Breed: Alaskan Malamute (Long Haired or Wooly)
Age: 9 years
Human: Kerryn Boyne
His Motto in Life: When life throws you a rainy day, play in the puddles – A.A. Milne
Describe Nanook’s breed paw-sonality? What makes him so special?
Alaskan Malamutes will win anybody over with their playful, outgoing dispositions. They greet everyone as a friend — even strangers and first-time house guests. They don’t make good watchdogs, but they are extremely loyal to their family and friends. The Mally is a friendly gentle dog; hence why they’re not overly successful as guard dogs. However, they have no fear and have been known to be worthy opponents if their family is threatened. Their main value as watchdogs lies in their size and formidable appearance. They’re not often challenged because of it.
Pack animals by nature (apparently there’s a small genetic link to wolves!), they enjoy spending time with their human pack, insisting on being included in all activities that their family undertakes. They’re not big-time barkers, but they do howl, and they’re known for making a characteristic “woo woo” sound.
By nature, the Mally is a placid, easy-going, fun-loving dog, but many people find themselves unwilling or incapable of coping with the highly intelligent, sometimes devious, Malamute mind. If not trained well from an early age, the Malamute can grow into a stubborn, independent dog, who will ignore their “pack leader” with the apparent disdain they deserve!
Reality is, the Malamute’s strong personality traits can make for a tough breed to manage; but if trained well, regularly exercised and allowed to be a fully-fledged integrated member of the “wolf pack”, an Alaskan Malamute will bring pure joy into your life, all wrapped up in a big bundle of floof!
Is this the first time you’ve had an Alaskan Malamute or do you have a longer history with the breed?
Nanook is my first Alaskan Malamute, but I’ve always wanted a Mally since I saw my first humungous one as a teenager…..
The story goes….. I was sitting with my mum in the waiting area of our local vet waiting patiently for our family dog to be brought out after her groom; when this young man and his mum come in and proceed to inquire about their dog “Thor”. I remember the vet nurse visibly shuddering at the slightest mention of Thor’s name. So she disappears through the door behind reception, presumably to collect Thor. Young man and mum sit down in the waiting area as well.
Fast forward 5-10 minutes and I can hear these “thumps”; giant footsteps, like the scene in Jurassic Park when the T-Rex is about to appear. All of a sudden the vet nurse comes flying through the door, clearly being dragged off her feet but some unknown entity…. perhaps it’s a werewolf! Then Thor appears from behind reception and I get my first glimpse of an Alaskan Malamute. And instantly fall in love.
He was the largest dog I’ve ever seen. He had paws bigger than my head. He had a coat to rival any wolf. He had a tongue lolling out of his mouth like a dragon. He had a smile wider than the Earth. He had a face that would make any hard man’s heart melt. This is Thooooorrrrrr!!! He suddenly sees the young man who’s jumping from his chair to greet his best mate, and Thor only quickens the pace, dragging poor vet nurse in his wake. Thor rises on to his haunches and proceeds to flatten the young man, showering him in affection, and the ultimate doggie drool and licks. I had never seen a dog like this before and was instantly obsessed. I turn to mum and say “I’m gonna have one of those one day”.
And here I find myself, 10-15 years onward and the proud dog mum of an Alaskan Malamute that would easily rival Thor. Whilst I might not have a doggo “God”, I have Nanook, and he has my heart.
What’s life like with an Alaskan Malamute?
One word: Hair! Hair on the floor. Hair in my bed. Hair on the couch. Hair on my clothes. Hair in my food. Hair in my mouth. Hair. Hair. HAIR!
Nanook has a recessive gene in that he has a long-haired coat, or as known in the Malamute circles as a “woolly” coat. It’s still that double layer, but his guard hairs are far longer, fluffier and sufficiently more work to maintain than the short-haired versions of the breed. I have a love/hate relationship with Naoonk’s hair…. his coat makes him look like a big huggable bear, it just sucks how much I find it everywhere in my house and how often it forces me to vacuum. And don’t even get me started about how often my vacuum clogs! I give thanks for the invention of tiles!
What was different from your expectations of an Alaskan Malamute, once you had Nanook?
To be honest I didn’t really have any expectations of the breed. I’d done my research on Malamutes, knew they had a reputation for being hard work, but was willing to take on the challenge. And whilst Nanook is far from perfect, I wouldn’t have him any other way, nor want any other dog. I expect that all my future dogs will be Alaskan Malamutes.
Is Nanook like most other Alaskan Malamutes, or does he have some unique traits?
Nanook often displays behaviour that is nothing like an Alaskan Malamute. Malamutes are known to have a high prey drive often killing small animals or “pocket pets”…. As for Nanook, he’s never shown a single streak of aggression to any other life form. In fact, his two best friends growing up were my rabbits Eowyn and Arwen. He moped around for weeks after they passed away. Suffice to say, Nanook is highly sociable and considers any dog or person to be a new friend he hasn’t met yet.
What do you love most about being a pet parent to an Alaskan Malamute?
Nanook brings pure joy to any person he comes in to contact with. People cross the street to meet him. People take photos with him like he’s a member of One Direction. When Nanook is around there are only smiles and delight. He makes me proud to be his mum.
On a personal note, Nanook is my companion. I’m a 30 something, unlucky-in-love, single female; and for that reason, we’ve been two peas in a pod for 9 years. He’s been by my side through thick and thin, the good times and bad. He’s the unconditional love I have never found in a human. I love nothing more than to run my fingers through his soft ears. To crawl up and hug and kiss him when he’s just waking up in the morning. He reminds me I have a purpose when life is getting me down. Perhaps Nanook is the love of my life.
What’s not so paw-fect about an Alaskan Malamute?
My dirty floors. The downside of owning a giant long-haired doggo is the constant hair floating down the hallway like tumbleweeds in a Western movie, oh, and the giant muddy paw prints. I’ve given up trying to keep my floors spotless. His coat also requires constant attention and daily grooming. Let alone a good full professional breed at least once a month. The single worst thing about a long-haired Malamute is trying to keep Nanook‘s botbot clean. So, I have to shave his little pooper on a regular basis…. and it’s not uncommon for me to have to cut the odd dag away every now and again. I’ve even pulled a poo out that got stuck once. Yuck!
What’s your first memory of Nanook?
Prior to getting Nanook, I had been threatening for months that I was going to get a dog. My mum, in typical mum fashion, would often voice her concerns at my dog dream…. “Kerryn, dogs are expensive, you can’t afford the upkeep of a dog!” “Kerryn, you’re too busy, you don’t have time for a dog!” “Puppies are hard work Kerryn, they chew everything!”…. And whilst I’ve always respected my mum’s opinion, I was determined to get a dog, and an Alaskan Malamute at that.
Nanook, came into my life in tragic circumstances when I rescued him and his siblings as puppies from a burned-out property during the Black Saturday bushfire period. He was only weeks old. On our return to the station (I’m a volunteer firefighter in the CFA), we surrendered the pups to Animal Aid and I made it very clear that the minute the puppies became available I wanted the chubby boy that I’d had stuffed in my turnout coat all day. Two weeks later, I picked up my fur-boy and named him Nanook; after the Aleutian Indian word for “kind”.
After 48 hours of puppy bliss, I decided it was time to introduce my new fur-kid to his grandparents; and boy was I was dreading my mum’s reaction and subsequent expected lecture.
Upon letting myself into mum and dad’s place, my dad came around the hallway corner to greet me and immediately spotted this barrel of fluff sniffing at his feet. Dad instantly melted, got down on all fours and started cooing “hellloooooo little fella”. When suddenly, my mum’s booming voice bellowed from the study…. “THAT BETTER NOT BE A BLOOOODY DOG!!!!”…… followed by stomping angry footsteps. And then she was there, standing in the hallway, glaring at me like Maleficient. But then Nanook, sensing he had a human to win over, totters up to his nanna and sits at her feet, looks up, and stares into her eyes. Mum instantly crumbled. So much so that she burst into tears. She bends over, picks Nanook up and buries her face in his rich, warm coat and croons. Nanook was here on labelled as the “grand-dog”. To date, his nanna regularly spoils him with bones and all sorts of treats and can often be found showing pictures and boasting of her grand-dog to friends and any stranger willing to listen. So much for her stance on me not getting a dog!
Are there any events, communities or groups that are especially wonderful for Alaskan Malamutes?
There is the Alaskan Malamute Club of Victoria that runs events for Arctic Breeds such as sledding and pulling competitions. And I can’t go past this question without mentioning Arctic Rescue Victoria. An amazing not-for-profit organisation that re-homes Arctic Breeds, such as Akitas, Malamutes, Huskys and Samoyeds. I adopted Nanook‘s “sister” Lunar through this organisation. They are such an amazing bunch of hard-working humans!
I also have to mention Nanook‘s wonderful groomers at Happy Husky Grooming in Frankston. Maintaining Nanook‘s coat is quite the challenge and they have done such an amazing job at getting it back to a healthy status after it turns out Nanook‘s previous groomers weren’t grooming appropriately for a long-haired double-coated Artic breed.