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Snoqualmie Valley Record • September 28, 2011 • 13

Valleypets Even big dogs get second chances

Chili cook-off to help Valley Animal Partners

When owners disappear, rescuers step in to give energetic Alaskan Malamutes a new home BY CAROL LADWIG Staff Reporter

Bruno, a 170-pound Malamute, is not impressed with the newcomer. The wolflike dog strains at the end of his leash, growls, howls and stares the stranger down. If he hadn’t looked like a huge stuffed toy, it might have been completely intimidating. Intelligent brown eyes, enormous paws, and a dense fluffy coat all made Bruno seem more huggable than threatening,

At 170 pounds, Bruno seems to dwarf his owner, Jim Ross. Alaskan Malamutes seem like they might make good guard dogs, but their friendly nature is more that of a lap dog’s.

SEE SECOND CHANCE, 14

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Carol Ladwig/Staff Photo

Not to hurt our humble animal brothers is our first duty to them, but to stop there is not enough. We have a higher mission - to be of service to them wherever they require it. - St. Francis

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Do you have a home-made chili or dessert to brag about? Flaunt your talents at the Valley Animal Partners’ chili dinner and dessert auction, 5:30 to 8:30 p.m., Saturday Oct. 15, at the Eagles Lodge in Snoqualmie. The cook-off will be judged by Snoqualmie Mayor Matt Larson and former Mayor Fritz Ribary, and auctioneer Craig Bennett will preside over the dessert auction that follows. Tickets are $10 for adults, $7 for seniors, and $5 for children ages 6 to 12. Kids under 6 are free. Advance tickets are available at U Dirty Dog and the Pet Place Market in North Bend. All funds raised provide help for seniors, disabled and lowincome people in the Valley to get their dogs and cats spayed or neutered. For more information, visit valleyanimalpartners.com/chili_ dinner_and_dessert_auction .

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SECOND CHANCE FROM 13 though, and it turned out he, like most Malamutes, was all talk. After a couple more “woos” and a sniff, he settled down on the grass with his people, Jim and Connie Ross. Most of his act was intended to impress Roxy and Clyde, the two Malamutes he was visiting, anyway. “It’s all about the show, the drama,” Connie explained. This way of demonstrating to others who is (supposedly) in charge is a strong trait in Alaskan Malamutes, or “Mals.” Establishing dominance may be part of Mals’ DNA, because many owners believe the breed is descended from wolf ancestors. “Hence the ‘woos’ and the howls,” said Michelle Reaves, a volunteer with the Washington Alaskan Malamute Adoption League (WAMAL). Michelle belongs to Roxy and Clyde, both rescues from WAMAL in the past two years, and she says its unusual to hear a bark out of her 86-pound female or her 102-pound male, but they talk all the time, in clipped howls called woos. “If he gives out a bark, it turns almost instantly into a woo,” Michelle said of Clyde. It’s easier to imagine these imposing dogs as the rescuers, not the ones needing rescue, but Michelle said that WAMAL takes in about 100 Mals each year, some surrendered by owners who can’t give them the exercise or space that they need, some abandoned. Roxy fell into the second category. WAMAL found her on the street, with a litter of five week-old puppies.

“Somebody quit on her when she had a litter,” Michelle says, tightlipped. That was about a year ago. Michelle had been volunteering with WAMAL as part of her community service work to finish her degree. She fostered some animals, and did transports, and had already fallen in love with the breed. “Clyde was pretty much hook, line, and sinker for me,” she said, explaining that she’d adopted Clyde in May 2010, when all she was supposed to do was take care of him for a short time, then send him on to his new home. After she found out that an older male Mal at the new home had rejected Clyde—only 72 pounds when he was rescued—and he’d been sent back to the kennel, she started the process to adopt him. “So Clyde is a foster failure,” Michelle jokes, “and someone called Roxy a transport failure. I was supposed to transport her from the

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Carol Ladwig/Staff Photo

Michelle Reaves, left, takes firm hold of Roxy, who’s been trying to prove that she’s the boss of Bruno, who leans on “dad” Jim Ross.

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volunteer who brought her here to the kennel… She never made it past crawling in my lap and being brought home.” Roxy still tries to crawl into her lap sometimes, even at 86 pounds. Usually it’s when she’s been corrected for disobeying her training, something she does periodically to test her place in the pack. “We are their pack, and there is definitely a pecking order,” says Bruno’s person, Jim. Maintaining the spot at the top of the pecking order is critical for Mal owners, because “These two are independent thinkers,” Michelle says. “They’re not like the retrievers and a bunch of the other breeds that are fully intent on pleasing their people. These guys will ignore you just as fast as anything else, and they might come when they feel like it.” That personality trait is both a strength and weakness for the dogs. Mal owners love them for all their quirks, but people new to Mals may not be prepared for the hazards of living with a big willful dog, clever enough to create his own fun when no one’s around. Most owners just laugh off the misadventures, but some of those misbehaving Mals end up with WAMAL. “The expectations are not what they should be,” says Michelle. Connie puts it more directly. “People adopt these dogs as puppies, and then they get huge like this, and I don’t think people realize what the food bill’s going to be, and the vet bill, or how much power they really have.” Life with an Alaskan Malamute is not for everyone, but for the right people, life without one is unimaginable. For more information about WAMAL, or to donate or adopt, visit www.wamal.com, or send e-mail to wamal@wamal.com.

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14 • September 28, 2011 • Snoqualmie Valley Record

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