Siberian Huskies: The Howl that Sounds Human

Life without a dog is a little too quiet. There’s not enough distraction, random requests to go outside or impulsive face licks. I’ve had dogs for most of my life and when not, I tend to overemote on the ones I find at friend’s house or on walks.

When our youngest son was 3 and the eldest 7, we decided to adopt a rescue dog. We came across a dog adoption website that rescued Huskies from homelessness in northern Quebec. I’m not sure why northern Quebec had an overabundance of Huskies walking the roads alone, but they did.

We met our first Husky Faelan under the kitchen table of her foster parent’s house. She’s a Husky-German Shepard mix with incredible light blue eyes and a black and tan coat. She was quite small, skinny and very skittish, never staying too long to be pet or chatted up. Rescues aren’t sure what to make of new people. Friend or foe are the two categories people fall into, the latter being the default setting.

The first day she came home my husband took her for a walk to pick up our sons at school. About halfway down the street she decided she didn’t like the collar, leash or living with us apparently. So, in three swift moves she backed out of the collar, turned in the opposite direction and took off.

This was my husband’s first dog …. he’d owned her for about an hour and now he had to tell his kids she was gone. Devastation all around. I hopped in a taxi and raced home from downtown Toronto.

Faelan the Siberian husky in the houseSeveral hours later when we were hoarse-throated and desolate, we finally found her in one of our neighbor’s backyard. She was over the thrill of escape by then and allowed us to corner her and take her home. Since then she’s been a model of obedience. That might have to do with our extreme introduction, but she comes whenever we call her and hasn’t run away since. I suspect this also has something to do with the food, bones, beds and love.

Fast forward eight years later and we’re sitting around the kitchen table with too much time on our hands after New Year’s 2016. I start looking at Kijiji postings for dogs. OK Huskies. OK this one-year-old black & white Husky downtown who’s free and needs a new home. They named her Pearl. Ugh, what a terrible name. No worries, we can change that. Piper will be her new, better name.

We interviewed with the family giving her away and within a few days we had a new pure-bred Husky bounding around the house. By the way, they do literally bound. This dog may look like it’s built for speed when you see them on dog sled teams, but that must be the pack-mentality because on their own, Huskies tend to jump up and down. Their first instinct is to go vertical not horizontal.

One thing we really like about the breed is they don’t bark much. They will bark when the doorbell rings and properly scare whoever is on the other side, but that’s about it. I had no idea they had another octave. “What do you mean another octave?” you say. Oh yes, there’s more.

We didn’t hear it at first. When we’re home, she’s the picture of happiness. Great with kids, fun, loyal and high energy but not exhausting. We heard about the noise one day from our neighbor who runs her chiropractic practice from her house. She asked us if Piper was okay. Sure, she’s fine, settling in. Mostly we were just adjusting to the double dose of fur floating around the house. Our neighbor said, “Hmmm, ok. She barks a lot when you’re not home. It sounds like she’s really upset.” Like most parents, of dogs or kids, that makes sense. You’re not there. The world is a less amazing place. Logical.

Faelan the Siberian Husky in the snowIt wasn’t until Piper started to beg to sit outside during the winter that things started to head south. Winter in Canada is usually a snowy affair and minus 10, 15, 20 degrees Celsius is not unusual. Husky’s are basically an advertisement for the north. Snow doesn’t bother them. They prefer it. When we’re home Piper and Faelan will ask to sit outside in the snow and watch the neighborhood walk by. They have other dog friends and enemies. It’s a regular doggie soap opera out there.

Not long after we got her, I went back to work, and the kids and Dad were still at home, vacationing. The dogs were outside, also vacationing I thought.

A knock comes at the door. It’s the SPCA (The Society for the Protection of Cruelty to Animals). In Canada, that’s short for animal police. They asked to come inside the house as there’s been a complaint. Wow, my husband let’s them in and tries not to get upset.

It seems one of our neighbors is worried we may not be taking care of the dogs because they are outside in winter and the black and white one (Piper) howls like she is being murdered. “I’m sorry, what?!”

Apparently, Piper had been serenading the neighborhood with her scream/howl which hits several octaves above C at times and was romping through the snowbanks unchecked. (She did have a lead on, it’s just hard to see in the snow. Note to self: buy fluorescent dog lead.)

After spending a few minutes with the SPCA talking about the dogs, showing them the house with its collection of dog toys and beds (plural) bigger than our own, our government subsidized visitor left satisfied we are responsible pet parents. They told us the breed is not generally well understood by the public. Huskies can be depended on to love snow, howling and their people, not necessarily in that order.

Disaster averted but lesson learned. You cannot control what others think but managing the Husky opera is more important than good fences when it comes to neighbors.