There are few nicer things than being greeted with howls and massive furry hugs. Last Saturday, I was invited to have morning tea with the Huskies and their pal, the Doberman, who lives in my street. It was total pandemonium and we had a blast.
Pica, the two-year-old Siberian Husky, was the first to greet me. She’s allergic to my perfume, so I’d left it off. That turned out to be a good move because my pal stood up on her hind legs, put her paws on my shoulders and gave me the best doggy hug.
Then Hugo, the three-year-old Husky, elbowed her out of the way and put his paw in my hand and his nose in my hair. Staggering under the weight of these two, I was grateful that Petrus, the huge red Doberman, was patiently waiting, as was Enzo, the third Husky.
Huskies are huge. Bred to drag sleds in the Arctic, these dogs are hip-high on an adult and weigh around 30kg. They have thick fur, long noses and look very much like wolves. They’re also a “talkative” breed and so they howl, yowl and moan.
Being taken in for tea was like being part of a pack of friendly wolves. It was heaven but, actually, I was there not to romp but rather to learn an important lesson.
Their pack’s human mum, Kim Fong, a Singaporean who has lived in Kuala Lumpur for 25 years, didn’t set out to have Huskies.
Petrus, the 10-year-old red Doberman, was a gift from a friend who had pups. He was an only dog until Fong went to see a client three years ago.
“The customer’s Husky had pups and as they were being kept outside, they were in a bad state. She begged me to take one – and so Hugo came to live with us. Then Pica joined us last year because her owner developed allergies after an operation.”
While taking Pica in was an act of kindness, Fong was also thinking of Hugo’s needs. Huskies are extremely social. If they don’t have proper companionship, they tend to act out.
First, they become “problem howlers”. A lonely Husky will howl, for hours. And as their calls are meant to carry across the frozen Arctic wilds, the sound is piercing.
Second, a bored Husky is destructive. These huge dogs can shred a sofa in hours, no problem.
“There’s a rule,” Fong says, “One Husky is destructive; two are happy. Hugo and Pica were instant friends. They play all the time, wrestling, chasing each other and just being happy. Of course, they quarrel over a bone sometimes, but it never lasts.”
Socialising is so important that Fong takes the pack out to pet cafes. “They’re air-conditioned and we get to play with others,” she says. “We love our days out!”
Pica, Hugo and Enzo are beautiful but they are very difficult to keep.
The golden rule is that all Huskies must live in large air-conditioned homes, and they need additional floor fans.
“Their fur is made to deal with snow,” Fong points out. “So they cannot live outside in the tropics.”
Because of the heat, walks have to take place in the cool of the early morning and late evening.
“It has to be short and quick,” Fong says, “no more than 20 minutes because too much heat builds up under their coat. And when you get them home, the dog has to lie in front of the floor fan.”
Second, the dogs shed twice a year. It’s like a snowstorm, so all your furniture will be covered in thick long fur.
“You need a slicker brush and daily grooming when they’re shedding,” Fong advises. “The rest of the year, you need professional grooming once a month. You can’t wash your own Husky because they have thick undercoats that need professional equipment to clean and dry.”
Finally, Huskies are famous for being finicky eaters. Forget about giving them a bowl of kibble and the odd tin of doggy chow; that’s the way to skin, coat and digestive problems.
“They eat fresh food daily: chicken, celery, carrots and potatoes,” Fong says. “Plus a stew of inner parts, three times a week.”
It’s not easy to keep a Husky; that’s how poor Enzo ended up joining the family earlier this year.
Enzo was kept outside, in the heat, and of course he sickened. Fong heard about him, arranged for his convalescence and finally took him in.
The pictures of Enzo when he was rescued are heartbreaking. He was just a shadow of a dog, with patches of fur missing. Thankfully, he’s now his proper handsome self again.
“Enzo is a bicolour-eyed Husky, with one brown eye and one blue,” Fong points out. “Having these dogs was a fad, from Game Of Thrones. But people bought them and didn’t realise they need super special care.”
And that’s why I’m having tea with my wolf friends, to help spread the message that Huskies are gorgeous but they are exotic pets that most people will find too difficult to cater to.
Keeping a pack isn’t easy, so if you’re tempted, think long and hard whether you can give two huge dogs the lifestyle they need. And if you can’t, then luckily there are pet cafes, right?