, a 10-minute trip to Whole Foods wouldn’t be that big of a deal, right? Wrong.

My fiancé received a call from me crying… okay I was BAWLING… like, I was doing that ugly, snotty sob that only the most dramatic of girls can do [I’ve got it down, apparently].

“Are you okay? Were you in a wreck? Oh my gosh, is Pudge okay?” were the first words out of his mouth. I was fine, our Border Collie, Pudge, was fine… even the car was fine… I was not in a wreck, yes, Whole Foods had what I was looking for… everything was fine. I was SOBBING because Whole Foods just HAPPENED to have a doggie adoption event that day and I just HAPPENED to walk past it on my way out.

Disclaimer: I’ve been grounded from any and all animal adoptions in the city of Dallas ever. I always end up falling in love with an animal and am anxiety-stricken when I can’t take it home. My friends know not to answer my phone calls on Sunday afternoons because they assume I’m asking them if they’d like a dog… or a cat… or a pony.

But this time, it wasn’t my fault! I honestly went into Whole Foods looking for Olive Oil and Almond Milk and as I was walking out, there they were, all 15 cages set up in a row… People were oohing and aaahing and loving on the animals. In fact, it was a pretty successful adoption day; there were people gathered around every single cage… except one. In a large crate off to the side was the most MAJESTIC animal I had ever seen. A beautiful dog, who was VERY out of place in the Texas heat, was lying on the ground looking up at all the people that she wished were talking to her. I walked over to her cage just to say hi and she promptly stood up straight and smiled at me [yes, dogs smile, okay?] I petted her through the metal and talked to her. I found out that her name was Keira [from the attendant, not the dog… I’m not THAT person]. She was a 7-month-old Alaskan Malamute who had been in a home with a family before and was dropped off at the Humane Society after a few months because they couldn’t handle her. My heart broke. My sweet Pudge had also been returned to a shelter. I can’t even handle the sadness I feel when I know a sweet animal has been in a loving home and then just left alone for good! It makes me want to track that person down and show up at their home and go all country on them, but I’m a city girl so I don’t think it would be a good idea to try to ‘go all country’ on anyone.

Anyways, I knew I could never take home a dog that big—she had to be 90+ pounds at 7 months old! I told her she was wonderful and I began to walk back to my car, where my sweet Pudge was waiting [with the windows down], and as I turned around to take one more look, I watched her slump back to the floor, defeated.

Boom. The Hoover Dam couldn’t have stopped the tears if it tried… I was devastated. I knew in my heart that a dog that big would have a very hard time being adopted. I called my fiancé and he got me through the initial moment of emotions, and ended up surprising me with Keira two weeks later. We were THRILLED to adopt this beautiful dog, but we had no idea what we were getting ourselves into. Three and a half years later, Keira is the most awesome [and trying] member of our family and my husband and I are pretty much experts on life with a Malamute. I would never trade my big, large baby girl for anything in the world, but there were definitely times in the first two years of being a malamute mommy that I could see why Malamutes are in and out of shelters… Here are 6 things that I wish someone had told me before I adopted my Alaskan Malamute:

  1. They require a lot of energy.

Malamutes are built to work. They’re literally built to pull a LOT of weight. I was told to get her a harness, attach that to a bike, sit on that bike and have her pull me uphill for exercise. YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME. Do you think I’m going to put my 120lb body on top of some wheels and hand the reigns over to my 110lb animal that can pull over 700lbs for a long distance? If you think I am, then you clearly think I don’t value my life. Let me tell you one thing… my dog is strong, stubborn and fast and I’m not good on a bike, so I’d like to live. So there you have it. I didn’t realize how true that saying is. Malamutes need more than exercise. They need about 14 Crossfit WOD’s a week. Simply walking the dog is NOT enough. I can’t stress this enough. Most of the next 4 problems you’ll run into with a Malamute happen because they’re under-exercised.

  1. They’ll talk to you.

Alaskan Malamutes are VERY social. They’re also pretty sure that they are humans and that you can understand what they’re saying. They don’t just talk to you, they talk to others. Keira’s nickname in the neighborhood is “The Neighborhood Mascot.” I’ve had neighbors multiple doors down thank me for having her around because she is a fabulous alarm system (this is not because she’s a guard dog, malamutes are NOT good guard dogs, because they are always excited to see you) and just gets so excited that someone is near, she’ll start to SCREAM. When I say scream, I mean it. We call it her “Chubaka” voice. If you see point number 3, their voice is what they use most to change your mind. I have multiple videos of Keira waking me up at 3:12am to go outside. These videos were taken after I had told her “No!” for 20 minutes. She eventually went outside. No, it was not to use the restroom. She walked around a few times and then wanted to come back in… yeah. It was a control thing for her and I caved. Very Malamute.

  1. They’re stubborn.

What Keira wants, Keira gets. She will do whatever she needs to do to make sure that’s the case. She runs this house and she knows it! The dog is just that good, y’all. I was told that Malamutes MUST be trained from an early age, or it’s very hard to do it. She will sit most of the time (sometimes only if you command her multiple times and then push her butt down) so she knows what you’re asking her, she just needs to make sure it’s in her best interest to listen. If she is unhappy, she will cry until you change her situation, even if it takes her an hour and a half. She’s headstrong and strong-willed and will do what needs to happen to get you to do what she wants—smart dog, I say.

  1. They’re smart.

I have a Border Collie and a Malamute. Both are known as some of the smartest breeds in the world. That’s awesome, but not for us. Half the time, we’re trying to keep up with these two. Both breeds are escape artists… they will FIND a way out (Keira can do it with brute strength, though), and they both get what you’re asking, but only one wants to make sure you get it. Both are EXTREMELY hard to train—Collies overanalyze every command and movement, and Malamutes just don’t care to do what you ask them to. Here’s the main difference. Collies are smart and they live to serve you. Malamutes are smart, but they think you live to serve them.

  1. They need an alpha male.

Malamutes are pack dogs. They need an alpha male, an order of hierarchy and they need to know their place in that order. Obviously, I would like for that order to be Myself and my husband at the top, baby next, then Pudge and Keira at the bottom. Here’s how Keira has decided it is… 1. My husband 2. Keira 3. Me 4. Pudge (the baby has yet to fall into a roll, but it looks like he may take space number 2 and the rest of us will bump down). Yes, I am below my dog in her CLEAR hierarchy. This pack is not as cool when the Malamute is higher up than you are. Just know, you need to show your dominance early on or you’ll be in the same boat as me.

  1. They’re loyal.

Y’all, I know I’ve made it sound like this dog has been full of more frustrating times than fun, but that is simply not the case. This dog has required a lot of hard work and dedication, but she has, in turn, blessed my life beyond measure. I’ve watched a dog who suffered from neglect and moving in and out of shelters who “couldn’t handle her” transform into an irreplaceable part of our family. She’s learned to trust us and to love others too. In my marriage, I’ve needed to be shown that my husband is willing to love me despite how hard I am to be loved… don’t our four-legged friends need the same? Keira has seen our love and dedication to her and has given us even more in return. My Malamute loves us unconditionally. She was cautious around my pregnant belly, wants to make sure I’m ok when I’m upset, is gentle around the baby when he grabs her fur. She’s been the best addition to my family and if you can ensure that you will dedicate yourself to loving and caring for an animal as unique, head-strong and grandiose as an Alaskan Malamute, you will reap what you sow TENFOLD. I adore our Keira and I know that when we add another dog to our family, we’ll get ourselves a Malamute again!

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