About 5 years ago, my Alaskan Malamute died at age 10. We had been practically inseparable.
He hung out under my feet while I watched TV or read and slept by the bed at night. Whenever I went hiking or camping, he knew he had a standing invitation to attend. When he passed away, it was like losing a family member.
Since then I have always wanted another mal, but it’s taken me until now to actually follow through with it. That means 15 years have passed since I had a puppy roaming the house. I’ve forgotten what that is like.
As I teach my new pup the rules of living with several humans and 2 cats, he has made sure to provide us with his own lessons for life with a Malamute. And quite honestly, I think Tuco (named after the character in The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, and partly the one in Breaking Bad) is probably teaching us more than we are teaching him.
Which is how it goes, I guess.
Tuco is only 6 months old but weighs in at a whopping 65 pounds. Since I brought him home he has gained 5 or 6 pounds a week. So the race is on for teaching him how to behave while he is still relatively small. (To put things in perspective, his dad weighed 140 pounds.)
But as the months have gone by it has become apparent that for every lesson I have taught him, Tuco repays the favor with a lesson of his own. Here are 4 lessons this “gentle giant” has impressed upon me.
I’m like everyone else. I assumed I was a patient person until it was put to the test — over and over and over.
One thing I love about the Malamute breed is the dogs’ independent streak. But that independence often displays itself as stubbornness. With a puppy roaming the house, you learn that patience is a prerequisite to keeping your sanity.
This is especially true when that puppy is growing so fast his coordination seems to always be lagging about 2 to 3 weeks behind his size.
Tuco tends to bump into things at inopportune times, such as the end table when it has a drink on it. Then there were the messes on the carpet. I’ll admit that once he found a suitable spot to go, he seemed determined to return to it. That took some time to work through. But, in retrospect, it’s nothing a good carpet cleaning wouldn’t take care of.
I determined right off the bat that I was going to raise a healthy dog. That meant feeding him high-quality food. I admit I still cringe when I see how much dog food he goes through, but it makes me feel better to think that he requires less of the high-protein food than he would of a lesser-grade dog food.
Feeding him the best got me to thinking about my own eating habits. It makes no sense to feed Tuco like an athlete to keep him healthy yet turn around and head out for some fast food for myself. As a result, I find myself paying closer attention to what I’m buying at the grocery store.
My health lessons don’t stop with a healthy diet. In order to maintain some control over my growing phenomenon of a pet, I have to exercise him daily and hard. This means after work I dutifully make time to take him on a several-mile run, rain or shine, sleet or snow.
I’d never have done this if it weren’t for him. But after several months my endurance is improved, I feel better and am losing weight. That’s one lesson I happily learned. In addition, like my dog, I return home less stressed and able to relax and enjoy my evenings.
4. Letting It Go
Another lesson Tuco has taught me is to let things go. Unlike humans, dogs have the gift of moving on. They don’t dwell on what just happened 5 minutes ago, no matter how traumatic it may have seemed at the time. If the cat slashes at his face for coming a bit too close, he doesn’t hold it against her. That’s certainly a lesson we all could use.
If you want to enjoy the travels and travails of Tuco Slayr, check him out and friend him on Facebook.
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This post was written by Keith Benton. Keith makes a living cleaning up more than the occasional pet mistake for COIT carpet cleaning. He and his wife enjoy 2 cats, 1 dog, and the occasional raccoon that wanders through.