MORRIS – Kay Kendzora of Morris was walking her dog, Cheyenne, a 12-year-old mix, when she paused to admire a malamute and chat with the owner.
That owner was a volunteer with Illinois Alaskan Malamute Rescue Association, who gave Kendzora his card.
When Cheyenne died, Kendzora called the number and adopted Kimmie. A “good Samaritan” had picked up the pregnant Kimmie after someone had pushed her out of a car, Kendzora said. Kimmie’s six healthy puppies moved to permanent homes and Kimmie eventually received her Canine Good Citizen title from the American Kennel Club.
“She’s been to a nursing home in Morris and she pulls the kids when we go to Frankfort for the sled pulls,” Kendzora said. “On ‘store days’ when we set up tables and pass out leaflets, she does little tricks for people, like giving her paw.”
Alaskan malamutes are not for everyone, said Pat Kral of Wilmington, vice president of IAMRA, a 100 percent volunteer nonprofit organization that rescues these, as its website states, “magnificent breeds.”
Kral said Alaskan malamutes were bred to be active; many require five miles of exercise each day. Owners hoping for a “couch potato” that yearns only to be petted and lie on the carpet should seek out another breed.
“It’d probably eat the carpet,” Kral said.
According to its website, IAMRA is an affiliate of the Alaskan Malamute Assistance League, a recognized rescue of the Alaskan Malamute Club of America. IAMRA rescues dogs from most states, sets them up in foster and adoptive homes and addresses behavioral issues.
“People sign an agreement that, if for any reason, they cannot keep a dog, they have to return him to us,” Kral said. “They just can’t give it to a friend or a shelter.”
IAMRA currently has six foster parents, 40 volunteers and more than 600 people on its Yahoo group page, a resource for any owners with questions or concerns about their Alaskan malamutes. Dogs waiting for adoption, up to 21 at one time, temporarily live at a private kennel.
“The lady that owns it has just been great,” Kral said. “With donations from all the members, she built a great big play yard out there. We maintain it and she rotates the dogs in and out when she cleans their cages. Volunteers go to help clean up, walk the dogs and brush the dogs.”
According to the IAMRA website, adoption fees range from $100 (for senior dogs) to $250 (for purebred puppies). That barely touches the $750 IAMRA pays for spaying or neutering, heartworm test and monthly preventative medication, vaccinations and microchip.
Prospective owners must complete an application and then agree to a phone interview, home check and allowing IAMRA to select their dogs.
“We decide which dogs are best for their families,” Kral said.
Dogs that never become adopted live in permanent foster homes. This is a good option for people who want an Alaskan malamute but cannot afford its care, as IAMRA pays for all costs, including food and medical care, Kral said. To that end, IAMRA is quite active.
“We do a lot of fundraisers,” Kendzora said.
These include auctions, a winter sled demo in January and a “malawalk” in September. Individuals wishing to support an Alaskan malamute without actually owning one can sponsor a dog ($20 monthly donation) or become a spay-neuter (a one-time $100 donation) or microchip sponsor (a one-time donation of $35), according to the IAMRA website.
“Even donations of $5, $10 or $15 helps us,” Kral said.
Helping these dogs means sharing amazing stories, such as Argonne, who lived three weeks on a golf course and eluded rescue attempts. Journey, who hailed from Kentucky, went from an emaciated 30 pounds to a healthy 70 under IAMRA’s care. The antsy Mr. Bojangles ran away from his adoptive parents’ home and Kendzora joined the search party.
“Even after they’re adopted,” Kendzora said, “we don’t forget about them.”
Some of the nine malamutes in Kral’s life have included Sonny, who died at 14, and Beaugeste Snowshoes Carey, who died at 15, both after their hips gave out. Kral currently owns Shelah, 13, a blue-eyed malamute; Tara Shorty; and Izzy, 4, a mix.
So for owners not minding if their dogs won’t cooperate in fetch but will happily dig up yards, or dogs that will abandon their owner for the first person offering a cheeseburger, Kral said, an Alaskan malamute is a good choice.
“They’re not easy to train,” Kral said, “but they’ll keep you laughing and on your toes.”
For information, visit www.iamra.org or find Illinois Alaskan Malamute Rescue Association on Facebook.