Those Old Siberian Blues
By LARRY SOMMERS, Freelancer
Some scoundrel mailed me a Siberian Husky statuette 10 inches tall, with warm blue eyes and an electrical bark. It was an ideal Husky, resembling Yukon King, noble lead dog for Sergeant Preston of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
But I hadn’t ordered it, and just what to do with it perplexed me. So I rolled over and stretched, a blissful ease flooding my limbs.
I would not have opened my eyes, but an outside force compelled it: Inches away, the implacable gaze of my real, live, flesh-and-fur Siberian, Skeezie. His silent, psychopathic stare can drill through the soundest slumber to make his point: “Wake up, I want out!”
There was nothing to do but get up. As I opened the sliding door and Skeezie bolted out into the fresh-falling snow, part of my mind was still burdened by the need to pack up the little toy statue dog and send it back.
No, wait a minute… I’m confused. Coffee filter in hand, I stumbled to our mail-processing center, the dining room table, to check: No little toy Husky nor any sign of a recently-opened box. Of course, it was all a dream. No need to return anything!
But, what about the part where I was awakened by a real dog, one with a name and an attitude? Was Skeezie’s very existence a part of the dream? An impatient yip! from out back put the kibosh on that fleeting hope.
“Keep your shirt on!” I groused.
Back at the sliding door, I reaffirmed the existence of this cold-eyed, peremptory, scruffy, scaly-nosed imbecile who had lived with us now these past 11 years. The outlines of daily reality were drifting back into focus.
Skeezie bounded in, shaking a pile of new snow off his back, all over our kitchen floor. I would have to mop that up, before it could seep into the cracks between the planks, causing them to swell.
Swell. The Husky in question ran into the living room and leaped wetly onto our poor, imposed-upon couch — his favorite resting, shedding and drooling place.
Skeezie’s formal name is Montana, but that’s too dignified: It suggests one of those Huskies you see on TV or in films — the ones that go mushing down the trail, pulling a Mountie on his sled; or that win the Iditarod race from Anchorage to Nome; or that survive by their wits for months when abandoned at the South Pole by absent-minded scientists.
Skeezie, by contrast, is not only unheroic; he’s downright uncooperative. So I never call him “Montana” unless I need a really big favor, like coming when called.
They will tell you, those experts who write the books and the websites, how keen Siberian Huskies are; how playful, how intelligent, how mischievous, how loving and eager to please, what ideal family pets!
Dogfeathers. Skeezie was a disaster from the start. There can be no doubt he’s pure Siberian — the silver-white coat, the blue eyes, the perky Batman-style ears and up-curling tail. That leaves him little excuse for falling so woefully short of the ideal.
That ideal, by the way, in a Siberian Husky bears little resemblance to the ideal in a dog. Huskies are escape artists, laughing at any enclosure, and they love to run so much they are apt to run off and never return. Notoriously, each particular Husky has a mind of its own (except when pulling a sled, a duty, however, to which they must be assiduously trained). And furthermore, each Husky knows its own mind; and nobody else does.
Most of all, they show no great loyalty or even typical canine affection. They can take you or leave you, thanks all the same. If you’re looking for the solid, manly satisfaction of a dog who worships you, keep on looking.
But even within the very special universe of Huskies, Skeezie fails to cut the mustard. Whereas a male Siberian of his age, size, and habits ought to weigh near 60 pounds, Skeezie tops out at 45, soaking wet. Unlike Cassius, his lean and hungry look has nothing to do with thinking too much. It’s not that he’s incapable of thought; he’s simply never encountered a compelling need for it. Impulse will do just fine.
His gaunt frame doubtless comes from having been so undernourished in puppyhood that his body got used to doing without. This has given him a hoarder’s mentality: Unlike every other dog in existence, he can hardly be bothered to eat; he much prefers to guard his food, growling furiously and baring his teeth against all comers.
And Skeezie’s teeth, like his physique and his moral sensibilities, were underdeveloped when he came to us. A Husky’s teeth ought to be larger and stronger. In a serious fight with another dog of his size, Skeezie’s inadequate teeth would get him shredded. But he doesn’t know that. Thus he carries himself like an emperor, apparently radiating an alpha male pheromone as well; so that other dogs, complete strangers, will come running from hundreds of yards away for the specific purpose of confronting him. And he would be delighted to oblige them. On such occasions, we yank his leash and drag him along the nearest escape route. It wobbles an old man’s knees.
Over the past decade, Skeezie has mellowed towards humans and now seems actually to enjoy visits by strangers, though we never let down our guard when there are small children, who might be taken for squirrels or rabbits (such pettifogging distinctions being beyond Skeezie’s pay-grade). Our grandchildren are now large enough to be out of danger… we think. Besides, should our dog attack them, he’s down to only five teeth now. How much damage could he do?
The cumulative loss of teeth is but one sign of Skeezie’s advancing age. His eyes are cloudy with cataracts. He reeks of halitosis. He has learned to be cautious in his jumping up and jumping down, having fallen and landed hard a couple of times.
Although Skeezie is growing old, he thinks he’s in the prime of life — not unlike his stalwart master. But someday — in a not-so-distant future that I can foresee and that he, mercifully, cannot — his ice-blue glare will no longer be there to roust me out in the morning, and I’ll no longer be at risk of five uneven, toxic puncture wounds should I wander near his food dish.
When that comes to pass, I’ll probably speak some pompous balderdash learned from Sergeant Preston of the Yukon, “Well, Skeezie… this case is closed!” — or something like that.
And then I’ll go to a humane society shelter and look for an ideal dog.
WELL BEHAVED DOGS RARELY MAKE HISTORY
DELIGHTFUL DEMEANOR, ALERT, EAGER TO PLEASE, ADAPTABLE, INDEPENDENT SPIRIT, STRONG PREDATORY INSTINCTS, LOVE MAKING NEW FRIENDS, NOT GOOD WATCH DOGS
ORIGINATED IN SIBERIA, RUSSIA, BRED BY CHUKCHI PEOPLE OF NORTHEASTERN ASIA
AS SLED DOGS, HOUSED IN FAMILY SHELTERS AND PLAYED WITH THE KIDS, AKC RECOGNITION: 1930
IF LOOKS COULD KILL..
MEDIUM SIZE, WORKING DOG BREED, THICK, DOUBLE COAT, TRIANGULAR EARS, DISTINCT MARKINGS, COMMON HEALTH ISSUES: HIP DYSPLASIA/GENETIC DEFECTS OF THE EYE