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MEET THE CZAR, IF YOU DARE

By M. Allen deRusha

COPYRIGHT 1900 by M. Allen deRusha

 

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This is a story written by a lover of dogs, for dog-lovers. Its purpose is to inform and entertain.

Introduction:
There are two types of dog lover, those that ask if a strange dog is friendly before petting it and those that don't. I am pleased to report that 6 out of 10 women and 5 out of 10 men pet my dog first. I think the difference may be that women are more confident in their ability to read body language. I’m told that his tail wagging in combination with a face that says "I’m very pleased to meet you" make him irresistible. The point is; when the majority of a select personality type (you can’t deny it) sees a friendly dog on the end of a leash with a dog-lover on the other end, they pet first and ask later. Even though I enjoy the attention Czar gets, I recommend asking first.
Then comes the question that I wait for, "What kinda dog is he?" As I answer, it’s important to monitor the reaction closely because I’m keeping a record. When told, "He's a wolf hybrid." both genders respond the same way, "Wow, he sure is friendly!" As if to say, "Whew, I’m glad he didn’t go for my throat." Therefore, I conclude that my dog should be considered for the prestigious title: Good Will Ambassador for the much maligned wolf hybrid.
The premise of this tomb is that all dogs, regardless of size or subspecies, can be dangerous. The larger the dog, the greater the danger. The real issue is responsible ownership, not subspecies.
Individuals opposing the idea of owning a wolf hybrid, as well as other breeds, may not believe it; but the dog-lovers that I meet are unanimous in their acceptance of Czar. Problem is, the opposition is more active, politically speaking. I'm concerned that if breed banning continues the way it’s headed, the ATF may become the ATFD. Terrific, just what we need, 'Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, & Dogs' agents analyzing blood samples to determine the genetic make-up of dogs. Of coarse I'm kidding; but if there were an easy way to distinguish between subspecies of Canis lupis, it isn’t too farfetched. If you think about it, the powers that be have gone from banning specific breeds to mixed breed banning. Sounds like we’re already on a slippery slope.
Just in case you didn’t catch it, some jurisdictions have added the wolf hybrid to a list of prohibited dogs. To illustrate the point, here is an excerpt from a homeowner’s insurance policy, indicating the impact of misplaced hysteria. Both company name and clause designation has been changed to protect the innocent, that’s me.
NATIONAL CASUALITY INSURANCE COMPANY
Liability clause 6ii- [A {subsection DBP}] N.C.I.C.’s liability in the case of damage(s) to property, bodily injury, or any loss whatsoever, shall be limited to those damages caused by a policy holder’s animal(s) on the property covered by the policy herein underwritten. Said policy holder’s animal(s) to be covered will be only those animals bearing a current license issued to the property owner by the governing jurisdiction wherein said policyholder resides. Furthermore, damages caused by a banned breed or species within or beyond the boundaries of said policyholder’s property will not be covered. Owning or boarding an animal breed or species banned by said jurisdiction, shall be considered an intentional breach of this contract, and can be considered cause for revocation of all policy provisions related to the policy holders animal(s).
Point of Law: A signed insurance policy is evidence that the signatory knows which breeds or species are banned. Ignorance is no excuse. German Shepherds are known to bite 5 times (per 1000 dogs) as often as a wolfdog and they are not banned anywhere.
The narrative part of this presentation is true and is based on personal experience, well-reasoned opinion, and research. My research and opinion may come into question but wolf hybrid opponents don’t present well reasoned or researched* arguments.
The story began almost forty years ago with a Siberian husky/Gray wolf (Canis lupis), and continues today with a Malamute/Gray wolf. I am sharing this story because I believe that, in large part, the wolf hybrid controversy is based on an unreasoned fear of wolves, rumor, and the news media’s tendency to play on sensationalism.
News hounds don't report most DOG BITES HUMAN stories because they’re not sensational enough to sell papers or get good television ratings. But you can expect to see and hear more of the following; location and dates have been changed for obvious reasons.
AP; SEVEN YEAR OLD MAULED BY WOLF HYBRID; Dateline; March 31, 1986; Chesapeake, Maine; A seven year old boy was mauled by a neighbor’s dog, and is hospitalized in serious condition. The animal is reported to be a wolf hybrid. According to the Chewamagan County Sheriff’s Department, the incident occurred mid-day, March 28th, near the family’s vacation home on Lake Tecumseh. The dog is confined, for observation, in the custody of the regional animal shelter. There have been reports of rabies in the local skunk population and it is thought that the suspect wolf/dog may be suffering from hydrophobia. Treatment for rabies is being withheld for 8 days until the animal’s condition can be confirmed. The pet owner declined to be interviewed but an unnamed source told the authorities that the child had been seen playing with the dog just prior to the attack. The boy’s parents were unavailable for comment.
This local news blurb told only part of the story. Reports of its type have been repeated many times with little variation, usually out of context. Try as you might, you will find it difficult to get any accurate details as to why and how these attacks happen? After all, newspapers are ‘for profit businesses’ and the editor’s line, "if it bleeds, it leads," goes a long way toward explaining editorial objective.
The child was treated for abrasions, 8 puncture wounds, and was released within 4 hours. The dog turned out to be a German Shepherd and did not have rabies but was subsequently euthanized as a condition of an out of court settlement. There was no retraction regarding the breed of the dog, the child’s condition, etc. Further investigation revealed that the child had been observed, and warned against, teasing the dog. He had been throwing stones and dragging a stick across the dog’s chain-link enclosure, on two different occasions. Just prior to the attack, he let the dog out, was knocked down, and bitten twice.
Blaming the child for misbehaving or the dog for predictable aggression makes as much sense as persecuting a skunk because it smells bad. I feel that the blame lies squarely on the child’s parents and the dog’s owner. The parents for not supervising and teaching him to respect animals, and the dog’s owner for not making certain the animal was secure. Since dogs are put to death and children are injured; the real issues in this situation are responsible animal ownership and parenting.
There is no debate regarding the fact that all domestic canines have a common ancestor. Therefore, all canines are wolf hybrids to a greater or lesser extent (*), and begin to learn aggressive behavior as soon as they have teeth. The alpha position is not achieved passively. The puppy with the biggest bite gets the best nursing position and the weakest gets the hind teat and becomes the runt of the litter. So, dog owners have to help their dogs learn how to control aggressive behavior, before their teeth and jaws become formidable.
My dog training experience has been limited to alpha male companion dogs and includes an Old English Sheepdog, Border Collie, Brittany Spaniel, several mixed-breeds, as well as the two wolf hybrids you’ll meet.
I’ve painted a biased picture, now I will balance the debate by introducing you to my first wolf hybrid.
WAY UP NORTH
I grew up in wolf country. Within the lower 48 states, northern Minnesota boasts of the highest wolf count per square mile. The Superior National Forest includes part of the Boundary Water Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCA) as well as the International Wolf Center in Ely Minnesota. The I.W.C.’s mission, to support the survival of the wolf, can best be appreciated by visiting their facility. It is incredible. I would recommend that you start by viewing their website, www.wolf.org. I consider the I.W.C. facility to be the Mecca for any dog lover that cares about two-way communication with his or her dog. Visit the International Wolf Center and you will see what I mean.
My journey into the world of the wolf hybrid began in 1963. My dad brought a half grown Siberian husky / Gray wolf home. We called him Spike.
A friend of our family ran a small gas station and had a caged female wolf, I guess it was a back-country roadside zoo of sorts. He had other wild animals too; I remember a raccoon and a fawn. It was the kind of operation that would have the animal rights advocates picketing on his front stoop today. Back in the early ‘60s, animal rights and political correctness were obscure concepts. Please don’t misunderstand, he wasn’t abusive to the wolf, or any of the animals for that matter. He kept her confined because he was concerned that she’d run away. She had been injured in an encounter with a car that killed her mother and after nursing her back to health, he couldn’t part with her. There were plenty of wolves in our part of Northern MN and he said that since she’d been raised in captivity, he was afraid that other wolves would kill her.
Anyone that entered her cage (including me) to clean, feed or play with her could see that she wasn’t dangerous and that she had a special affection for humans. To keep her from being lonely, he would put his Siberian Husky in the pen. The dog and wolf had grown up together and were best friends. As they matured, one thing led to another and Spike was a product of their second litter.
He was an outdoor dog. Considering the insulating properties of his coat, winter was his favorite time of year. He would lay on top of a hollowed out structure we’d made of old hay bales; heaped with snow, this became his high ground. Located in sparse trees at the perimeter of our yard, it afforded him a strategic look out. Extreme cold and heavy snowfall were his only reasons to be inside the manmade den.
Spike was fascinated by strangers and would stand silently by the driver’s door, watching. The intensity of his stare would immobilize the uninitiated. Full grown, he weighed 120+ pounds and was tall enough to stand flatfooted and gaze into most any automobile. If a family member weren’t in view, newcomers would sound their horn until someone came. Our family and select friends enjoyed the humor in knowing that a complete stranger could steal the farm and Spike would lick his or her hand the entire time. He never barked, so obviously he wasn’t a watchdog. He was like Will Rogers in that; "he never met a man he didn’t like." Small children, my brothers and sister included, liked to ride him or hold onto his tail and let him drag them around. His love for humans was unconditional. Our entire family loved Spike but that wasn’t enough.
Now comes the sad part.
Spike had an uncontrollable protective instinct when a strange animal entered his territory. There was never a problem with our farm animals. His territorial senses, instinct for self-preservation, call it what you will, caused him to attack unfamiliar animals, unless a family member intervened. As he grew, so did his territory and I knew that I’d have to break him of this selective aggression.
One afternoon a stray droopy-eared hound of some sort showed up. I remember my dad saying that city folk sometimes just drop a dog off in the country to get rid of it. We saw her before Spike did, and at first thought that since it was a female, no problem. Male dogs won’t attack a female. Right? WRONG! When we saw her, she was on the same side of the house that we were. Spike had been on the opposite side and when he came around the corner to investigate, she spotted him and took off before we could stop her. He caught her by the base of the tail so quickly that we didn’t have time to do anything but holler. Fortunately, her forward motion combined with a sharp turn momentarily dislodged her from his jaws.
That poor dog skittered under my Brother’s vintage ’50s Chevy coupe and Spike couldn’t get at her. Even though we confined him to the garage, she wouldn’t come out. We didn’t want to add to her trauma by starting the car; so, we pushed it down the road. Try as we might, she couldn’t be coaxed out until we had gone about 200 yards. As soon as she peeked out and saw no monster(s), she bolted and was still running full tilt as she went out of sight.
It became clear that Spike’s behavior would not yield to any form of acceptable correction. Everything we tried only seemed to confuse him. We came to find out that he had been well established as the alpha male in his litter. Add in the fact that when Siberian Husky puppies play-fight, the uninformed would consider their ferocity to be nearly lethal. I was hoping for a miracle, but I felt as though I was being asked to produce a three-act play after having missed the first act.
After too many near misses, the killing of our neighbor’s pedigreed Siamese cat was act three. It was decided. We would give him to a family that lived in Ontario, deep in the Canadian wilderness. Our entire family shared the pain of saying good-bye. We hoped that he could be introduce to the world he was made for but found out later that he had killed some sheep and was subsequently destroyed. He was three years old.
I knew Spike for only 18 months but he had become an unforgettable friend. I wish that I had known then what I know now.

PART II (Fast forward to 1997) 
Purely by chance, through a business acquaintance, I heard about a dog breeder who intended to raise wolf hybrids. I was interested but I knew that I wouldn’t feel comfortable living in the suburbs with an animal that exhibited Spike’s idiosyncrasies. Then I met the breeding pair, King & Beast. They were both Malamute/Gray wolf hybrids, gentle, playful, and very compatible with other dogs. They both loved people especially small children. I decided that I wanted one of their pups but vowed that my relationship with my new dog wouldn’t end as it had with Spike. I knew that I had a lot to learn.
Two months later I got a call. Beast had delivered eight squirming pups and I could have my pick of any one of four males. My reply was, "I’ll be there in five weeks to pick him up?" Informed that the vet recommended waiting until the litter was six to nine weeks old, I was encouraged to come earlier just to select the one I wanted. Sunday of the 5th week I showed up. Thus begins the saga of Czar.
WE MEET
I arrived at about 1 PM on Sunday, June 22nd, 1997 and hadn’t taken more than a dozen steps in the direction of his front door when Patrick stepped out. He is the proud owner of King and Beast. I knew that he had anticipated my desire to see the puppies by the smile on his face. We greeted each other as we walked toward Beast’s kennel.
Pat explained that there were only two of the four male pups that hadn’t been spoken for. They were all gorgeous and round, looking more like animated stuffed toys than dogs. He pointed out the unclaimed duo and I told him that I wanted to stay and watch them play before I made up my mind. As he was leaving, he invited me to join their ‘birthday party, pig roast’ to meet a young couple that had purchased one of the pups.
I greeted Beast and received the necessary ‘maternal canine consent’ before entering the pen and was immediately gang tackled by the litter. Climbing over each other to get at me as I kneeled down was rough and tumble sport. Licking was the order of the day with an obvious preference for my face. Of the two males available, one didn’t join in the merriment but stayed at the fringe to watch. I knew that the choice was going to be difficult but my first impulse was to pick the shy one. He was nearly pure white, unlike his littermates which all exhibited the typical black and gray markings of a Malamute. With the knowledge that this would be a long-term commitment, I decided to join the human festivities and continue my deliberations.
After one can of beer and a roast pork sandwich, I told Pat that I wanted the white pup, he grinned and said, "That’s what I expected. He looks like King."
Coincidentally, Pat had just gotten a new male puppy from a litter with no common ancestry to King or Beast. He intended to use the new dog as a stud with Beasts female offspring. Patrick was going to introduce the pup to its new family and I wanted to observe their reaction.
When we walked into the kennel, Beast was in the pen nursing her brood. We were pleasantly surprised to see that after some serious sniffing and nose probing, she began administering a head to tail tongue bath. After a few minutes Pat headed back to his party guests and I decided to stay and watch the puppies. A short time later, Beast decided the pups had nursed long enough and unceremoniously jumped out of the nursing pen and retired to a different part of the kennel. Suddenly abandoned with the tips of their pink curled tongues still protruding, the litter watched her leave. Moments later, the furry group became collectively aware of the strange presence. Within thirty seconds, the new puppy was set upon. The intruder wasn’t able to defend himself with his extremities being pulled in different directions. Having a nose and two ears up front, one tail in the back, and two legs on each side, made for a perfect number of appendages for the party of eight. Amidst the growling and yanking, the cries of the misfit dominated the sound effects of this canine frenzy. I couldn’t take it so I reached in and separated the combatants from their prey. As I held the newcomer, his whimpering subsided but the little guy had a serious case of the shakes. Having removed their object of aggression didn’t end the battle. With a quivering six-week-old puppy in one arm, I reinserted my hand into the snarling bedlam in an effort to ‘break-it-up’. These were puppies with a mission. Under the circumstances, one learns in a hurry that needles in the jaws of an infant dog can cause serious damage. I rolled the group in all directions and reintroduced the newest member to his adoptive pack; at which point he was once again set upon.
That was all I could take. I removed the outsider as well as my new charge and headed for the house to find Patrick. As far as I was concerned, it didn’t make sense to see his investment become a mid-day snack for Beast’s litter and it was time to start my dog’s domestication program.
Patrick insisted that they were just trying to find their place in the litter, "They won’t really hurt each other," he said. He also repeated what most vets, breeders, and animal trainers’ say, "Never remove a puppy from the litter until its 6 to 9 week old." My reply sent a clear message, "It’s now or not at all." I explained our family’s experiences with Spike, and suggested that whatever negative impact ‘early separation’ might have, would be better than the aggressive learned behavior I was certain the pup would develop. He reluctantly agreed. I said my good-byes and was off on a new adventure.
CZAR, THE DOG FACED BOY
Myrna was outside when I drove up and immediately came over as I opened the driver’s door. She fell in love as he wrapped his paws around her neck in what seemed like an embrace. Round as a ball with big black button eyes and nose, covered with downy soft white fur made a package that anyone would want to cuddle. Myrna had met Beast but her memory of this puppy’s mother didn’t prepare her for the soft fluffy toy she was holding. He seemed too gorgeous to be a dog much less a wolf hybrid.
"He’s smiling." She said. And he was, which we later learned was a typical Malamute trait. Black lips, turned up at the corners, lining the entire mouth, made for the look of a happy face. Contrasted against white fir with black eyes and nose, his big wide-open mouth and pink tongue made it clear that he was happy, healthy, and pleased with the world.
Amidst the challenge of sharp puppy tooth testing, his perpetual motion wore us down to the point that we called him a little "son of a Beast". Catchy, but in a conservative home, that name wouldn’t work. Over the next few days, the search for a name continued and as his playful personality and independence emerged, out of frustration, Myrna said, "He’s our Beast." She caught it immediately and nearly shouted, "HEZARBEAST, ZARBEAST, GET IT? CZAR… THAT’S IT!" And it was. With his boyish good looks and gigantic smile, he became Czar, the dog-faced boy. For training purposes, Czar would do.
At that time I was away on business, three days each week. Myrna was faced with ‘single parenting’. His ability to observe and link our actions with our expectations became obvious when he started picking up a shoe to tell us it was time to go outside to play or do his business. At the same time she was training him, she was studying information from several sources including the public library, our veterinarian, the internet, wolf project specialists, and more. By week seven, we had Czar enrolled in and attending puppy training for two reasons. First, to promote his socialization with other dogs and people; and second, so that we could observe dog training fundamentals as demonstrated by a professional.
The following is an outline of puppy obedience training fundamentals with some adaptations:
Nobody can train your dog for you. You should observe, learn, and practice the techniques demonstrated by a professional trainer. Therefore, you will become the Dog trainer, in training.
Before you start, consider the following tips, they are certain to be helpful:
-A young dog has surplus energy; run off the excess before you begin training.
-A young dog has a short attention span; and will be easily distracted.
-Bad behavior is usually the result of confusion or distraction.
–Don’t play aggressive games such as tug-of-war with your dog, they will promote aggression.
-Biting should be instantly corrected with a shockingly loud, firm "NO!" accompanied by a frown. Use a lower pitch voice when issuing a verbal correction.
Puppy obedience training is the process of understanding and practicing the following 5 fundamentals:
1. Begin with brief sessions, in a location free of distractions.
2. Be consistent.
3. Use simple, single word commands with demonstration, sit, stay, down, come, etc.
4. Reward good behavior and correct bad behavior, immediately.
5. Don’t give a command unless you are in a position to follow up with a reward or correction. Correction is a demonstration of the behavior you expect, not a slap.
Your only assumption should be that the animal wants to please you and if you are patient, you should be successful; if not, consult a professional. Above all, be patient.
Czar graduated with top honors from puppy obedience school. We did have one problem at the kennel club; we couldn’t control his instinct to scent mark wherever other dogs had urinated. It seemed like every time we were distracted; Czar would lift a leg (referred to as, raised leg urination [RLU] in dog training parlance). From this, we knew two things: 1- He thought that he was an alpha male. 2- Extreme scent marking, by domestic dog standards, is common to wolf hybrids (the Canis lupis alpha male has been observed scent marking, in the wild, as often as every 2 minutes).
Thus far, I’ve painted a picture of near perfection. Anyone that has ever trained a puppy knows that there are constant trials. Our experience was no different; it was sprinkled with the same frustrations that every dog owner faces. The point that I would make is that while we were prepared to deal with the aggressive tendencies of a wild animal; thankfully, Czar’s testing for dominance never went beyond what is considered normal for a northern breed puppy.
As pleased as we were with his ability to learn simple commands, our greatest pleasure was seeing that he genuinely enjoyed the company of other dogs and people. He never showed any aggressive tendencies whatsoever, not even a growl.
MR. HOUDINI MEETS THE POLICE MAN
Our community’s leash law prohibits anyone from allowing their dog to run free, except in designated pet exercise areas. So, Czar learned to walk at heel without putting tension on the leash. His natural desire to chase anything that moved tested our resolve. A pinch collar solved the problem, quickly and humanely.
His progress and our journey in the world of dog training ran on relatively parallel tracks, metaphorically speaking. When he would zig in one direction (unacceptable behavior), we would zag in the other (correction). Raising a dog and a child are similar in that new tricks are difficult to anticipate; but once observed, quick, consistent, humane redress goes a long way to forestall the development of bad habits. One example of this process occurred when he decided that barking for the sake of hearing his own voice was great fun. Anyone that has lived with or near a dog that barks habitually knows how annoying it can be. Czar learned that "MUZZLE!" meant, "please, stop barking." Wearing the muzzle three or four times was sufficient to reinforce his understanding.
Czar wasn’t getting enough exercise in the back yard or on walks around the neighborhood. Large dogs are predisposed to developing hip displaesia and require significant running exercise during their rapid growth phase to reduce the risk. Fortunately, we have access to several fenced in facilities where dogs can run and play off-leash as long as they are good citizens. Czar’s exposure to other dogs, in a free play setting, had been limited to the occasional meeting of one or two dogs at our neighborhood wild life refuge, Patrick Marsh. We weren’t sure how he would react to a large number of dogs, but we were certain to be entertained. True to form, he was a young gentleman. He was careful with old and small dogs, and learned to evade loud aggressive dogs. When necessary, he would defend himself; but when he heard me say, "NO!" with authority, a few times, he understood that he should avoid those situations. His greatest joy was to run flat out with a pack at his heels.
Two months shy of Czar’s first birthday, a young man in blue awakened us at 4AM. One of the local constabulary’s finest was at our front door to inform us that our dog had been taken into custody. A neighbor had called the police to complain that a large white dog was bothering the newspaper delivery boy. The officer explained that when he arrived on the scene, the big happy dog that now occupied the back seat of his squad car, came running up to make friends. When the officer questioned the paper carrier, it was obvious that there was no problem; in fact, the boy asked if he could keep the dog. At which point the policeman examined Czar’s tags, determined that the owner lived in the neighborhood, and sent the news peddler on his way.
As you might imagine, I dressed very quickly and met the officer at his car only to find the dirtiest, furriest, muddiest, wettest, back seat of a patrol car, I’d ever seen. I was very embarrassed and apologetic and offered to clean up the mess. With a smile and chuckle, I was told not to worry about it; the city employed people to take care of this kind of problem. He also said that he was pleased to be of service, and that Czar was a great dog. I asked if he planned to write a ticket and was told, "As long as an animal is properly licensed and is as well behaved as Czar (resisting arrest is a, NO! NO!), they don’t issue a citation, if it doesn’t happen too often."
The officer needed to make a report to justify his time and asked if he could see Czar’s enclosure. We proceeded into the back yard to find that he’d simply lifted the latch on his kennel door and made a clean getaway. I told the kind young policeman that I would make some changes to the mechanism so that it wouldn’t happen again. That was exactly what he wanted to hear. He smiled and said, "Thank you. Have a nice day." And was on his way. Czar was given a new last name. Henceforth, he would be known as Czar Houdini.

 

Part III (fast forward to 4-99)
BREAK IT UP, YOU TWO!
According to both, our Vet and the dog trainer, insufficient exercise leads to physical as well as mental problems. And if my cardiologist is right, a two-mile walk with the dog every day is certain to extend my life. The way I looked at it, Czar was sure to save us about $50 per month in athletic club membership fees.
At 18 months, and 52 years, respectively, I felt that a two-mile walk wasn’t enough to get a good cardiovascular workout for either of us. The solution was right there in front of me. It was as simple as putting the parts together. A man that needs exercise, a dog that loves to run, and a perfectly good mountain bike. What more could you ask for. After all, Czar already knew how to walk at heel; it was time for him to learn to trot. The only difference is that I would be on the bike.
After we’d gone around the block three times, I was sure that he understood what I expected. It didn’t take long before I discovered that, in this part of the adventure, surprises come in two forms, stationary and mobile. Some examples of stationary surprises would be fire hydrants, telephone poles, and tall grass or trees growing at the edge of the road. I quickly learned to anticipate these. A corrective or preemptive tug on the leash and a firm "NO!" was all Czar needed.
Mobile surprises were more difficult to predict. Picture this; you are traveling down a suburban street at seven to ten miles per hour on a bicycle, connected by a six-foot tether to an auxiliary engine. Furthermore, the engine is equipped with four-wheel drive, independent suspension, exceptional agility, and is capable of instant unexpected acceleration. I’m sure you can see where this is going. If you remember your high-school chemistry, a catalyst is something that kicks-off a reaction without undergoing any change. Now I know where the name CAT comes from. I also discovered that excitement, like surprises, comes in two forms, good and bad. If I were prone to cursing, I couldn’t have picked a better time. The truth is, I felt stupid. Cursing would have only served to draw more attention to my stupidity. However, I did violate one of my cardinal rules of advanced dog training, I used the ‘N’ word, more than once as a single command. It went something like this:
NO!NOO!NOOO!
We all escaped without injury, unless you consider my pride. Czar gave me his, "O.K., Relax, I’m sorry." look. Fortunately, his instinct wasn’t as powerful an influence as my voice. I did learn three important lessons; 1-There is no substitute for vigilance; 2- I should wear a bike helmet; 3- The pinch collar may be necessary during the learning phase of this part of the exercise program.
Czar is almost three years old today. We bike/trot, without incident or pinch collar, an average of 35 miles per week. We alternate between the pet exercise confinement on Bird Street and the walking paths and woods around Patrick Marsh for weekend free play. I plan to train him to pull me on cross-country skies so that we can keep our structured exercise program going year around. Czar continues to be an endless source of enjoyment in that his level of intelligence requires constant challenges. Which in turn, provide new adventures for me.
I will share one last adventure as a summary and illustration of my longwinded assertion that properly trained wolf hybrids are no more inherently dangerous than other large domestic dogs. The real issue is responsible canine ownership.
A few months ago, Czar and I were at the pet exercise area on Bird Street and I was treated to his first display of aggressive behavior. Considering the frequency of our visits to that facility, I thought I’d met every dog and dog owner in our part of the country. I was wrong. We met a 10 month old Rottwieler and a 2 year old Rhodesian Ridgeback that I’d never seen before. They were both beautiful specimens of their respective, highly specialized, breed. I know little or nothing of either breed but they both looked like valuable show quality animals. Amongst all of the good-natured play, for some reason, these two dogs squared off to fight. My experience has been that it is not wise to get between two dogs under this circumstance. Before I could impart this bit of wisdom to Czar, he did. He made a sound that would scare the Baskerville hound into hiding and presented a set of canines that would shame a teenage Grizzly. That ended that. Amidst the shock of an incident that from start to finish lasted no more than 5 seconds, I didn’t know what to think. Both of the other dogs understood and went about their business, playing, and Czar came to me. I couldn’t keep from praising him but had mixed emotions about the aggressiveness. It was time to call in an expert.
I consulted a respected animal behaviorist and was told that Czar’s display was a common alpha male demonstration of aggression intended to stop a fight, much like the growling of a lapdog when someone playfully roughhouses with it’s owner. I followed up with a visit to the folks at Kamp K9 where we board Czar when we travel. I explained what I’d observed at the Bird Street exercise facility and was told that part of the reason they enjoy having him, as a guest, is that specific behavior. In fact, he is one of a very small number of animals that can play with dogs that would otherwise be isolated because of behavior problems. I was a little concerned as to how they found this out and was told that he had been observed as he stopped a surprise confrontation between two dogs. Once they saw what he had done, they carefully tested him with other dogs and found that he settled them right down.
So, I believe the breed (careless inbreeding is known to cause problems and is a subject for a different debate) or genetic make-up of the dog plays the smallest part in its personality. I also believe that a full-blooded Gray wolf raised from a pup with sufficient human attention, affection, and patience could make an excellent companion dog.
If this narrative stirred an old memory, made you smile, or made you consider a prospective other than your own, I have accomplished my objective.
Finally, when you choose a dog, don’t pick a wolf hybrid unless you are willing to literally rearrange your life. Spike had a profound impact on my life and it continues with Czar, you should expect the same. Consider this; if a dog owner is unable to satisfy his or her dogs need for time and attention, its behavior is almost certain to be unpredictable and is apt to revert to the instinctive behavior of its ancestor, the wolf. I will explain what I mean by that in my next contribution, DON’T CRY WOLF, JUST CRY. Watch for it.
If you would like to hear more (there’s plenty), feel free to contact me via email at madnmyr@madtown.net. I hope to see you, down the road, at the two-legged end of a leash.

(*) Until 4-95, there was speculation that wolf-dog hybrids were immune to rabies vaccine. Ref.; Texas Department of Health; Director of Zoonosis Control Division, Keith A. Clark DVM, Ph.D.; Notice to Veterinarians; Subject: Rabies quarantine; wolf-dog hybrids

"The species of both the wolf and the dog was determined in 1993 to be Canis lupis, per the Code of the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature and the American Society of Mammalogists. Karyotyping and DNA analyses have been unable to distinguish the two animals. Therefore, it is reasonable to consider the use of rabies vaccine appropriate for dogs, wolves and wolf-dog hybrids and to presume their immune responses would be similar."