It all started with a bad smell.
I don't know what on Earth Frankie had found in the backyard, but the evidence was that he'd dug at it, maybe rolled in it, and then tracked it over my (mostly) clean kitchen floor. I cleaned up the clumps of swampy mud (please don't tell me it wasn't mud, seriously, I am very happy here in denial) on the floor. I scrubbed the paw prints. I took a baby wipe to his feet (cue husky crying bitterly about me cleaning between his toes).
He still smelt.
It was time for another bath.
We have been using a hydro bath in a local pet store - I thoroughly recommend this - doing it yourself improves your dog's trust in being handled, you get to check them thoroughly for little dangers like grass seeds, and you get to walk out and leave the mess behind when you're done. I loaded Frankie in the back of the Husky Mobile and we drove up to the shops.
When we got out of the car, there was a boy (maybe 12?) and his mum standing on the footpath. They stopped to watch me unload Frankie from the back and the boy looked really excited. I asked if they wanted to say hello and we stopped for a pat and a chat.
The mum explained that a husky was the boy's dream dog, and the boy asked about Frankie. I told them his name and age.
The mum asked about how much care they took. This is a question I love and hate to answer.
On one hand, I love living with J and the huskies. I don't mind taking the trouble to make sure they are housed, fed, exercised and cared for appropriately. I hate admitting that they take a lot of care because it feels like I'm complaining.
On the other hand, this is an eminently sensible question. Huskies get dumped in ridiculous numbers every year, largely when well-meaning impulse buyers can't handle a dog in its "terrible twos" (between six and eighteen months for most dogs). Impulse buyers by their nature don't stop to research the needs of a particular dog breed, just snapping up the cutest puppy that's available at the right time. But husky owners, breeders and breed clubs need to speak out when they can and try to educate folks who might be considering that wonderful puppy.
The truth about living with huskies:
- Yes, they shed. A lot. Buy an industrial strength vacuum. No, you can't shave them - Frankie's belly is finally growing hair back seven months after the vet shaved him and its an uphill battle to stop him getting ingrown and matted hair.
- Yes, they need a lot of exercise, especially when they're under five years of age. Buy a harness and a scooter and come racing.
- Yes, they are very friendly and good with kids - if you raise them that way. If you want a dog you can leave in the backyard and largely ignore, don't get a husky. You will need to interact with your husky every day and establish in its mind that you are in charge of the pack, otherwise it will step up and try to dominate you and other family members.
- No, they are not good guard dogs.
- Yes, they can make a lot of noise - howling when they're at home alone for example. If your neighbours are going to complain, don't get a husky.
- Yes, they are escape artists - six foot fences, anti-dig mesh, even electric fences are needed to keep them safe.
- No, they won't come home in a hurry if they get out - they are independent minded little buggers who will roam far and wide. No, they won't come when you call, unless there's something better on offer than a two hour run, explore and sniff.
- No, they don't get on with cats, small dogs and other "pocket-sized" pets. This can have implications even when walking your dogs.
- No, they are not "easy" to train. They will pull heavily on leads, jump on visitors, ignore instructions and generally be a pain in the neck, unless you ensure that they learn good manners.
- Yes, they can be destructive - chewing car seats, trampolines, and even steel mesh are all things I've seen people complain about in the last six months. Be prepared to have your garden turned into a crater-pocked moonscape.
- No, they don't need a lot of food. In fact, it can be a battle to keep them from getting fat. Great appetites, but you have to harden your heart when they look at you with those big eyes and tell you they're starving. They're not. They have hundreds of years of genetic selection to work hard on small amounts of food.
All that being said, I love my "step kids", But, as I freely admit, I'm quickly turning into a crazy husky lady. Its a lifestyle.