It’s fifteen years today since a pocketful of hair and need grabbed me by the heart-strings and started nudging my life in unexpected directions. Three malamutes have shared that journey with me, beginning with Bondi in 1998 up to his passing in 2009.
It is characterized by big strength, endurance, and an interesting disposition. It is a very friendly dog, a good and faithful companion. It does not belong to just one man, everybody can provoke it to play. It is very useful to work and play with a disabled child or an adult person. It can serve as a pulling force of a wheelchair and as a soft toy (a confessor) for long lonely hours in the world inaccessible for others.
A related question is “why does your dog look so much like a wolf?” I turn that around and point out that malamutes and huskies are pretty close to what the original dogs looked like; the appearance of most other breeds having been radically altered by humans selecting traits for work or aesthetic preferences. Malamutes have a wild, atavistic majesty that I find extraordinary yet I wouldn’t want a wolf precisely because a wolf wouldn’t want me – it’s a creature of the wild, of wolf society alone, rather than a companion shaped by thousands of years of sharing homes, hearths and hearts with humans.
Overlaid on what is essentially dog, and what is quintessentially malamute, each of the boys has their own quite distinct personality. By ensuring they are widely socialised from their early months, I’ve been tapping into their potential to be complete citizens of both human and canine worlds. Sharing that potential, personality and extraordinary beauty with other people is more often than not a complete joy for all involved. In Australia where the commonality of dog ownership is balanced by vexatious restrictions on where they can go in public, my moots can be ambassadors for other happy, healthy urban dogs for the day where they can walk through city plazas or get on a train as easily as in London or Berlin.
For this post I’ve picked out a picture from each of the last fifteen years not just for the spectacular places that I’ve visited with each of them, but to also show some of the more personal moments and their own canine companions. The six and a half years of El Loco & El Lobo represents less than half that time. I wish I had more pictures of the special moments from earlier days: the endless loops of Green Lake, exploration of greater Seattle, then Puget Sound and even a corner of British Columbia. After that, the return to Australia, travel around Tasmania and more.
This journey has been a very rewarding part of my life, at least as defining as anything I’ve accomplished in the time before. Claudia Hammond, author of Time Warped makes the point that the illusion of time speeding up as we get older is perhaps because we reduce the amount of novelty and identity-generating activities in our lives with recurring patterns of life and work. Allowing the dogs more space in my life has given me permission to explore a broader range of experiences, to continue to lay down extraordinary new memories which I will vividly recall as anything from my teens and twenties. One doesn’t have to look for adrenalin-pumping moments or seek out new stimulants to create special moments or step outside of the insistent current of progress; the euphoria of extreme dog-walking will do: pick up a leash, offer it to your young companion and find a new street or park, a new bench or country.
Your arrival there is what you are destined for.
* Ithaka by C.P.Cavafy