When we got K2, our Alaskan Malamute, we knew a little bit about what we were getting into. Some of our dearest friends had a Malamute fondly named Big Dog and we had been privy to some of her most shining moments. One Saturday morning we got a phone call asking if we could go rescue Big Dog "off their roof" as they were out of town. When we arrived to survey the scene, we found that Big Dog had in fact broken out of her solid wood fenced off area, busted out a partially open screen window and was happily looking down on us from two stories up on their entry way roof. Malamutes are well known for their tenacity, intelligence, strength and stubbornness. They are famous for being an endearing combination of independent and extremely lovable. They are also famous for being a solid twenty five percent pure wicked. Due to their intelligence, they can differentiate between what someone may want them to do and what they MUST do. They may complete a requested task despite objection but they will do it on their own time and their own terms. They demand regular exercise and one on one interaction or else they become bored and boredom will often lead to destructive activities ( such as destroying an imported sheep skin rug you just bought for your husbands birthday).
Despite all this, we thought this was the dog for us. We found a woman about an hour away who had a litter of puppies ready to go in two weeks and we immediately called to set up a time to visit. Well anyone who has ever gone to look at puppies knows the rest of the story. We immediately fell in love with all of them but chose a female who later, on her papers, was described only as “The darker female pup”. That was three years ago. Since then K2, named for the formidable peak, has given us extreme joy, innumerable laughs and im sure taken many years off our lives. As we discussed moving into a van full time the thought of leaving her behind never even crossed our minds. Since she entered our lives she has been our nearly constant adventure companion and it seemed that this adventure should be no exception.
We had taken a two-week road trip to Cape Breton, the very tip of Nova Scotia, in the fall of 2016 and K2 had been a champ so we felt prepared to test her out on a grander scale. Now truth be told K2 has never loved cars. When she was a puppy a car ride would induce almost immediate vomiting, sometimes several times a trip. Some remnants of this had remained but she had nearly completely overcome her anxiety and always preferred to come along than to stay at home. So with all that in mind you can imagine our surprise when K2 has by far been the most difficult part of our first few weeks on the road. Some of this was anticipated, she sheds constantly and in a tiny space this adds up fast, our National Park system is very inhospitable to Dogs (you win again Canada!), and with all our outdoor activities we were now returning to our van with a filthy dog in tow with limited ways to manage the grime. What we did not anticipate was her frantic, full on panic episodes, driving down the highway. Maybe it was the noise and shaking of a 30-year-old vehicle. We didn’t know, but what we did know was she wanted nothing more and would do anything at all cost to sit in our laps as we were driving down the highway. This was not sustainable for several reasons.
In addition to the most difficult, K2 has been the most expensive component of the trip. We found ourselves going to great lengths and prices to make her riding experience more tolerable. Sheets to cover the back so she could lie on our bags, pillows, and bedding, a dog bed to limit the vibrations and so she could sit closer to the front, medications to help with anxiety, soothing natural oils, a new collar, a new lead so she could freely roam when we did stop etc. the list goes on. While the expenses very well could continue I am happy to say the anxiety/panic has died down a bit. Perhaps she was transitioning in her own way to this big life change, maybe she was throwing a hissy fit because we had taken away her down comforter, memory foam mattress and other comforts of home. She, like us, is figuring it out. While some things may never get better- I found a hair in my tooth paste this morning- we know that she will continue to adapt. She’s our favorite girl and we love her even on the days she makes it feel like hell on wheels.