Mika - An Alaskan Malamute

Mika - An Alaskan Malamute
Mika watching a squirrel in our backyard. January 10, 2011

Mika is a Moonsong Malamute Rescue Dog

Please read the first two Blog posts (In the Blog Archive on January 21) for details about Mika's amazing "Miracle" rescue.

Note! Mika has been adopted. I will miss her.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

January 20, 2011 Mika & Tasha meet & get along

As noted earlier we have been keeping Stony, Tasha and Mika separated at all times to prevent any possible dog fights.  However, we have had either Tasha or Mika in the chain link kennel while the other is loose outside and we have not seen too much aggressive behavior from Mika.

Inadvertently, two times in the past few days Mika's door got opened and she was able to visit Tasha unrestrained.  She made some low yowling (not really growling) noises and kept her legs straight and head up while she looked at Tasha, but did not try to fight.  Tasha knows how to keep her eyes diverted and her head down to avoid confrontation so this helped too.

Today, after this happened again we decided to let them both loose in the back yard in the hope they could get along together without being separated.  It seemed to work great and we hope it will continue in the future.  Mika seems to want to play with Tasha, but quite obviously wants to be the dominant player. Our old malamute Shasta who passed away a year ago also had this same "I'm the dominant one" attitude and this did not make her popular with all dogs.  Tasha, who loves to play with most dogs just can't seem to get comfortable with this new big dog and just averts her eyes and head and stays still.  Mika will even grab Tasha's neck fur on top to try to get a reaction, but Tasha won't respond.   At least we are pleased that they can be together without fighting.

January 19, 2011 Mika's first day at home after surgery (Continued)

Here are a few more photos after Mika's surgery.

Gary taking Mika to the back yard.

Mika and her new "Whale" toy.

Gary and Mika relaxing.

January 19, 2011 Mika's first day at home after surgery.

Amazingly, Mika is already putting her right rear foot down on the ground, but not putting much weight on it yet.  However, when she walks she tries to use it.  The suggested recovery therapy is to take her for short controlled walks in the yard for the first few weeks.  We have a "Ruffwear" harness on her with a leash attachment on the top center.  She seems quite controlled with this system and does not try to pull hard at all.  Dr. Acker recommended that she not try to chase squirrels, which she would probably do if we let her loose and she saw one.  There are also some barky dogs in a neighboring yard behind a fence that she has been known to fence fight with.  We are keeping her from getting to that area of the fence when those dogs are present.
Mika putting weight on the foot already.

Mika resting and smiling

Close up of Mika's knee and surgery scars.

We put a big Roughwear bed outside of Mika's wire crate.
She is a big dog and really seems to enjoy the extra space.

January 18, 2011 Mika gets her new knee operation

Early this morning we drove Mika to the Sun Valley Animal Center near Ketchum, Idaho where well respected Dr. Randy Acker will perform the knee operation she needs.  This procedure is a TPLO (Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy).  Here is a link to a web page that describes TPLO.

I will report that Mika moves around a lot in the back of the car, even when we have her constrained by a harness and anchor point.  She also made quite a bit of noise as we started out.  Eventually she settled down and slept for the last part of the trip.  When we arrived at the Animal Center it was icy and slick in the parking area.  Plus there were lots of dog smells Mika wanted to investigate.  We had a little tug-of-war for a few minutes getting her to pay attention to where we wanted to go.  As I mentioned before she is a really strong puller, especially when she smells something beyond the end of the leash she wants to get to.  Sometimes it is almost impossible to stop her even on dry ground let alone an icy parking lot.  She might make a great "Freight Puller" if you could get the right incentive in front of her.  And this is with a bad right rear leg!

We took her into the Animal Center about 9:30 AM and waited until about 4: PM for Mika to be ready to go home again.  We had drove around the Sun Valley area for awhile, had lunch at a restaurant in Ketchum, and visited an outdoor and pet supply shop before we went back to pick her up.  At the pet shop we bought her a new very tough felt "Whale shaped" toy to enjoy on the way back home.

Dr. Acker showed us x-rays and explained the operation and her recovery process.  As she walked out of the recovery room she was still pulling as always.  The photo below demonstrates this.  She also wanted to smell the dog smells in the parking lot again, but we controlled her activity and got her into the back of the Subaru station wagon.  She was generally more quiet on the way home.  Part of this is probably due to the various drugs, etc., she was given during surgery.

Inside the Animal Center

Mika "rushing" out of Holding Room after operation

Ready to go home

Mika's surgery scar

Mika with her new toy going home.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

January 9, 2011 Mika is athletic and chases squirrels

Both Tasha and Mika will chase squirrels when they see them in the yard or on the fence.  A few times we have seen Mika jump up on a table by the utility shed.  On this day I found her jumping up on a small bench and watching a squirrel taunt her from the tree.  For the most part she does not appear to favor her hurt leg (right rear in these photos) when she is active like this.  However, sometimes we can see her limp on her right rear leg, a little bit.  By feeling it we can tell the muscle is somewhat atrophied compared to the other leg.

Good news! Moonsong Malamute Rescue has received a donation from a "Guardian Angel" that will cover Mika's new knee surgery  (Thanks Christine!)    The operation will be performed at the Sun Valley Animal Center near Ketchum, Idaho on Tuesday,January 18, 2010.

January 9, 2011 Mika & Tasha Meet separated by Kennel fence.

Because Mika seems very excited when she sees another dog we have kept her separated from Tasha and Stony.   We know from experience that Stony is unpredictable with foster dogs and even will sometimes attack Tasha for no apparent reason.  Consequently we are keeping him separated all the time now.

Tasha, on the other hand, seems to get along with almost all dogs and will initiate play behavior whenever she can.  This day we decided to see what would happen if Mika and Tasha were separated by the Kennel fence, but could see, smell and touch noses.   Mika was pretty excited and yowled somewhat at first like she always does when she sees or hears another dog.  But, she walked right up to the Kennel and did not try to initiate any fence fighting.  Neither did Tasha.  As you can see in these photos, Tasha would avert her eyes and look away whenever Mika looked at her.  We decided to switch places and repeat the experiment in subsequent days and found that Tasha would lay down just outside the gate even though Mika was interested in getting out. (I don't have photos of this reversal of roles.)

January 9, 2011 Mika is photogenic

Here are a few close up photos of Mika being a good dog.  She loves attention and getting petted.  She will sit upon command sometimes, but not always.  Often she will just follow me around and stand close leaning on my leg with when I stop.   She definitely has a rambunctious side however, and will run around after balls and toys.  Sometimes she just gallops around the yard just for the fun of it.  We try to keep her from doing this because of her bad leg, but the only way to stop her would be to always have her on a leash in the back yard where she is generally fairly calm, except for one of these energy bursts once every few days.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

December 23, 2010 Mika Goes for a Walk

We took some time to brush Mika's tail and coat before going on a walk.  Notice that she is lifting her right rear leg a little while standing.   That leg is the one that needs a second repair to be noted in later blogs.  You can feel that the muscle is somewhat atrophied because she cannot use that leg effectively.  However, it is only occasionally that you can tell that she is limping or favoring the leg.  On a walk, she can pull as if nothing is wrong at all.

I have been walking Mika almost all of the time because she is such a strong puller.  However, it is hard to use a camera to take photos that illustrate how this action that is taking place almost all the time on a walk.  Below are a couple of photos I took when Katy decided to take her for a walk.  In one she is yowling because she wants to get going.  I will need to take video of her pulling behavior at some time in the near future.

First, I will note that she gets very excited when she thinks she is being prepared for a walk.  She will even lift her head and poke it into the Easy Walk Harness when you are just trying to get it ready.  She will go right to the door and it is possible to get her to sit before you open it.  However, as soon as the sound of the door knob sounds she is up and pushing to get out.  It is quite difficult to keep her from rushing out before the door is fully open and we always have to hold her back.  As soon as she can she rushes out and pulls the leash hard, looking and smelling the first things she encounters.  We are working on getting her to stay longer and wait for the door to be opened before she can go through.  This seems to work better when we are just letting her out in the back yard.  When she knows she is going for a walk though, it is not so easy to control her.  She will rush the door and try to get her head and shoulders through.

December 23, 2010 Mika Plays With Rope Toy

Many malamutes I have been around are not really very interested in chasing balls or toys and bringing them back to you.  Our dog Tasha is an exception.  She loves to run after balls and rope toys and often she will let you have them to throw again.  If you quit playing she will often grab the toy and keep throwing it in the air entertaining herself.

To this point we have not wanted to let Tasha and Mika play together, because Mika seems to be so reactive.  I will write more about how this changed in a later post.

However, we discovered that she loves to run after balls and rope toys too.  She will carry them around and sometimes come back to us, but she does not want to give them up to let us throw them again.  Below are a couple of shots of Katy and Mika playing the rope pull.

December 19, 2010 Mika knows how to sit

We had a little snow in Boise today and during a walk with Mika I used my iPhone to take a few photos of her tracks in the snow and obeying my command to sit.

It is interesting that she pulls like crazy using the Easy Walk Harness at the beginning of a walk.   She wants to sniff everything in every yard we pass that she can get to.  If she is especially interested in something beyond the length of the leash she will start to pull like she is pulling a heavy sled.  It is very hard to keep her under control.   I have found that it is better to walk her in the middle of the neighborhood streets where she cannot smell whatever goodies are in every yard she passes.  Another behavior she has is to start yowling whenever a dog barks from inside a house or yard, and if she sees another dog being walked nearby.

Fortunately, she is learning that if I tell her to sit and wait and give her a treat this seems to sometimes stop these behaviors for a few seconds.  Mika will actually stay after given the treat for a little while if I keep telling her to stay.

December 18, 2010 Mika gets a bath

When I returned home from the StrawBale Yard experiment, Katy complained about how muddy Mika was and we decided to give her a bath at one of the local DIY dog wash places.  We had not heard from others how she might be when given a bath.  Some malamutes are pretty barky and howly and jump around and shake a lot.  Our old girl Shasta was like this and it was kind of embarrasing to take her to one of these places.  Stony is very quiet and accepting of the whole bath process, and Tasha is somewhat more reactive, but not like Shasta.

We were pleasantly surprised because Mika got right in the tub and let us shampoo and condition her without much fuss at all, only an occasional shake.  She also let us blow dry her fur at the end.  Shasta hated the blow dryer!

Below are a few photos of our first bath experience with Mika, including one video where she shakes on Katy.

Starting the Bath

Getting wet

Fully Wet

Video / Mika shakes on Katy

Are we done yet?

Now I am clean and smell so good!

December 18, 2010 Mika gets a wire crate & gets muddy

We have 4 malamutes staying with us now - Sammy, a foster dog, is temporary until we can find another foster home, and Tasha and Stony, our two adopted malamutes.  Unfortunately, Sammy seems to be quite dog reactive and already had one skirmish with Stony leaving her with a few wounds.  Mika also seems to quite reactive and when she visited us earlier in September she rushed out the door as Katy was going out and landed right on Stony.  Fortunately there was not much damage to either dog during this short skirmish.  In general Tasha and Stony get along, however, once in a while Stony will jump on Tasha for unknown reasons and we have to be watchful when they are together.

Long story short - we have to do a lot of dog shuffling between outside, the garage and one of the inside bedrooms for feeding and backyard visits.

We set up a wired crate in a closet in my office work room for Mika and she took to it right away, carrying dog toys in with her whenever she found new ones.

Today, I also took Mika for a walk to the new strawbale house that has recently installed a 6 foot chainlink fence around the 1 acre property.  Because she pulls so hard and is hard to control on a leash I wanted to let her off leash to see whether she would come when called for treats.  At first she ran around the property exploring the boundaries, in the process getting quite muddy.  But she would come back to me eventually and I gave her treats several times when she did so.  The new fence had not been secured to the ground at the bottom and it might have been possible for her to crawl under.  Fortunately she did not try this. After 1/2 hour of this, the owner of the strawbale house complained that she was making mud tracks on his new concrete driveway and was hesitant to let her use this yard again.  I will have to look for another place where I can continue to test her recall when she is off leash.

December 13, 2010 Mika's Dr. Appointment & her stay with us

Niki and Katy, with Moonsong Malamute Rescue, met in Ketchum with Mika to get Dr Acker's opinion about her knee injury and slow recovery.  Dr. Acker is a nationally known orthopedic vet who has a really good reputation for his surgical skills.  His diagnosis was that because of her larger size Mika would need a new and different operation called a Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy (TLPO).

This is an expensive operation but Dr. Acker agreed to do it at a reduced cost because Moonsong has rescued her and is willing to foster her during her rehabilitation.  It will take some time for Moonsong to get donations in place to help pay for the operation.

It turns out that I am the volunteer who will aid in this at our home in Boise.  Consequently, Mika came back from the Dr. visit with Katy on December 13, to begin a much longer stay with us.  One interesting behavior we noticed is that she looks for dog toys and will carry them around and stash them where she sleeps.   The first nights she slept in our garage on a futon couch all the dogs seem to enjoy when they are out there.

Mika appears to be completely house trained, but when Katy started feeding Mika a raw food diet unfortunately she had diarrhea during the night and had an accident on the outdoor rug we have in the garage.  This only lasted one night, however, and we were careful to take her outside as often as possible for a few days.