The Alaskan Malamute

Picture of an Alaskan Klee Kai
Photo cuterstesy of nextdaypets.com

The Alaskan Malamute is a working dog which had been bred to perform specific dog sledding tasks. It is hard to pinpoint exactly when the breed began. However, upon Russia’s discovery of Alaska in 1741, tales of the “Alaskan Arctic Sledge Dogs” arose.

Mushing (dog sledding) was and sometimes still is a necessary method of transportation in the arctic circle and frozen tundras of the world’s northern landscapes. Without roads, vehicles, access to gasoline, and intense ever-changing weather, sled dogs were the only opportunity for Alaskans to provide transport, gather resources (food and supplies), trade, haul heavy freight, and network with other Alaskans.

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The native Innuit, Mahlemut tribe (now Malamutes) of Alaska, were the first peoples to be seen “using dogs to haul sledges.” Their dogs were described as affectionate, beautiful, fine, powerful looking, enduring and tireless by the white people who came across them.

Photo curtesy of alaskanmalamute.org

The Alaskan Malamute became recognized as its own breed in 1935. Many dog sled racing records are held by Malamutes as opposed to similar breeds such as the Siberian Husky, Samoyed and Eskimo dog who would engage in racing tournaments as well.

The Malamute is typically wolfish grey with black or white, with white being seen on the underbelly, legs, feet, face and sometimes forehead. Although rare, an all white Malamute can be seen as well.

Malamutes are considerably denser than other sled dog breeds. Their coats are often heavier, and bodies are more hefty and heavier. They are deep-chested and have a smooth gait, with a large, fluffy curled tail.

Their average height is around 23- 25 inches and can weigh between 75 to 85 lbs. Malamutes typically have brown eyes and are not to be confused with their blue-eyed cousin the Husky. Their dense, heavy coats make them unsuitable for warm climates, and require a lot of up-keep since they will produce a tremendous amount of hair when shedding.

Overall, the Malamute is a highly intelligent, friendly and affectionate breed that is well-suited for colder climates. Due to their breed origin, they may require a moderate to high level of activity and exercise.

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Gunnar and Selkie- the Navy Seals

“Selkie” the Gray Seal

Selkie and Gunnar were wild-born seals, born off the coast of Iceland in November of 1973. At just a few months in age, they sat happily on sunny rocks; basking with the rest of the colony, when a man in flippers approached. Selkie, Gunnar, and a third seal named Njal, were picked up by the man and immediately sent off to San Diego, California in the United States.

“Gunnar” the Gray Seal

While in San Diego, Gunnar and Selkie became two of many marine mammals recruited for the United States Navy’s Marine Mammal Program. Here, many aquatic species such as Sea Lions, Dolphins, and even Killer Whales were trained for military purposes. From tagging underwater objects, carrying messages to divers, to detecting floating mines, these animals were trained to do phenomenal tasks. The Killer Whales were able to attach devices to anti-submarine torpedoes which allowed the objects to be lifted from the ocean floor to about 1,654 feet below the ocean’s surface.

For Selkie and Gunnar, their jobs were even more fantastic. Since Seals are naturally able to dive up to 1,000 feet and hold their breaths for up 20 minutes, Selkie and Gunnar were perfect candidates for their new positions. Having finger-like front flippers, Gray Seals are more able to manipulate objects than any other marine mammals in their selection. Therefore, Selkie and Gunnar were chosen to learn how to retrieve underwater fallen tools and objects by divers, collect items from the ocean floor, turn valves, insert and remove equipment, and even how to use a screwdriver!

Although Selkie and Gunnar were able to perform such tremendous feats, neither were able to do these tasks consistently enough to be considered reliable. As a result, in January 1979, they were sent to the National Zoo in Washington D.C.

While at the National Zoo, Selkie and Gunnar continued their service to their country, and the world, by engaging in the U.S. breeding program. Both, newly introduced genetics helped to revitalize the Gray Seal in captive populations.

Gunnar passed away June 22, 2012 at 38 years old, outliving the average lifespan of male Gray’s by 8 years. His longtime friend and partner, Selkie, also outlived her average females and passed away at an amazing age of 43, in November of 2016.

 

Horse 101: The Mare

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It was a brisk winter morning in New England. I opened the barn as I did every morning, and began to let each horse out to pasture one by one. As I usually did, the last stall door I opened was for a white mare named “Babe.” Her heavily curved back from all of her years of riding, her thick winter coat, and the look in her eyes told me everything that was on her mind at that moment. “I am too old, and it is too cold.”

As usual, I ventured off to grab my manure rake and gave Babe her time (which she usually took a lot of) to make her way outside. I began raking the first stall and after about 15 minutes I looked over the aisle and saw that Babe’s stall door had closed, with the mare still in it. I put down my rake and walked over, reopening her door. I went back to my duties, diligently raking through the hay. After about 5 minutes, I curiously peeked again to see if Babe had in fact finally made it out to pasture. Once again, her door was closed, with her still inside her stall. I put down my rake and this time began to search about for my uncle, who was also in the barn. I asked him if he had closed Babe’s stall door. In complete honesty my uncle replied that he had not, and that he had been washing out food buckets for two of the Quarter Horses.

I shook my head in confusion, strolled again to Babe’s door to open it for a third time. As I made it back to the stall to resume my chores, I picked up the rake and curiously looked over my shoulder. It was then that my mystery was solved. I saw Babe reach her chin over the stall door and diligently nudge it shut while slowly backing herself. She would lower her head, grab the rail beneath her chin and slowly nudge inch by inch, until the door had closed completely, so that she could stay in her warm stall. I laughed to myself at such a feat. Babe looked at me as if to say again, “I am too old and it is too cold.”

Mares are one of the most beloved horses among avid horse owners. There’s a sentimentalism that applies to the appreciation people have for them. It is an old bond for those that have had their mare for the majority of her life; and for those that acquire a mare later in life, still poses equal admiration for their uniqueness.

For those that do not know, a mare is a female horse (or other equine) over the age of 3 to 4 years old. You may also hear the term “Broodmare,” which is a mare used exclusively for breeding. A mare in the wild actually receives great honor. She is the one that leads the herd to grazing areas, water sources, dictates movement of the herd, and of course; procreates to ensure the future of the herd, and nurtures the young.

In 2016 an awe-inspiring mare named “Zenyatta” was inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame. Her races were so extraordinary that she took 1st place in every race she ran except one, where she took 2nd (in 2010.) This is an amazing feat since her reign spanned for 3 consecutive years!

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Zenyatta in the Breeder’s Cup Classic 2009

Mares are known to be temperamental to say the least and quite dangerous even, especially during their heat cycle. This is why some people prefer male equines over females. However, there are hormonal medications that can be given to make a mare in season easier to work with.

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Although mares are not always such “easy keepers,” they have proven to be one of the most amazing creatures to have ever graced the earth.

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The Ragdoll

 

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8 month old Ragdoll kitten “Luna Baby”

HISTORY

The Ragdoll cat is an American breed developed by a woman named Ann Baker. The cross of a Birman cat and White Angora lead to the first litter of Ragdolls. The breed was not officially named “Ragdoll” until 1965. To prevent inbreeding, many Ragdolls were mixed with other breeds such as the Burmese and Persian.

APPEARANCE

Ragdolls vary in appearance. Their coats come in bi-colored, Van, Mitted, and Colorpoint patterns with varying colors including: seal, blue, chocolate, lilac, and cream. Their coats are medium to long and do not possess an undercoat as do many other cat breeds. This results in a silky, heavy top coat; which are prone to matting unless groomed regularly. Another interesting feature of this cat is that their coats may change slightly in color until they reach their adulthood.

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One of the most obvious characteristics of the Ragdoll is their size. Alongside the Maine Coon, Ragdolls develop into very large cats. They are slow to grow, with most reaching true adulthood and maturity between the ages of 2 to 5 years of age. This breed can grow to weigh anywhere from 12 to 20 pounds.

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Ragdolls have a very silky, dense top coat.

Another marvelous trait of a Ragdoll are their beautifully sharp blue eyes. Ranging from a pale blue, almost grey, to a vibrant crystal blue. img_20180113_125617636

 

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8 month old Luna with adult 14-year-old domestic medium hair. Note the size.

TEMPERMENT

The Ragdoll gets their name from their tendency to “flop” and go limp when being handled. They earn the description of being “dog-like” while they tend to follow their human around the house, greet them at the door, or keep an ever watchful eye on them. Ragdolls even come when called and some even play fetch! Furthermore, if they find a suitable canine match, these cats actually enjoy being with their four-legged cousins and will often buddy up with them. These cats enjoy being in their owners lap, but also posses a very playful side as well, even though they generally are quite low-key. Ragdolls are very quick learners, so as long as they are given plenty of positive reinforcement and treats, there should be no problem convincing them to use a scratching post instead of your couch.

Ragdolls have a quiet, soft voice, and do not tend to vocalize as some other cat breeds. Unless it is feeding time or there is something terribly wrong, you can expect your Ragdoll to be a very quiet keeper.

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Asleep with her buddy
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Baby “Luna” and her nanny

Ragdolls are a very unique breed. Not only are they simply gorgeous, but they have such a desirable temper that they make a great fit for just about any household.