I was so heartbroken over having to put down Kobi, my rescued Alaskan malamute mix, that I had to sell my car; though months had passed, it still smelled of him, which made me cry every morning. My daughters thought I needed another dog. To get them off my back, I threw down an insurmountable gauntlet: I’d get another dog, but only if it looked exactly like Kobi.
Little did I know that, in the eight years since I last looked for a dog, the internet had invaded the dog-rescue business. Within hours of issuing my challenge, my kids filled my inbox with photos of rescuable malamutes, each a Kobi identical twin. From Maine to Texas, these Kobi look-alikes came with detailed profiles far more honest than anything I’d ever seen on a dating website (e.g., “doesn’t like cats,” not trustworthy with young children,” “problems with other dogs”).
Something about the video of a 2 year-old, 90-pound female named Zola caught my eye. A few emails with the rescue center and I knew that she’d been picked up on the street near Nashville, had been in a kill shelter, had heartworm and had enough problems for the rescue service to send her to a trainer. Not wanting to give up on her, but not wanting to spend the next ten years with 90 pounds of muscle that wants to eat me and anything live within biting distance, I took a 2,000 mile field trip to Nashville to check her out.
The trainer, the rescuer, and Zola greeted me, Zola by leaping at my face and almost knocking me to the ground. A couple of more attempts at toppling me and I knew I had to take action. On the next leap, I caught her by the neck and took her down, pinning her to the ground. She stood up, shook it off, and went back to playing with another dog.
A work in progress, at least she didn’t seem vicious. The “work” though was going to be major and long-term; Alaskan malamutes are very headstrong, compliance, even when trained from birth, so not their strong suit that, even in shows like Westminster, they jump around and ignore commands so much that the best of them look like the kids who always got detention.
Now, two years later, the work in progress still is work. But she’s beautiful to look at and always interesting to live with. And she loves doing her “job” which is pulling me on a dog scooter through the woods at top speed, responding (sometimes) to the Iditarod mushing commands I’ve taught her.