Wel­come to the Pack

Huskies are adorable but keep­ing them in the trop­ics isn’t easy.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - Pets - Ellen Whyte https: /www.face­book.com/ewhyte

THERE are few nicer things than being greeted with howls and mas­sive furry hugs. Last Satur­day, I was in­vited to have morn­ing tea with the wolves and their pal, the Dober­man who lives in my street. It was to­tal pan­de­mo­nium and we had a blast.

Pica, the two-year-old Siberian Husky, was the first to greet me. She’s al­ler­gic to my per­fume, so I’d left it off. That turned out to be a good move be­cause my pal stood up on her hind legs, put her paws on my shoul­ders and gave me the best doggy hug.

Then Hugo, the three-year-old Husky, el­bowed her out of the way and put his paw in my hand and his nose in my hair. Stag­ger­ing un­der the weight of these two, I was grate­ful that Petrus, the huge red Dober­man, was pa­tiently wait­ing, as was Enzo, the third Husky.

Huskies are huge. Bred to drag sleds in the Arctic, these dogs are hip-high on an adult and weigh around 30kg. They have thick fur, long noses and look very much like wolves. They’re also a “talk­a­tive” breed and so they howl, yowl and moan.

Being taken in for tea was like being part of a pack of friendly wolves. It was heaven but, ac­tu­ally, I was there not to romp but rather to learn an im­por­tant les­son.

Their pack’s hu­man mum, Kim Fong, a Sin­ga­porean who has lived in Kuala Lumpur for 25 years, didn’t set out to have Huskies.

Petrus, the 10-year-old red Dober­man, was a gift from a friend who had pups. He was an only dog un­til Fong went to see a client three years ago.

“The cus­tomer’s Husky had pups and as they were being kept out­side, they were in a bad state. She begged me to take one – and so Hugo came to live with us. Then Pica joined us last year be­cause her owner de­vel­oped al­ler­gies af­ter an op­er­a­tion.”

While tak­ing Pica in was an act of kind­ness, Fong was also think­ing of Hugo’s needs. Huskies are ex­tremely so­cial. If they don’t have proper com­pan­ion­ship, they tend to act out.

First, they be­come “prob­lem howlers”. A lonely Husky will howl, for hours. And as their calls are meant to carry across the frozen Arctic wilds, the sound is pierc­ing.

Sec­ond, a bored Husky is de­struc­tive. These huge dogs can shred a sofa in hours, no prob­lem.

“There’s a rule,” Fong says, “One Husky is de­struc­tive; two are happy. Hugo and Pica were in­stant friends. They play all the time, wrestling, chas­ing each other and just being happy. Of course, they quar­rel over a bone some­times, but it never lasts.”

So­cial­is­ing is so im­por­tant that Fong takes the pack out to pet cafes. “They’re air-con­di­tioned and we get to play with oth­ers,” she says. “We love our days out!”

Pica, Hugo and Enzo are beau­ti­ful but they are very dif­fi­cult to keep.

The golden rule is that all Huskies must live in large air-con­di­tioned homes, and they need ad­di­tional floor fans.

“Their fur is made to deal with snow,” Kim points out. “So they can­not live out­side in the trop­ics.”

Be­cause of the heat, walks have to take place in the cool of the early morn­ing and late evening.

“It has to be short and quick,” Fong says, “no more than 20 min­utes be­cause too much heat builds up un­der their coat. And when you get them home, the dog has to lie in front of the floor fan.”

Sec­ond, the dogs shed twice a year. It’s like a snow­storm, so all your fur­ni­ture will be cov­ered in thick long fur.

“You need a slicker brush and daily groom­ing when they’re shed­ding,” Fong ad­vises. “The rest of the year, you need pro­fes­sional groom­ing once a month. You can’t wash your own Husky be­cause they have thick un­der­coats that need pro­fes­sional equip­ment to clean and dry.”

Fi­nally, Huskies are fa­mous for being finicky eaters. For­get about giv­ing them a bowl of kib­ble and the odd tin of doggy chow; that’s the way to skin, coat and di­ges­tive prob­lems.

“They eat fresh food daily: chicken, cel­ery, car­rots and pota­toes,” Fong says. “Plus a stew of in­ner parts, three times a week.”

It’s not easy to keep a Husky; that’s how poor Enzo ended up join­ing the fam­ily ear­lier this year.

Enzo was kept out­side, in the heat, and of course he sick­ened. Fong heard about him, ar­ranged for his con­va­les­cence and fi­nally took him in.

The pic­tures of Enzo when he was res­cued are heart­break­ing. He was just a shadow of a dog, with patches of fur miss­ing. Thank­fully, he’s now his proper hand­some self again.

“Enzo is a bi­colour-eyed Husky, with one brown eye and one blue,” Fong points out. “Hav­ing these dogs was a fad, from Game Of Thrones. But peo­ple bought them and didn’t re­alise they need super special care.”

And that’s why I’m hav­ing tea with my wolf friends, to help spread the mes­sage that Huskies are gor­geous but they are ex­otic pets that most peo­ple will find too dif­fi­cult to cater to.

Keep­ing a pack isn’t easy, so if you’re tempted, think long and hard whether you can give two huge dogs the life­style they need. And if you can’t, then luck­ily there are pet cafes, right?

Pica and Hugo keep each other com­pany. Huskies are ex­tremely so­cial. If they don’t have com­pan­ions, they tend to act out.

Enzo is now his proper hand­some self again. He is also up for adop­tion (see Adopt Us seg­ment, next page). — Pho­tos: ELLEN WHYTE

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