By Linda Cole
To the untrained eye, it’s not always easy to tell the difference between some dog breeds. The Alaskan Malamute, Siberian Husky and Alaskan Husky may resemble each other, but there are differences between them.
The Alaskan Malamute is the state of Alaska’s official mascot, and one of the oldest of the northern sled dogs. Named after the Inuit tribe Mahlemuts, the nomadic people of Alaska used this powerful breed for centuries to hunt seals and pull heavy sleds to move supplies and people throughout the Arctic region. Today the breed looks much like it did 4,000 years ago. The Malamute is taller and heavier than the Siberian Husky. The dog stands 23 to 25” at the shoulder and weighs 75 to 85 pounds, though it’s not unusual for a muscular male to hit 100 pounds.
The Malamute has brown eyes and a broad head with the ears set wide apart. His bushy tail is carried over his back. Because the Malamute is heavier than a Husky, he is less likely to jump a fence, and will use his powerful paws to dig out instead. This breed should not be let off his leash; he has a high prey drive and loves to run. He can be gender aggressive with same sex dogs, but is affectionate with his human family. This is an intelligent, confident and stubborn breed.
By Linda Cole
Animals are such amazing creatures, and we can learn a lot from their attitude about a disability. Life continues, regardless of what happened to cause a disability. I grew up with someone who had a debilitating disability, and I’ve also dealt with a dog that was deaf and blind. I learned from my mom and my dog that the best way to live with a disability is to simply keep on living the best you can. So when I run across stories that exemplify courage and determination, in disabled humans or dogs, they catch my attention. Gonzo, an eight year old Alaskan Husky, is blind but he continues to run with his team pulling a dog sled, with a little help from his brother, Poncho.
What sled dog wouldn’t love to have the entire New Hampshire North country as their playground? Sled dogs are born to run, and pulling a sled isn’t work to them, it’s play. So what do you do with a sled dog that develops a disability? In the case of Gonzo, when it was discovered he was losing his sight, his vet recommended hooking him up to a sled and continuing to run him.
Gonzo’s life changed three years ago when kennel manager Ben Morehouse noticed the dog tripping over his food bowl. After a variety of failed treatments, everyone realized the dog would soon be blind, and there was nothing they could do to stop it. But Gonzo is a sled dog, and he couldn’t wait to get back on the trail with his team. He wasn’t going to let a little thing like no sight stop him from enjoying life.
He may be blind, but Gonzo knows when the team is being hooked up, and he isn’t about to be left behind. His desire to run is just as strong as it was when he could see. Gonzo and Poncho are harnessed side by side toward the back of the eight dog team. At first, Poncho wasn’t aware there was anything wrong with his brother, and treated him just like normal. When Gonzo began to lean on him when they came to turns, it bothered him at first and he’d get grumpy with his brother. But it wasn’t long before he realized Gonzo needed his help, and figured out he was leaning on him to get a feel of how fast they were running and where the turns were at.