My apartment's backyard

My apartment's backyard

Is it irresponsible to keep a big dog in a small home? Not according to Vincent, whose dedication to his Malamute knows no bounds ... and gets a lift from wide open spaces.

May 9, 2019 By Jonathan Bernier

Vincent had dreamed of sharing his life with a white wolf for a long time. The young man, originally from New Caledonia, was living in Australia when he first saw the film Princess Mononoke in which a legendary warrior princess and a wolf goddess navigate the divide between the forces of evil and “civilization” in a precarious, prehistoric time.

In Lachine, Okuri, a Giant Alaskan Malamute, enjoys a life that's divided between city and nature. Early in the mornings he walks with Vincent by the riverside, in a landscape that's open and bright. On Saturdays, he heads to the country with a gang of 4-legged buddies (and their owners, with whom Vincent likes to socialize). There's the expressive-eyed Zara, a 1-year-old Braque bitch, who sprints through the forest at an impressive pace. And there's also Copper, a French bulldog, who bravely tags along.

Okuri isn't the most spirited dog in the group. You might expect him to tear into the distance the moment he's let off the leash. But, he's one of the calmest present. You can feel that he hasn't been desperately awaiting these moments of freedom with pent-up energy, because he gets them so regularly. Okuri trusts Vincent and Vincent returns the favour. And, as soon as they have the opportunity, they head to the mountains, whether it's in the Adirondacks or elsewhere. Vincent has a photo project and Instagram account dedicated to the beautiful open spaces ... in which Okuri thrives.

It goes without saying that Vincent does set a few limits for his dog. He provides a framework which enables Okuri to understand—and map out—his world. According to Vincent, this contributes to his dog's happiness—a healthy combination of authority, routine, tasks to complete and rewards to be earned. And, given the circumstances, it's only natural to throw in a handful of concessions, such as good air conditioning and a constant supply of ice cubes in the summer.

The name Okuri comes from a Japanese legend in which a white wolf comes to the aid of some lost travellers. He shows them the way but if the hikers fall—or should they lose faith—Okuri will turn into a black beast and devour them.

Vincent and Okuri have a similar—though perhaps less dramatic—dynamic. Okuri is Vincent's best friend. Vincent also knows that if he doesn't take good care of him, Okuri can become difficult to handle.

Before the adoption, Vincent read up extensively on the subject. He understood that having a dog like Okuri would be a life-changing decision. Vincent had to convince the breeder to trust him with a puppy—as the breed is renowned for needing a lot of space and exercise.

The daily routine can have its share of challenges—such as going outside at the crack of dawn (or before) for a full hour of exercise in winter when it's minus 30°C. But he doesn't regret a thing. When all's said and done Vincent and Okuri's happiness has nothing to do with the square footage of their apartment. Instead, it's the fruit of their mutual dedication, respect and friendship—with some carefree rolling in the snow. It's as simple as that.

Cover photo: Okuri takes a breather at Forillon National Park in Gaspésie (QC).

Photo 1: Okuri during a hike in the Adirondacks (NY).
Photo 2: Okuri and his family on a river shore while hiking up Mont Nicol-Albert in Gaspésie.

Photos credit: @whitewolf_photos

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