It’s undeniably wintry outside at the moment, so who could possibly be more seasonally appropriate than this fine, furry fella – Duke the Alaskan Malumute?
Having captured the hearts of almost everyone he’s met since he was born on 6th February 2011, Duke – otherwise known as Doodle, Spookle and Doo – has still got plenty of room for more new friends, human or otherwise, inside his own very big heart.
Around ten years ago, his human parents, Gemma and Martin, met a malamute called Diesel who Gemma describes as ‘the most loving and interesting pooch’ and from that moment on they knew that they had to have one in their lives. Unsurprisingly, ever since they brought Duke home to Jersey he has far, far exceeded their expectations.
Originally from Alaska, they’ve been bred for strength and endurance – essential qualities for dogs who work pulling sledges – but here in Jersey Duke’s spent most of his life honing a special skill that his ancestors wouldn’t be familiar with: extreme sleeping. When he isn’t out trotting the lanes of St Martin or watching telly, Duke can generally be found practising his sleeping skills and trying his hardest, but usually failing, to pretend that he has in fact not been sleeping at every conceivable opportunity. To offset this, he’s also capable of leaping from floor to bed on all-fours.
His thick, waxy coat is self-cleaning and despite having never been washed he doesn’t smell more than any other dog would. He does moult at an impressive rate though, leaving Martin and Gemma’s garden looking like it’s just been hit by a snowstorm after a good combing session. This no doubt provides Duke with a little cultural comfort, given his ancestors spent most of their lives surrounded by the stuff. Snow, that is, as well as an abundance of excess fur.
Malamutes are largely independent and extremely intelligent dogs, capable of deciding whether or not your commands are actually worth carrying out, so it isn’t uncommon to notice just a subtle turn of his ear as his name is called while he pretends to be completely oblivious. If there’s food involved though, well – that’s an entirely different story altogether. Sign him up!
As a sideline to both his intelligence and outstanding ability to render himself unconscious at every available opportunity, there are suspicions that the sleeping aspect of his life may in fact be a cover for another special ability that he possesses – ninja-like food theft on a monumental scale. A full tray of freshly baked cakes from the kitchen worktop without so much as making a sound? Easy. An entire Scotch bonnet pepper mid-air as it falls from the fridge, with no ill-effects? All in a day’s work for Duke.
In Alaska, malamutes howl gently to soothe their their tribe’s children, acting as babysitters when they’re not busy pulling sleds, but on this side of the world Duke puts this innate skill to a different use, providing a public service by howling at passing police cars, ambulances and fire engines in the distance to let everybody know that help is on its way. When you think about it, it seems apt, given his pedigree name is ‘Whistle in the Wind’.
As a very patient breed, they’re great with children and other animals, and Duke is no exception to the rule in that respect. Horses are just oversized doggy-friends in his big brown eyes and as of a few weeks ago he also has a fellow furry friend at home, Boris the British Blue cat. While Boris has already asserted his dominance as tsar of the house, undeterred by the new arrival, Duke has spent a fair amount of time nudging him and playing chase, but they both seem relatively unfazed by each other’s presence.
Two things that Duke certainly isn’t a fan of, however, are thunderstorms (which see him huddled between his owners’ pillows and headboard) and lemons. Yes, lemons. If you’ve seen the videos online of cats reacting to cucumbers, Duke’s uncertainty around lemons is similar. Anything else edible is fair game, but lemons? Not a chance. If it’s near constant tickles from his human dad Martin though, he’ll be there in a flash. Not to be confused with a flash of lightning, of course – he most definitely isn’t a fan of those!