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Snow Dogs

by Scott Ski
December 28, 2001

    In a few days Disney will launch "Snow Dogs", an upbeat movie with Cuba Gooding Jr. as a novice musher with a champion dog sled team. Perhaps you've seen the billboards, filled with smiling "wolf-dogs" beaming down at you. Perhaps you have seen the movie trailer, with fun-loving, rambunctious huskies having all kinds of good times.

    However, those who know huskies the best, those dedicated souls across the country who devote themselves to rescuing and fostering huskies, are sadly bracing themselves for the onslaught and aftermath this popular movie. The dog shelters, the SPCA and the Kennel Clubs have been alerted to quickly begin educational efforts and to realize that they may be flooded with huskies very soon.

    One would think that a film popularizing huskies would be welcome, yet the opposite is true, since the public is entertained, but not educated by what they see. They adopt a pet without reading about it, without considering the long-term ramifications, without realizing the commitment made to a fellow creature.

    Remember 101 Dalmatians? In the 12 months following the live action film in 1997, 10,000 Dalmatians were bred, bought.and abandoned. Why? Because cute puppies quickly grow into dogs.and dogs, just like people, require care and commitment. Sadly, responsibility is a virtue dearly lacking in our "disposable" society and the Dalmatian is a tough breed to work with. Thousands were destroyed.

    With a concerted effort by Dalmatian groups and assistance from Disney, the disaster was averted at the premiere of "102 Dalmatians."

    As one who has had enough experience with rescuing and fostering huskies that I recently published a book about my experiences, I know from experience what will come soon: People will be taken with the dynamic look, personality and abilities of the Siberian Husky. They will not take the time to learn about this very challenging breed and the time and effort it takes to keep them. On impulse, they will rush out and obtain one. Within a month they will abandon them, allow them to be killed through negligence, or worse, murder the dogs themselves.

    There are hundreds of breeds of dogs, each with its own special elements. Not every dog is a faithful, by your side, Golden Retriever type dog. Here is what awaits the husky owner.

    The reason for this high rejection rate is simply that, as vibrant as they are, relatively few people are prepared for the personality of a husky - the average husky is most definitely not like Lassie or Rin-Tin-Tin. Here's a quick summary of common traits that may be problematic:

  • They are independent (obedient only when they feel it's appropriate). Huskies were bred to think for themselves and actively disobey if they perceived the situation to be dangerous.
  • They can't be trusted off-leash (ever!). Huskies were bred to do one thing very well - Run! Take them off lead anywhere and they take off for Canada!
  • They are very active (need a great deal of exercise and are not good with small children). They are muscular and tough, and play the same way. Rule of thumb: When huskies play - Get out of the way!
  • They get bored easily (and when they get bored, they may get destructive),
  • They dig (into flower-beds, and out of kennels).
  • They are exceptionally clever, very determined and too smart for their own good. (my husky can open doorknobs, drawers, the dish washer, unlatch gates and even unravel chain link fence with his teeth.)
  • They have a strong prey instinct (cats, squirrels and birds beware!),
  • They can be high-maintenance due to their heavy coats (which leave amazing amounts of hair behind when they shed). There are places that specialize in weaving Husky fur into hats, scarves and coats.that much fur.
  • They are not guard dogs (they love everybody, even the guy carrying your computer out of the house at 3 AM). Huskies do not bark.They sing and howl and talk. Some are very quiet, but some will drown out fire engine sirens.
To summarize:
1. They are a magnificent breed that need lots of interaction, human and dog!
2. They need room to run and play
3. They need to be happy and healthy
4. They are not a good watchdog
5. They are not as loyal as other breeds
6. They are too smart for many humans to understand
7. They can be destructive if their needs aren't met

    On a darker note, let me add an aside...I have on my computer a photograph of a dead husky. It was found strangled in a hangman's noose, dangling lifelessly from a freeway overpass out near San Bernardino, California. The poor animal had been so severely beaten that every single bone in its body had been broken prior to it being hung. What inhuman creature could be so malevolent? Sadly, it could be any one of us, when we are completely unprepared for situations in our lives. A Siberian Husky could be just such a situation and could very well release that beast that often lies deep inside. Such is the reason I am committed to education about responsible pet ownership along with my husky rescue efforts. Being a dog lover, I'm certain you understand. Perhaps my writing, appearances and other involvements might be worthy of an article.

    Please know, I would wish everyone could adopt and appreciate a dog like the Siberian Husky. However, it is not the dog for most families or individuals. Some breeds of dogs require more understanding and infinitely more patience than others. More important is the fact that adopting any dog is a commitment.a friendship that could last well over a decade. If you adopt a dog or cat, please do so with strong consideration, ample background education and a solid promise to the responsibilities of having another living thing depend upon you.

Many, many lives will depend upon you.

Thank you for you time and attention.
Scott Ski

Scott Ringwelski (AKA Scott Ski) is the author of "Dogged.and Determined - The TAZ Adventures" published by iUniverse. His ongoing, online series of tales, TAZ Adventures has been enjoyed by a global audience of over 10,000 weekly readers for half a decade.
Note: Royalties from his book go toward pet rescue.

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