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Group catering to huskies and malamutes gather at Plainfield dog park

PLAINFIELD – More than 30 happy clowns of the canine kingdom cavorted at a Plainfield dog park on a recent overcast Saturday afternoon.

But wait! Only one breed was careening within the fence line: Siberian huskies. Where were the Labradors? The collies? The German shepherds?

Will County, say hello to H2M2Nation, or Husky Huddle and Malamute Mingle.

Social media has created both digital and analog sites for Northern breed dog owners longing for a playdate with like-minded caretakers who understand that these dogs like to play, well, “ruff.”

H2M2 is a website and Facebook group. There are 13,450 members in the United States and Canada. You can find a group in 38 states; 12 states have multiple groups, according to the creator, Franz Gonzalez, who started it all several years ago in Colorado.

Most of the growth has been in the last year. The Illinois group started last September and now boasts more than 240 members, according to Lisa Jacobs of LaGrange, an Illinois pack leader.

Why a group just for huskies and malamutes? Website H2/ said Huskies and malamutes have “a unique way” of playing with other dogs. “They love to roughhouse, chase and wrestle. We know and understand it as ‘friendly’ Northern breed play.”

There’s a group for everyone out there. And this one is for me.

I adopted Frosty, my husky, seven years ago when she was 6 and quickly learned she was unlike other dogs. She runs away any chance she gets. When she was younger, she played aggressively at dog parks, which was not always welcomed. She needed plenty of exercise. I read a few books, talked to a few husky owners, but I sure could have used something like H2M2.

H2M2 is not just about huddles, but also breed awareness, education, rescues, reuniting lost dogs with owners, animal cruelty laws, fund-raisers, hikes and mushing.

Stephanie McGowan of Joliet, who with her furry Sasha is a Hammel Woods Dog Park regular, told me about the H2M2 playdate at Clow Stephens Dog Park in Plainfield.

Since then, I’ve embraced this wonderful new world of funny photos and videos and salutations from people who tackle the same challenges, because as the website says, “These breeds are not for everyone.”

That Saturday at Clow Stephens Dog Park, I saw my cheerful Hammel Woods buddy, Patty Setina, and learned her husky, Bandit, had just died. But her Raven is still going strong.

Amanda Clow of Aurora, fur mom of Shila, said this was their first visit to a dog park.

“She’s all talk,” Clow confided as Shila anxiously waited outside the fence for a few minutes with her fur mom. Once inside, both did well.

It was interesting watching Jacobs walk her three energetic pups into the dog park. They would have been walking me. Jacobs, a husky mom for 17 years, said she’s no expert, but I disagree.

“Dogs like to learn,” Jacobs simply said. “They want to be trained.”

Jacobs volunteers at Raven’s Haven Husky Rescue in Sycamore where she acquired most of her husky knowledge. Still, I noticed even Jacobs has challenges.

For instance, her newest rescue, Ace, jumped the fence while everyone else was playing and she had to run him down. And her Sheriff was in a timeout almost immediately.

If Jacobs feels if she isn’t strict with her three dogs, chaos would rule. Her dogs must sit before eating, getting leashed, going out or going into the park. Those rules show Jacobs is pack leader. The huskies eat and play because Jacobs said they can. They’re never confused about who is in charge.

H2M2 is not against breeding dogs, if properly done, but “most of our members are involved in rescue,” Jacobs said.

“Adopting is a commitment,” she added. “A person needs to do some soul searching to understand it’s a process and to realize it isn’t going to be a walk in the park.”

I learned Ace had been found as a stray, kept for four months, taken to one rescue then transferred to Raven’s where he was adopted and returned twice. That instability created one anxious pup. Introducing Ace into a family that already had two huskies involved a few scuffles as they sorted out pack order.

“I keep things tight and equal training-wise amongst all three of the dogs,” Jacobs said.

As for my own comedian, Frosty? Unfortunately, at 13, she’s now a sedate senior citizen. She walked the fence line at the meet-up and engaged in some butt sniffing but she didn’t respond to play bows. She was there for people to admire and pet.

Which just goes to show there’s something for everyone at a H2M2 playdate.


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