No Malamute for Martha (or Mindy)

Just to let everyone know what’s going on with my dog search — a dog search I don’t even know for sure I should be engaged in, but it seems I am. The dog I’m looking at now (the people with the Aussie never got back to me) is a malamute…Update! Freya’s people came to claim her at the shelter so she’s gone HOME.

The dogs above are Lupo and Molly. We’re on a hike in Mission Trails Regional Park, winter, probably. Sunset.  Lupo was a rescue and a brave wise soul. Molly was…Molly O’Dog was born sometime at the end of 1987 or maybe early in 1988. Anyway, I got her as a Valentine from my then husband. She was in a big cardboard box outside the El Cajon Swapmeet with her brothers and sisters. Her people were giving the pups away. Apparently some lascivious Australian Shepherd had gotten into the yard and did the wild thing with their champion malamute bitch. They didn’t want the puppies and were upset that their dog would have to go through two heat cycles before they could breed her. At that time I didn’t know about backyard dog breeders so I just felt a little sorry for them (now I would hate them…). Molly was a blue merle, born with no tail. Her markings were really pretty and on the tip of her nose as she grew up there was a little pink heart where her fur was thin. Years and years later I accidentally met her sister — same coloring but with a tail, and a heart.

I already had a dog, Truffleupagus. She was a lab/springer mix. Her mom, Shadow (one of the coolest dogs I ever knew and if I had it to do over, I’d have rescued her and all of Truffle’s brothers and sisters…) had been a very promiscuous girl (interestingly, her owner was working as a prostitute at the time…) and her litter didn’t even look like they were related to each other. Anyway, I had Truffle spayed and we decided to give Truffle a puppy. You can see the look of disgust on Truffle’s face at the fact that she has to share, but the two were inseparable and great friends all their lives. This was the very day we brought Molly home.

Truffle and Baby Molly

Truffle and Baby Molly

The day I got Molly, I took her hiking. She was too little, and she knew it better than I did. When she got hot, she stopped and dug down to cool, damp soil. That was it. She wasn’t going any further. I carried her out and learned a big lesson. Still, we always hiked together, for years and years and year.

People who knew her often were surprised by her uncanny intelligence. Herding dogs are smart, but Molly had no interest in herding. I took her to an aptitude test for herding dogs, and she could not have cared less about the sheep in the pen. She was interested in the people who were watching and made sure she said “Hi!” to everyone (malamutes are friendly dogs…). BUT…during the summers when my niece visited, Molly would — when she was tired of playing with kids — pen all the neighbor children in one corner of the yard. “Aunt Martha Ann! Molly won’t let us move!”

I didn’t view her as my pet but as my friend. Truffle was my dog. How to make that distinction? It wasn’t me. It was them. Molly had a sense of humor and an independent heart. We went faithfully to puppy school until I realized that once she did the thing she was supposed to, she just went to sleep on the San Diego Zoo Parking lot where the class was held. She didn’t obey; she did as I asked because she wanted to and didn’t need endless repetition and practice (most dogs do!). I saw no point in sitting around with a sleeping dog, so we dropped out. My ex took her to take the final exam and she aced it, so, strictly speaking, she wasn’t a puppy school drop out. For years I thought it was the Aussie in Molly that accounted for her intelligence — but after she died and I owned huskies, I realized it was just as much the snow dog in her.

If you love snow and you live in Southern California, snow is an EVENT. One March, before I moved up to the mountains, I learned that two feet of snow had fallen in the Lagunas. I found the only place in San Diego where I could rent X-Country skis and the next day, I ditched school and Molly and I went skiing. We couldn’t go far on the Sunrise Highway because the chain law was in force, but whatever. We had feet and skis and could get anywhere we wanted to go. That day proved to be one of the most marvelous X-country ski days in my life. Molly and I went from winter (a blizzard) down five hundred feet to the pond where it was spring and a veil-like cloud touched the surface of the water. Then we went up again. And back a different way.

Molly and I hiked a marathon one December day just because the light was beautiful. We hiked in rain and snow and wind; we hiked to see a storm come in over the ocean and we hiked to vent excess emotions of disappointment or joy.

Today I was sent the photo of a dog in my email. I saw so many attributes of my old friend in this dog’s face that I’d decided to meet her…but only a fool doesn’t listen to those who know better. Everything I’ve read since Susannah posted her good advice says that a Malamute is very likely to fight with dogs of their gender. I can’t even accept the slightest risk of that with Mindy — she wouldn’t stand a chance and I never want her hurt. Maybe someday when I am the owner of an “only” dog.


Freya, a 4 Year Old Malamute Girl Who Got to Go Home!

13 thoughts on “No Malamute for Martha (or Mindy)

  1. Hi Martha. I loved your post, but I thought maybe I should warn you that malamutes, although they love nearly every human they lay eyes on, often don’t care for other dogs. Some are more easygoing than others, but in general, mals often don’t make good pets where they have to live with other dogs. Mixes are an unknown quantity, and I suppose it depends on the mix.

    Just thought I’d throw a bug in your ear. If Freya is a mix, there appears to be a good strong set of mal genes in there!


    • That’s my big question, Susannah. They tell me she’s good with other dogs and has lived with other dogs, but I’m not sure. And Mindy, though very low key IS an Alpha female. I’ve had all the dog fights in my life I ever want to have. Siberians love all other dogs (except those they regard as edible) and all people. I plan to go meet her tomorrow and see if I can handle her on a leash. If that works out and we like each other, I’ll bring Dusty and Mindy to meet her. But even that won’t tell me how she’ll be at my house. There are a lot of “ifs.” Molly (my mixed aussie/malamute) could be a very vicious fighter which she demonstrated twice. I nearly lost a thumb in one of those embroglios (that was before I learned to stay out of it).

      • Yes, a lot of “ifs” for sure. Alphas are another complication that can potentially mean dissension in the family. My sister-in-law has two golden retrievers, both alphas, and although she’s had them for years, they STILL battle it out every now and again. Scary stuff, that!

        Freya’s a cutie, all right. The present owners probably wouldn’t mind you asking for a “trial period” to see if all the canines involved can sort it out together.

        I’m looking forward to finding out what the verdict is. Do post about it, won’t you?

      • I spent the last little while doing research and thinking about Molly’s “dark side.” (She had one.) I learned a lot about Malamutes and what made Molly so amazing had a lot to do with that being part of her inheritance. I can’t risk it with Mindy. She’s 11, has very bad arthritis in her left leg and right hip. She’s also definitely the “queen of the mountain” a position she’s earned. She was essentially abandoned in someone’s backyard when their marriage went south. And now, wherever I am, Mindy quietly joins me. Freya’s at a shelter. It’s a no kill shelter, so she’s safe. “My” dog will show up if she’s meant to, I guess. 🙂

    • Absolutely — there are a lot of “ifs” in this deal. Tomorrow I’ll meet her and if that goes well, I’ll take my dogs to meet her. She can’t be adopted until next week. I know a malamute can be a fierce fighter but also not. I’m not going to put my dogs through any drama — they’ve had enough in their lives, poor things!

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