Royal Canin Canada is Passionate for Pets! Scientific evidence shows the numerous benefits pets bring to our lives – to their owners and also to society as a whole. This blog post is part of a series that showcases the important role pets play in peoples’ lives by providing companionship and support, and enabling social connections.
That’s what I told myself as I slid $200 cash into my pocket and set out on a six hour round trip from Canmore to Fort MacLeod, AB in late 2008. I was on my way to see a puppy, but I was “only going to look”.
She was an Alaskan Malamute/Golden Retriever cross. I had to do some research to see exactly what kind of dog a Malamute is, and I read many sources saying they weren’t for first-time dog owners. I had a dog growing up, so I thought: “I got this”.
After a long trip from Alberta’s mountains deep into the prairies, I came across the address listed in the ad. They were expecting me, so I knocked on the old wooden door of the farmhouse. I could see the dogs a few metres away. Mom, a 90lb Alaskan Malamute, and five puppies: one all-white male, three grey-and-white females and the smallest one, a black-and-white female.
My intent on the way to “look at the puppies” was to bring home the all-white male. A few weeks earlier, I had volunteered with a pet rescue in Canmore who had the biggest, fluffiest, white dog I’d ever seen. His name was Aspen, and I fell in love. I don’t remember why I didn’t adopt him, but I figure it was all meant to be.
Back at the farm, the woman opened the gate to the dog pen and all six dogs came running out. Mom first – she leaped up and put her big paws on my shoulders, giving me kisses all over, and I nearly fell down. After the woman called her away, I got to meet the puppies. They were SO cute. Just small balls of fluff, with little black noses and big brown eyes.
She put down some food for them and they all ate right away, except for one. The smallest one. The little black-and-white one got pushed out of the way. She didn’t put up much of a fight. She sat down and accepted she’d have to wait for whatever (if anything) was left at the end.
My heart broke, and I knew at that moment — she was my dog! I picked her up and gave her a big hug. There was no way I was going to leave without her. Luckily I had brought just enough cash. I named her Dakota and I just kept saying to myself “I have a dog! I. Have. A. Dog.” I called my friends living in BC and said “I just bought the cutest puppy I’ve ever seen. I can’t wait for you to meet her”.
On the drive home, I pulled over about half way and picked Dakota up from the floor of the car where she was tucked away in a corner. She’d never been in a car before, so everything was brand new to her. As I held her, I promised her that I’d give her the best life ever and that even if we weren’t rich, we’d be happy.
8 years later, Dakota and I have been through a lot together. My life has changed tremendously since my days in Alberta. Up, then down, then down even more and back up a little bit — and no one person (besides my family) has been as consistent in my life as her. It sounds like a cliché, but she’s my best friend. There to soak up my tears, always eager to celebrate achievements and the best part of my daily life.
As the owner of a dog business and also a positive-based dog trainer, I’ve met a lot of dogs. It never ceases to amaze me how some breeds are perfect for one person, but are the complete opposite of what would be right for someone else.
Although they shed, they dig and they can be stubborn, Malamutes have become my favourite breed. When Dakota was about five, a friend happened to visit a dog park and casually shared a photo on Facebook saying “Look at this beautiful dog we met today. She’s up for adoption if anyone is interested.”
In the back of my mind, I always said to myself that I wanted a second dog. Both as a playmate for Dakota, and because two is always better than one. I had a vision of a red husky or malamute with blue eyes. This picture was of a red Alaskan Malamute/Siberian Husky cross named Cassie, and she had the brightest blue eyes I’d ever seen.
The timing couldn’t have been more wrong. I was living at my parents’ house since I had just moved back from out west. I needed a place to stay while I found a job closer to home. I told them I’d be there for “about a month”. Twelve months later, they were starting to ask when I was actually moving out again.
I didn’t have more than a part-time job, and if my parents knew I was going to get a second dog, they would have been upset. Based on this dog’s history (or what was known of it), I wasn’t entirely sure whether or not she’d be a handful. But she was the vision I’d kept in my mind and I decided it was meant to be.
I asked a friend if I could borrow his house so that my parents wouldn’t ask why an adoption agency was bringing a dog over. I met Cassie; she was a bit quirky, and she was beautiful. She needed some work, but she was friendly and from what the rescue agency told me, she had come a long way from when they found her.
Cassie (now called Casey) came from a puppy mill. She lived in a cage for the first six months of her life. She had mange, a terrible habit of eating her own feces, and – not surprisingly – some anxiety. I knew that I had the skill and experience to give her a wonderful home. I was confident some time and attention would transform her into a beautiful friend.
I was right.
I won’t tell you how my parents reacted when I surprised them with a new dog, but long story short, I moved out of their house not too long after (for unrelated reasons – honestly!).
Now when my mom calls, she lets me know that she’s baked the girls some fresh cookies and found a new toy for them that “they just had to have”. Often, she’ll spend more time asking how the dogs are doing than I am, and that’s OK.
Casey and Dakota have become inseparable. They play with each other every day, lie for each other when one of them uses my laundry for a bio break (yes, seriously), and cuddle together on the couch when we’re watching a movie.
They’ve both added so much love and happiness to my world, I couldn’t imagine life without them. Some people use an alarm clock to wake up; I get a chorus of howls to let me know that the day has begun and it’s time for breakfast.
Alaskan Malamutes aren’t right for everyone. They’re not the obedient Golden Retriever, or the non-shedding Poodle, but in my opinion, they’re the funniest dogs with the most vibrant personalities. I couldn’t imagine living with a dog that didn’t tell me exactly what was on their mind whenever they got the chance.
Thanks Dakota and Casey for all of the sunshine you bring into my life!
Greg is a positive based dog trainer and a hippie at heart. He’s the owner of TuxedoMutt, and a freelance writer. When Greg isn' t working, you’ll find him lost in a forest with his two dogs Casey & Dakota.