By now I know the answer’s always in the question

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I’ve just sent the invoice for three chapters that I wrote for inclusion in a biochemistry textbook. It isn’t a heap of money, but it is the most I’ve ever been paid for writing. It always feels good making money for doing something that I love. Not that it is that common, mind, but nonetheless. Feels good. I think, in fact, that it was the exercise of structured, paid writing that allowed me to catch the blog bug again. When I stopped putting it off and made the time to sit down and write, I thoroughly enjoyed it and wanted to keep writing after my task for the day was done. Hence, the recent burst of blogging.

A part of my was a little sad when I mailed off that invoice today. I want to keep going, keep writing. The problem is that blogging isn’t satisfying me this time around. It all seems a little trivial, a bit of vanity writing. Sound and fury. I need something ‘real’ to write. That was what made the textbook writing so satisfying – the fact that it is going to be published in old school book form, that undergraduate students are going to be forced to buy it and that maybe, just maybe, it will help someone learn something useful. Unlikely, I know, but a guy can dream.

I want to write something real. But what? I love reading fiction but can’t fathom writing it and, as a friend in publishing told me – ‘nobody wants fiction from new authors, fiction doesn’t sell.’ Nonfiction it is then. But what to write and, more importantly, when? I knocked out 20,000 words in a week by taking some days away from work, but I knew that there was a payday at the end. I’m not sure I could convince Dr. O’C to get the kids out of the house on a Sunday afternoon on a whim. A fantasy.

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On a tangentially related note, today is the first official day of summer.  I’m going back to four days a week at work over the next few months to get some time with the boys and so Dr. O’C can go back to work full time. I’ve stored up enough leave time to take every Wednesday from today through the end of February home with the boys. For the first year or so we were in Oz, I did that and generally enjoyed the time I had with Boy Z. Then Not Max came along and Dr. O’C was on maternity leave and my work got a bit out of control. And, to be honest, I was a bit scared to deal with the two of them on my own. But we’re doing OK today. We’ve spent the morning messing with marsupials and the boys have been charitable enough to take good long naps simultaneously. I reckon they realise I’m out of my league, here.

Behind you, mate!

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This is a public service announcement…with guitar!

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On Good Friday, an eight year old boy in the Sydney suburbs was attacked and bitten in the face by his neighbours’ 18 month old Siberian husky. He required plastic surgery to repair deep gashes on his left cheek, nose and lips. This story sent a chill of recognition down my spine as did the photo of the little boy who had been attacked. What is more upsetting is that these are not isolated incidents. A couple of weeks ago a group of huskies attacked and killed a four year old boy in Pangnirtung, Canada. A 3-month-old Nebraska boy suffered broken ribs after being attacked by a Siberian Husky in 2009. In 2007, a baby in Perth was plucked from its cot and killed by the family’s pet Siberian husky.  Between 1982 and 2006, huskies or husky mixes were responsible for over 30 reported attacks on children in the U.S. and Canada. Only pit bulls (duh), rottweilers, chows, German shepherds and akitas more frequently bit kids.

In that last report, it is pointed out that huskies – unlike the more aggressive dogs – almost never attack adults. They are referred to as a special case, with most of the attacks occuring in regions where the dogs are kept in packs, often without regular human supervision – as with the death in Canada last week.

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But that wasn’t the case in Sydney, Perth, Nebraska or here in Adelaide. Huskies are not considered an aggressive breed and I don’t think they are, despite these news stories. They’re pack animals and require a firm understanding of pack hierarchy. For huskies that are family pets, the pack is that family. I think that the reason that most husky attacks are on children, especially young children, is that the addition of children disrupts the dogs’ pack structure. They are confused and they try to restore the pack hierarchy. They lash out, without understanding the inevitable repercussions of attacking a human child.

One of the Sydney husky’s owners said that the dog was “fine usually”. So was ours. Outside of the typical puppy nipping and occasional playful roughhousing, our husky never bit anybody. Never would. He sat idly by while someone broke into our house in Oxford in the middle of the night. He was remarkably well trained for his breed and I had worked hard on that training. I know how to train a dog. We did all the things right when the kids started to come – didn’t leave the dog alone with them, mediated dog-child interactions and on and on. Even when my husky attacked my little boy, they weren’t alone together. They were on a beach with four other responsible adults. It happened in a millisecond.

We’re very, very lucky. We’re lucky it wasn’t worse – that Boy Z isn’t dead or didn’t require plastic surgery. We’re lucky we didn’t make the news. We’re lucky not to be a statistic in some report about dog attacks.

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I want another dog. Boy Z wants another dog. But when the time comes, it won’t be a husky. Nor will it be any of those Nordic working dogs. I can’t trust them again. I’ve seen what they’re capable of, seen how they can turn in a moment. They’re too closely related to wolves. It was the lupine characteristics of the breeds that drew me to them in the first place and unfortunately it is the lupine characteristics of the breeds that lead them to occasionally attack children.

I guess the point of this post is to serve as a warning – Siberian huskies are not, by nature, aggressive. But they are dangerous to children. And I don’t think enough people know that. I didn’t know that, and I’d owned huskies for over a decade. If you’re a husky owner and you’re anticipating starting a family or have recently started a family – do not trust your dog(s) with your children. I know you think your dog is different. I thought my dog was different. I knew about the Perth attack before my son was born. My dog seemed fine with my sons. But my dog wasn’t different. No matter how gentle and harmless he seemed, there was a wolf inside of him the same way that there is a wolf inside your dog. Maybe your dog is different, but is it worth the risk?

Don’t trust your husky with your children. Don’t leave them alone together. Don’t let your dog off lead in the presence of the children even if you are there. I’m not saying to get rid of your husky if you have kids, though in our case everyone (dog included) might have been better of if we had re-homed the dog before our kids were born. For your sake, for your children’s sake, for your dog’s sake: do not trust your husky with your children.