Our hospital has this new patient. He’s a curiously husky-looking puppy who hails from a "breed" they call a wolamute. Pale-eyed and aloof, he looks and acts every bit the part his paperwork bills him as: half timber wolf, half Alaskan malamute. Which is why, after peering into the lobby last Saturday morning and identifying the issue, I was happy to hear he was on my colleague’s schedule, and not mine.
After all, I’d already had my hands full with the vomiting seven month-old Swiss mountain dog puppy who needed exploratory surgery to rid him of that thing he ate, which I felt in his abdomen and sort-of saw on the X-ray. I didn’t need another client who’d likely take up thirty minutes or more of my time with a (probably fruitless) extended discussion on how wolf hybrids are hard to handle … really hard to handle.
Truth be told, I’m best kept far away from those clients. Nice though they seemed (really nice, actually), the discussion wouldn’t have gone well. I’m just not the kind of veterinarian for wolf hybrid-owning clients.
Why? It’s that I just can’t keep my mouth shut. Much as I’m doing in this post, I’d steadily work myself up to speaking my mind on the subject. And once there, there’d be no going back. The owner would have heard what I had to say and — more than likely — would be offended enough to seek out the expertise of a less opinionated veterinarian.
Which is why I don’t practice exotic animal medicine. I couldn’t hack all those living room-acclimated wildlife species coming through my door. Not when I solidly believe the vast majority of these animals are being exploited, poorly managed, ill-bred and. ultimately, will come to an unhappy end.
Yes, in my experience, with some notable exceptions (well-kept avian species and some "pocket" pets), wildlife pets don’t work. Not as pets. Primates, especially (don’t get me started), but lots and lots of others, too (amphibians and reptiles included).
So here’s what I’ve been working up to (and what I’d tell this "wolamute" owner if I’d had the Saturday a.m. stressful displeasure to do so): Keeping any animal that’s half-wild is half-stupid. And it’s hard to do half-stupid well.
I mean, what’s the point, anyway? Why go looking for trouble? There are SO many wonderfully challenging, needy dogs out there (that are phenotypically wolf-ish), that I have to ask: Why would you go out of your way to get a purpose-bred "dog" that does the same thing?
I can’t help but think (nay, firmly believe) that those who would spend cold hard cash on animals of this variety are doing so for ego above all else. They want wild. They want to "get close to nature." And yet, precious few of these folk are "dog-worthy" — much less "wolf-worthy!"
Which is why these animals end up poorly socialized, irritable, aggressive, nervous/anxious, and generally unstable in a home environment.
So it was that while I was scrubbing for the enterotomy (which finally revealed the presence of a rope toy curled up ominously in the intestines of my puppy-mill Swiss-y patient), I couldn’t help but overhear my colleague expound on the virtues of socialization. Socialization. And socialization. With lots of certified dog trainer/behaviorist business cards handed out for good measure.
An uphill battle, to be sure, given that this timber wolf cross, at seven weeks, was already bigger than the twelve week-old Rottie pup I’d seen earlier that morn. And a snarl had already crossed his lips (so I was later informed).
Go ahead, I dare you. Google "wolamute." And don’t say I didn’t tell you so.
Dr. Patty Khuly