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With a Spielberg television show and Eminem music video in the books, Mikey is a leading actor for canine roles that require a wolfy touch.
His handlers, Terri Wemigwans and her husband, Richard, run Native Canines, a small DeWitt business dedicated to the Czechoslovakian Wolfdog, or Vlcak (pronounced vul-chuck) for short.
“I don’t want this to come across like someone should get one,” said Terri Wemigwans. “It is a full-time job just socializing them.”
Wemigwans brings decades of experience dealing with wolfdogs and animal handling. “I worked with wolfdog agencies all around the United States for 30- some years and was the vice president, or president, of many wolf organizations and rescues.”
Her yard is fenced in with three acres of land for her Vlcaks to exercise in. They require constant discipline, are terrible puppies and challenge trainers constantly because of their high degree of intelligence.
“They don’t belong in everyone’s hands.
This is the most primitive breed of dog in the world.”
This breed wasn’t created for its wolfy looks. “They were created to be a working dog by the Iron Curtain,” Wemigwans said. In 1955, the Soviet-era Czech Republic conducted experiments mating Carpathian wolves with German shepherds to procure a breed with the strength of a wolf and temperment of a dog for military uses. These experiments continued into the ‘80s with mixed results.
“Some Vlcaks to this day are in service, but they were not the superdogs the military wanted to create.”
The bond of the animal to its specific trainer was problematic, Wemigwans said.
“If you were the trainer, raised this dog and sent this dog off to another trainer to take over, it wouldn’t mind them at all,” she said. The best ability of a Vlack is its tracking, Wemigwans added.
Michigan law expressly prohibits wolf hybrids of any sort with the Wolf/Dog Hybrid Act 246 of 2000.
However, the Vlcak is a verified dog breed despite its wild past. The AKC recognizes it as a working dog, while the UKC and FCI recognizes it as a herding dog.
Mikey is a showline of the Vlcak. “He is very professional in Vlcak terms.
I’m talking a sound-thinking very intelligent animal. He loves work, meeting people and is a rock solid choice to play a wolf or wolfdog,” Wemigwans said.
“He can run in traffic, walk on escalators and go into parties with 500 people he’s never met.”
He is not a trick dog, Wemigwans said. “It is very rare to find that wolfy of a look with a dog that can hold himself in a professional manner.”
Though training is instrumental to this, Wemigwans credits Mikey’s genetics as well.
“He is from breeders with really good stock with verified pedigrees and temperaments.”
Getting a call to do the video for Yelawolf ’s song “Best Friend,” which features Eminem, music video was exhilarating, Wemigwans said.
“Marshall Mathers and Yelawolf know they changed our life. I got back and got ‘Minority Report,’ where Mikey was hired by Steven Spielberg.”
It was a unique role, because it called for a vlcak specifically in the show canon, instead of the usual wolf request.
Mikey is filming in an adaptation of Jack London’s "Son of the Wolf," with Wemigwans tagged on as a producer.
“These animals give me everything.
They changed my life and are my passion. People have an idea of what a wolf dog is and Mikey can show that he is not only a balanced animal, but a trustworthy animal and wonderful canine citizen.”