THE LIFE OF LUKA: PART TWO: THE BREED

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  Four Year Old Norwegian Elkhound Luka Romeo (I'll explain the name in a moment)

Four Year Old Norwegian Elkhound Luka Romeo (I'll explain the name in a moment)

Below are the most common traits that describe Luka Romeo to a "T."  Most articles I researched are identical and highly representative of this truly amazing breed. Everything I have ever learned about these dogs is applicable to Luka - smart, playful, delightful, sense of humor, loyal, highly energetic, and extremely loud. If you are thinking of ever getting a Norwegian Elkhound as a pet, I am warning you, they are very, very loud barking attention- seeking dogs.  That's part of the fun. Unbelievable sense of smell and hearing.  Fantastic "alarm" dogs, but they are so amenable and kind that if a burglar were to gain access into your house, the Norwegian Elkhound would rather befriend the intruder.  The Elkhound certainly wouldn't bite anyone.  Biting and attacking humans just isn't in their DNA.  They think they are your children, brothers, or sisters.  

The "angriest" I ever see Luka is when I try to get into bed and he has to move. He doesn't growl, he just kind of grunts like an old man who is asked to get out of his chair or being stepped over in a church pew.  Kind of a low gruff sound like.  Definitely not threatening.  More old man than young studly dog.

  The AKC "perfect" Norwegian Elkhound features.  Notice the curly tail.  One "tail tale" I read when we got Luka was that because Norwegian Elkhounds are used mostly in the winter as hunters and sled dogs in terribly cold climates, ancient lore explains that their tales would become overladen and frozen with snow. So, their owners started tying their tails to their backs eventually creating a breed with a curly tail that rests on the dogs back.  That's a myth, but I have no proof otherwise of the veracity of this story.  Luka's tail certainly fits that description.  Also, notice how thick the coat is around the dog's neck.  Elkhounds have extremely thick fur, and the fur around the neck protects the Elkhound from being hurt around the neck in the event the dog is attacked - as most animals attack the other animals neck first.  

The AKC "perfect" Norwegian Elkhound features.  Notice the curly tail.  One "tail tale" I read when we got Luka was that because Norwegian Elkhounds are used mostly in the winter as hunters and sled dogs in terribly cold climates, ancient lore explains that their tales would become overladen and frozen with snow. So, their owners started tying their tails to their backs eventually creating a breed with a curly tail that rests on the dogs back.  That's a myth, but I have no proof otherwise of the veracity of this story.  Luka's tail certainly fits that description.  Also, notice how thick the coat is around the dog's neck.  Elkhounds have extremely thick fur, and the fur around the neck protects the Elkhound from being hurt around the neck in the event the dog is attacked - as most animals attack the other animals neck first.  

The Norwegian Elkhound is alert, bold, loyal, and friendly. Although some may be somewhat reserved with strangers, it will greet family and friends it knows with enthusiasm. Docile, trustworthy and energetic, they are good child companions. Like other Arctic dogs, the Norwegian Elkhound has a mind of its own and is fairly independent, however it is affectionate with its family, neighbors, visitors, and friends. They have an outstanding character, and are relatively clean compared to some other breeds. Can be somewhat difficult to obedience train. It is important to be firm with this dog, showing good pack leadership.  They are also very highly respectable to other dogs.  

  Luka and his sister Cassandra waiting for "Mom" to come home from work

Luka and his sister Cassandra waiting for "Mom" to come home from work

They need firm, but gentle discipline. A natural watch and guard dog. This breed needs/loves to roam and bark. They were bred to be hunters who hold their prey at bay, barking at it constantly until the hunter arrives. If their barking becomes obsessive they must be taught enough is enough after they alert you once, it's time to quiet down.  Elkhounds are hunters and should not be trusted alone with small non-canine pets such as hamsters, pet rats, mice, or guinea pigs: however, some have been known to get along with them when the owners worked at communicating to the dog that the small pet was alpha over them. They most definitely get along with cats of the family if the cat permits. (Luka and his "sister" Fizzle - seen in last week's article - are great buddies). Without enough mental and/or physical exercise they can become high strung. Be sure to make the dog heel when on a walk beside or behind you, never in front, to reinforce the human is alpha over the dog; pack leader goes first. (Dog Breed Information Center)

Luka doesn't hunt moose or elk.  None of these reside in Moon Township.  But he loves to chase deer (yes, all you bubble people living in Mt. Lebanon - MOON TOWNSHIP ALSO HAS A DEER PROBLEM, but our supervisors are a kinder, more gentle folk who don't see it necessary to kill them).  The deer that come out of the woods behind our house kind of get out of his way, snort at him as if to laugh at him having a "you can't catch us little guy" attitude.

When we first moved to Moon, we had deer regularly visiting our backyard (every night a small herd would congregate in our yard).  Luka, having radar ears (another Elkhound trait) would hear the deer, begin barking, I would let him out the back door, and he would chase the deer out of backyard.  The deer would "casually" jump over our backyard fence with ease, knowing just how fast enough to get out of Luka's way. 

In fact (again, note to Mt. Lebanon deer hunters) Luka is well-liked by our neighbors because his very presence deters deer from even trying anymore to come into our yard or our neighbors' yards. The deer are just too tired of being chased off the property by Luka. Other dogs bark. Luka takes care of business.  It's become his job.  

And honestly, Luka wouldn't know what to do with a deer if he did indeed catch one, although he loves to hunt moles, mice, squirrels, and chipmunks.  He has been known to dig for hours when he comes upon some kind of critter hole.  Tirelessly scratching and digging trying to catch the little things, which he rarely does.

  Luka is such a great companion and so well behaved, he has even come with me to golf outings - notice that he, like humans, must wear a collared golf shirt on the course.  Etiquette matters in golf. Luka advertises Ping and Taylormade golf attire. His favorite.

Luka is such a great companion and so well behaved, he has even come with me to golf outings - notice that he, like humans, must wear a collared golf shirt on the course.  Etiquette matters in golf. Luka advertises Ping and Taylormade golf attire. His favorite.

As I explained in part one of this story about my best friend, I explained that he was a rescue dog.  During my wife and son's obsessive search for a dog, we were shopping at the huge flea market in Rogers, Ohio (if you've never been there, it's a must see).  Thousands of vendors and thousands of people - extremely kitschy - but their home grown fruit, vegetables, variety of meats, and sweets are out of this world.  A collection of food vendors at this level doesn't exist anywhere close to Pittsburgh.  In addition, you can find anything from brand named toothpaste for 50 cents a large tube to "As Seen on TV" items - a permanent vendor sells every television-advertised item.

Here I go:  Digressing, again.  When will I stop? I can't.  There's just too much to tell, and the corniness factor of this really is cool - pure Americana at it's best.  Some of the "As Seen On TV" items you would find at Rogers (BTW, cheaper than purchasing them at a retail store or on television). Looking through all these items is fun.  I know most of you are looking at the "Curl-A-Dog", "The Waving Flag", and the "Chillow".  You know you could use any of these items.  Of course, you could live perfectly fine without them, but why would anyone not own a "Pop Up Bungalow Pet Bed" or "Rake Hands?" And of course all of us need desperately every item that slices, dices, cubes, and minces.  A must in all American households.  How could we feed our families without some of these items?  I guarantee I would find an XPro Expandable Hose in most of your garages.  I know I would.

The Rogers Ohio flea market, which is only 40 minutes directly West of Pittsburgh is a huge vendors' market selling new, not so new, and very old (some antique) "stuff" and also has a collection of "breeders" who sell animals - cats, dogs, ferrets, mice,  etc....  Since Eastern Ohio has a large Amish and Mennonite population (again, their fresh vegetables and food stuffs are delicious), some sell animals for profit.  

Buyer beware:  Extremely important note regarding the purchasing of dogs and cats at Rogers and anywhere, for that matter. Most of the vendors are caring animal lovers, but some of the more despicable sellers are trying to unload poor creatures from puppy mills.   Make sure if you do go to Rogers and purchase an animal, the animal is healthy.  Also, make sure you get the name, phone number, address, and email address of the vendor.  If they don't want to give out that information, walk away. 

That's how we found Luka.  Luka was a one year old dog that caught our eye right away. We had never seen this particular type of dog before.  And Luka obviously liked what he saw in us. As soon as we approached his fenced in area, he started jumping up and down, yelling at us, kind of like saying "hey, you two, you want a nice dog?  Buy me. Buy me.  Pleeeaassse.  Buy me now."  I immediately called my son to do some research on this dog, and was pleased to find that they only grew roughly to 45 pounds - much better than a German Shepherd and most definitely better than a Rottweiler.  Now was my chance to carve my spot out in the middle of my wife and son's needs.  He looked a little like a small German Shepherd, which would satisfy their needs, but he wouldn't get anywhere near the size of one.  That was an instant plus for me.  Again, if I was the one who was going to take care of this pooch, I had to be appeased a little.  And appeased I was.

I spoke with the sellers, who told us they got the dog from an Amish family, and they told us a little about the breed.  Another buyer beware alert:  Amish are farmers and craftsmen. They are not pet lovers.  I have come to know that the Amish actually view dogs as dogs and not household pets.  Our veterinarian told us that they see Amish dogs all of the time, and these animals usually come with a host of medical issues.  

As did poor Luka when we bought him for $100.  The vendors were selling him for $200, but we were able to persuade him that we only had $100 - which is true - and he settled for that.  

This gorgeous dog breed with the wolf-like face delights in life. Smart as can be, he also has a wonderful sense of humor. He'll race you around the kitchen island, reverse directions when you do, and then howl for sheer fun. Bold, energetic, and protective, he makes an excellent watchdog and guardian. Elkhounds are utterly devoted to their families. When you're upset, this tenderhearted Viking will plop his head on your lap. (American Kennel Club)

The Norwegian Elkhound is one of the ancient Northern Spitz-type breed of dog and is the National Dog of Norway. The Elkhound has served as a hunter, guardian, herder, and defender. It is known for its courage in tracking and hunting moose (or elk) and other large game, such as bear or wolf.  The Norwegian Elkhound was first presented at a dog exhibition in Norway in 1877.

The AKC breed name "Norwegian Elkhound" is a direct translation from its original Norwegian name Norsk Elghund, meaning "Norwegian moose dog." The breed's object in the hunt is to independently track down and hold the moose at bay—jumping in and out toward the moose, distracting its attention, while signaling to the hunters by barking very loudly—until the hunter who follows the sound can arrive to shoot it. The dog will only bark while the moose is stationary, but it can also slowly drive the moose towards shooters lying in wait. The Norwegian Elkhound is also used on a leash. In this mode of hunting, the dog leads the hunter in the direction of the moose while keeping quiet (American Kennel Club)

Luka came to us with all sorts of medical issues - the main issue was that he had a variety of worms infesting his digestive tract, poor thing was used to having constant diarrhea when we brought him home. We got that fixed right away, and he was fine. He never seemed to care about the digestive issues. I guess he just learned to expect that was the way dogs go to the bathroom. He always had a smile on his face, regardless.

The first thing we noticed about Luka was that he didn't know how to get into a car or walk up or down steps.  He was about a year old, and he should have known how to do this by now. But I would imagine that Luka spent his first years not running through fields, chasing deer, mole, mice and the likes.  Rather, we figured the way he acted when we tried to get him in the car was that he probably spent most of his first years in a crate or cage of some sort.

As I stated in the last article, while driving home, he spent the entire trip curled up on the floor of our car at my wife's feet.  Cute, but kind of sad, knowing that he hadn't experienced this type of life before.  But that soon changed.  

When he got out of the car, he was an instant hit.  Never trying to run away, staying close to us, chasing Cassie and other neighborhood dogs around, chasing neighborhood kids (no biting, mind you - just running).  He wanted to run, and he hasn't stopped running since.

As you may have noticed about the names of all of our other animals in the first article, being an English teacher, I thought, and happily my wife agreed, that we would name our animals after Shakespearean characters:  Caliban (Callie), Portia, Ariel, Caesar, Cassandra (Cassie), Sophia (Sophie).  We didn't get to name Fizzle.  That was my daughter's rebellious doing.

However, with Luka, since he was a strong Norwegian type, we felt he deserved a Viking sounding name - hence Luka.  Now, his middle name is obviously Romeo because he is a lover, indeed not a fighter, and the Romeo middle name satisfied our need to keep Shakespearean names in the family.  

(Digression:  our daughter is named Antonia after a Willa Cather character in the novel My Antonia. Our son Stefan also escaped the literary label because my wife and I both liked Stephen but didn't want a junior, and my wife being of German heritage, Stefan sounded great).

So this is the beginning of our love affair with this dog, er "reincarnated good person."  If reincarnation exists, Luka has earned his right to become a human again.  According to Hinduwebsite.com, Hinduism teaches us "that a soul reincarnates again and again on earth until it become perfect and finds its SOURCE (source being the perfect soul, the first clean, all-knowing, truth).

Luka is on his way.  I never want to lose Luka, but I know even when he does pass, I am sure that this loving dog is going to appear as a great human being somewhere on earth, and the earth will be the better for having this soul in the world.

NEXT UP:  PART THREE - LAST IN THIS SERIES:  THE ANOMALIES OF LUKA