(5 January 1988 - 21 December 2001)
This tribute was written by my husband upon the passing of our beloved Nikki
The story of my Puppy-kins;
.... the spawn of Satan.
In the beginning......In 1987 I met the woman who would become my wife. It wasn't long before I proposed and she accepted, as her wedding gift to me, she bought me a puppy.
This wasn't just any puppy - she was a Siberian Husky and for those of you blessed to have owned one of these kind, gentle, intelligent and yes often devious creatures no more need be said. For those of you who have never had your lives and hearts touched by one of these 'sled-dogs' these remembrances might give you some insight into the type of animal we are talking about.
I had always found Siberians to be incredibly beautiful animals. Known for their piercing blue eyes they look a bit like wolves and were bred as working sled-dogs.
My wife knew of my fascination with these creatures - and one day while walking the mall we saw in a pet store the most beautifully Sable (black and white) colored baby husky.
She was a performer....She sat in her little cage behind glass and howled. With each eerie moan her muzzle would point skyward. She wouldn't stop there - as the howl became more lonesome, her head would continue to tilt backwards until - with all the force of an unstoppable object she fell over onto her back. She would stop moaning, her face covered with the look of shock and then quickly jump back to the sitting position. She would look briefly out through her cage and the glass protecting it - presumably to see if she caught someone's attention - and then return to the howl eventually ending up on her back.
We watched her for what seemed hours, giggling, laughing and falling in love. When the owner of the pet store asked if we wanted to play with her - we simply told them that we wanted to buy her.
This began what would be almost thirteen years of never ending love, devotion, curiosity and a number of bills to replace things which were destroyed in her playful puppy years. Our lives would never be the same again.
She was destructive....We spent what was obviously way too much money, on way too many things when we bought her. Things that she would sumarily chew, destroy, and leave for new items which violated the sanctity of our home and posed threats to both life and limb. Those things included bits of carpet, an armrest to a couch, an extremely expensive (and obviously threatening) doggie pillow and other such dangerous creatures lurking in our various homes and apartments. Really - you haven't lived in amazement until you return home and finding what looks like snow in your living room only to discover that somehow a five pound puppy pulled a fifty pound couch to the center of a room and summarily eviscerated the evil beast - which also happens to be the only piece of furniture you own.
We hadn't decided on an appropriate name to register with American Kenel Club - but seeing what her first act of defiance was, my wife (knowing Russian) determined that the proper name would be.... Nakidka (nah-KEED-kah), Russian: Couch Cover.
She was an alcoholic ......We had a simple wedding at the county courthouse with only a handful of friends, immediately following which we held a wedding reception at our apartment. We invited only a few close friends - but to our amazement word had spread around our offices. Friends and colleagues seemed to pour in from everywhere each bringing gifts, alcohol, and good tidings. One person splurged for a keg of beer which we placed out on our deck. We all were slightly disturbed at the workmanship of the tap, because even though it was being 'primed' throughout the night - it seemed to constantly need pumping. However, soon after someone had filled their glass and returned to the party we heard sounds of laughter and someone was pointing at the keg. You see our small innocent little creature after observing the attendees had discovered that by press the tap release with her muzzle she was rewarded with a cool and refreshing liquid, which once finished dispensing could be magically available again if she waited for a 'human' to fix the damn thing. She had to be constantly watched because the little alcoholic kept heading out to the deck every time someone refilled their glass.
She loved attention.....Even though she was a bit sloshed - she still loved to gain favor of her audiences by performing her tricks. The one which garnered her the most favor was the ability to respond to military commands, and her best trick was the 'low-crawl'. It was a hit at our wedding reception, even though she was only a few months old she seemed to take great pleasure in the accolades she received when she performed this feat.
She loved caffeine ......In the years that followed, Nikki discovered coffee. You see, since my wife both worked rotating shifts in the military we got hooked on the substance. We drink coffee like there is no tomorrow. Mine black - hers with sugar and cream.
Well, Nikki discovered that when my wife made coffee it took a few minutes for the liquid to cool down. Giving it the appropriate time, Nikki would then stand up and get Nova (our other husky) excited. She would then announce that they had to go outside. My wife would dutifully take them out and Nikki would rush to completion (knowing that Nova took a little more time sniffing around). Nikki would then run back to the door to be let in - following which she would head straight for my wife's coffee with was always on the coffee table in front of the couch.
At first, my wife just assumed that while doing whatever she was doing - she had drank more coffee than she realized. Soon however during one of the aforementioned excursions we caught the evil nabster with her tongue in the coffee cup, so to speak.
Other such 'addictions' led to her finicky eating habits which, consisted almost entirely of 'human' food. Near the end - only human food from human plates. Her favorite foods included hot-dogs, spaghetti, rump roast (thinly sliced and well done), deli-sliced roast beef, ham, chicken and chicken cutlets (battered). This eating disorder in the early years spawned yet another affectionate name for her - "waddle-in dog" because she got so fat her backside waddled from left to right as she walked back into the house.
She was an acrobat......After bringing her home for the first time, it wasn't long as two working 'parents' that we discovered the necessity of housetraining. You see, we kept her in a small bathroom during the times when we were both away - and upon our return there were poopy puppy paw prints everywhere. And I don't mean just on the floor. They were on the tub, in the tub and even up the tile walls to nearly shoulder level - and I'm 6'1". We couldn't figure out how she did that - until later. So we made a determined effort to house train her.
She was a D-O-G dog!, (you stupid humans.....)We placed a small ball with a bell inside (a cat toy) on a string and attached it to the doorknob. Every time we took her outside we would stop at the door and use her nose to push or tap on the ball with her muzzle. Though she was quite intelligent - we couldn't figure out why she refused to be housetrained. Then one day she simply went to the door and ripped the entire contraption off the doorknob, tossed it aside and looked at us through the corner of her eyes as if to say "Hey! Stupid humans, I am a dog D-O-G dog and this is a cat toy.
She was demanding......With the wretched cat bell summarily destroyed, she would go to the door to announce that we were to immediately drop what we are doing to take her outside. This was accomplished by her "mooing". She would walk to the door and pronounce "Owwwt". When she wanted water, she would stand at her bowl and demand "WAAWAAA". During one of the rare times when we had guests, she became a little miffed when we were not providing her with the undivided attention she so richly deserved from the humans living in her house. Despite her pronouncements to go Owwwt, we callously ignored her. To remedy that situation, she leapt onto the love-seat, next to one of our guests, and peed on it. From then on, we took her seriously.
We soon learned that our entire existence was solely for the purpose of serving her, feeding her (only the best dog foods), petting her and paying attention to her. Other activities we were involved in were not allowed when the queen demanded attention. To ignore her meant the claws of death!!!! Touching the Queen's feet (even for clipping nails) was not allowed. She had delicate, tender feet that were not to be touched under any circumstance. She soon cultivated some sharply honed nails with which to torture us. If the queen wanted attention and you hesitated… several layers of skin were removed with one swipe of the paw. This garnered her the nickname "Freddie Krueger", and to be swiped meant that you were Kruegered. I have scars to prove it.
Another attention getter was the spontaneous bark. She would just lay there, looking regally at her loyal subjects (us), minding her own business and suddenly let loose with an ear shattering bark of mammoth proportions, and then pretend as though nothing had just happened. "What? No, I didn't do that, but now that you're paying attention, you may pet me now".
As she got older… and fatter (since chasing balls, Frisbees and other toys was beneath her stature), she would lay on her stomach at her food bowl. If the food bowl was not placed immediately in front of her, she would reach out one paw and drag the bowl to where she could lay her head inside and eat. Move the bowl away, paw would snag the bowl and drag it back. Do that too many times, and she would make sure to impale your bare feet with her toenails the next time she happened to be up.
She loved to be dirty and smelly......You have to remember also that this is a dog who despised baths. She hated to take them, to be given them or to have anything to do with them. However, at the first sign of filthy scum filled pond water would run full tilt until she was swimming in the most foul smelling and murky stuff available. Then upon returning she would run right to us wagging her tail and shaking to share the foul smelling substance with us.
She was playful......For her first year or so with us she found great amusement with her water bowl. She took great joy in putting her muzzle into the water and blowing bubbles with her nose.
Her first winter was also a time of great discovery for her. Like many children - as the snow was falling she would try to catch the flakes in her mouth - and once the snow stopped falling if the snow was deep enough - she would push her nose down into the snow on the ground, and using her nose toss it into the air catching it in her mouth as it fell back to the ground. This exercise always left a small pyramid of snow on the tip of her black nose - which we coined as 'Snow-Nose'.
She was protective......As the seasons changed and weather warmed, other creatures entered the house. She was particularly fond of flies. Not watching them but actually stalking and catching them in her mouth and killing them. She eventually moved on to crickets, spiders and other insects. She was constantly doing her part to keep the apartments bug free. And she was damn good at it.
She was a prankster......We soon moved from Maryland to Florida and upon our arrival found another Siberian to buy. This one a male, red and white. As a puppy a year her junior she found great joy in teasing him until he chased her. It was a small apartment but the two dogs could run in circles starting in the living room, through the master bedroom, then the bathroom, the foyer and end up in the living room. After she got him in a full head of steam and if she was far enough ahead of him that he couldn't see what she was doing, she would leap into the bathtub and lay flat. He would pass her by and she would then sit up as if to watch the fun. He would continue to run around the apartment fully believing that she was always just ahead of him.
She sometimes revealed her tricks......When he was too tired to play, she would amuse herself by running in small circles in just the living room getting faster and faster as each circle was complete. The first time we saw this we thought it cute, and we soon discovered the mystery of the poopy puppy paw prints in the bathroom the year before. You see - once she got up enough steam she would run up onto the back of the couch using it as a springboard for faster speed so that she could literally climb the walls. I know this is difficult to believe - that's why I have included a picture or two in the presentation that follows.
Her other talent was levitation (see photo). In her exuberance, she could propel herself straight up to about 6 feet. The came in handy for snatching food straight from our hands prior to it entering our mouths. Her next magical feat was escape and evade.
She was successful......One year, we decided to go to my home (Washington State) for Christmas. We had a friend watch the house and provided him with background, instructions, and cautions. Unfortunately - she got away from him. She was gone for nearly a month. We cut our vacation short to return and look for her. Every day, we patrolled what seemed all of south Florida in search of our baby. For nearly a month we looked, we cried and we prayed for her return. When all hope was gone, all funds expended on adds pleading for her return someone called. They found her. It's very rare once a pet has gone missing for more than a few days that you get them back. We were so happy to finally have her back home - but she was never quite the same. She was now a free loving pack dog. Some of her new habits never left her. But once in a while - her old puppy ways would reveal themselves to us again.
She continues to seek freedom......In 1992 we had moved from Florida, to North Carolina, just missing the hurricane which totally demolished our home on Homestead Air Force Base. We know it was demolished because we saw the foundation on CNN. We counted our blessings - but I digress. In North Carolina we rented a wonderful single family dwelling with a large fenced back yard, a shed and a swing-set. When let out - both she and Nova (the male, Novaya Sobaka) would make their rounds. Walking clockwise along the fence as if to patrol for trespassers. Once satisfied that the area was 'all secure' they would continue about their 'business'.
Nikki for some odd reason would always 'go' behind the shed. We just figured it was that she, being a modest dog, desired privacy during these matters. It wasn't long before we discovered the truth - the vicious little thing must have been watching too many war movies because she was digging a tunnel back there behind the shed. And she would have made too, it if it hadn't been for those bungling humans. She got wiser though, with an escape trick which to this day we still haven't figured out (more later).
She loved television......During these years we had a few more dollars under our belt and could afford some luxuries. One of them was cable TV. Nearly immediately upon having it installed she figured out (I swear) how to work the remote. She would slam her little paws on the thing until she found - Lassie. I'm not kidding. She would sit and watch that show through it's entirety. Once we took the remote away to hide it. To this day we have the remote, and the teeth marks where she chewed it up in revenge.
After North Carolina came Maryland - or should I say we moved back to Maryland. We got out of the service and moved to the DC area for employment and bought our first honest to god real home. A nice split level - a beautiful first home. They both patrolled, and accepted it pronouncing various little nooks and corners theirs (and I mean each of them had their own space and don't you dare trespass upon it.)
She was Houdini - reincarnate ......In the basement, on the back of the house is the unfinished laundry room. The unfinished portion runs the length of the house and so we placed some lockable kennels down there in one corner. The decision to kennel them was difficult. But we were both still working and all the logical arguments made it a sound decision. First, having learned our lessons years before and not wanting our house to be destroyed they needed a place to be secured while we were away. Second, it's important for pets and we wanted to provide them a place of sanctity that they could call their very own. This was a place that we would not even enter. It was a place of solace with their toys, beds, and extra water. A place they could go to be alone, or sleep. However, when we left for extended periods of times - the doors were lockable. To our amazement - upon our return many times we found - her, free, about, roaming the house - yet the cage was still locked and the door closed. At first we thought that perhaps, just perhaps we had locked him up and not her. But in the years to follow we learned this was not the case. Time after time we came home to find her roaming around - laying on the furniture, sleeping in the living room and the cage was locked. It was weighted down, she could not crawl under, the bars to close to crawl through and it remains to this day in one piece as a memento, a reminder, in solitude, of the magic that she gave us.
She was downright humorous ......Every night, for as long as I can remember, we always knew when she was settled for the evening at bed time. We all would go up to the bedroom, climb into our respective sleeping positions, turn out the lights and eventually hear the soft groaning she would let out. A two stage ' M M - M M M M M m mm mm ' which meant that she was settled for the night. In her usual 'cookie' position, wrapped up like a ball with her nose planted firmly under the start of her tail.
She was incredibly gentle and polite ......It never ceased to amaze me how gentle this dog was. Especially since she was often so rambunctious. This same dog, that would steal your coffee when you weren't looking, or 'accidentally' knock a hotdog out of your hands only to swiftly devour it once it hit the floor - was also almost kind to a fault. In her later years she became less and less demanding in regards to the attention paid her. She was happy just to be around. She would lie quietly in a comfortable corner only stirring when she had to go out. To announce this, she would let out a very soft, almost inaudible 'moo' as if to say 'excuse me, but if your not to busy - could you bother to open the door? ' After we found out she was ill (below) we began to feed her whatever she would eat. Often, it involved slicing her food into very small portions and handing it to her. She would pull her lips back, and with her front teeth gently take the food from your hand, barely holding it. Once she was clear of you, she would - well - devour it.
She was forgiving.....Despite the facts that we were totally unprepared for this highly energetic, strong willed, difficult to train breed - she forgave all of our faults. She protected us from infestation. She was always so happy to see us come home at the end of the day that she would literally run in circles - her tail wagging. She pranced her front paws up and down letting out 'moos' and barks every time we fixed her dinner. She was a constant companion, laying by us when we watched TV, worked on the computers, and when we slept.
She became ill ......This year Nikki lost a lot of weight during the summer, falling to below 40 pounds. She became less active, could not keep her food down and was having problems becoming incontinent. We noticed that she began sleeping on cold surfaces (concrete, and the tiled bathroom floor) despite the many comfortable pillows we had set aside for her. Often she appeared to either sleep with her eyes open, or not sleep at all.
We took her to the vet a couple of times, at one occasion the vet took blood to run tests. Her counts came back incredibly off.
Dealing with pet loss...Armed with medication to ease her arthritis (she was now twelve, nearly thirteen) we returned home. We were informed by the doctor that she could go at any time. The end was near and it was inevitable. Perhaps a week - maybe a bit more, and we were warned that the end, when it came, would probably be swift. We found a wonderful on-line support group for grieving pet owners Pet loss . If you are suffering pet illness, impending or recent loss, please check out this site. It has helped immensely.
The time left.......We spent what little time we had left trying to languish every loving affection we possibly could upon her - afraid to leave her alone, one of us was always home. Anytime we did leave her was for as brief a time as possible and always with a heavy heart filled with dread when we returned. We were terrified that she would die alone with no-one beside her.
Knowing the end was near - we were lucky enough to find a caring and understanding photographer in the local area. We had waited too long for our family photo and feared there wouldn't be time. Dave Anderson heard our pleas and understood our situation. He cleared time for us and scheduled us for a sitting in our home - the surroundings that Nikki knew and felt safe in. Dave did an outstanding job and his work adorns the wall downstairs where we (myself, my wife, Nikki and Nova) spent most of our time. While it cannot replace her - it serves as a reminder of the love and warmth she brought to our lives.
The last day .......Nikki was a fighter, she survived for over a month on the little time she had left. She fought until the very end. The morning of 20 December arrived and we both found ourselves having to go to work. Filled with a feeling of guilt for leaving her, and a feeling of dread - we both rushed home as soon as possible to find our sweet baby waiting for us with her normal back and forth sweep of her tail. We were glad to be back home with her. That night, she stopped eating. Early the morning of 21 December she became ill and threw up what little food she had eaten the day before. She became confused, she stumbled in circles almost not knowing where she was. She had a look in her eyes that we had never seen - a look of sadness. We stayed by her side all night long, torn between the desire for her to stop fighting and the burning desire for just one more week with her. Just one more day to tell her how much we loved her, but she was confused and in pain. When she could hold herself up we would let her out, and upon returning inside we would try to place her on her comfortable pillow - but attempts to move her were responded with whimpers of pain. We decided that it was time for her to cross over the Rainbow Bridge and be made whole again.
That entire day we knew what had to be done - my whole life time has dragged on, minutes seemed to turn into hours but on this day it was the opposite. As I looked at her, and watched the clock, the inevitable appointment raced towards us without cessation, without hope, and what seemed without justice. A lifetime of regret and questions raced through my mind faster than I could comprehend:
|Was my job so important that I had to be away so much?|
|Was there some time wasted that should have been spent with her?|
|Were the daily hustle and bustle of life so important?|
|Why didn't I take her out more?|
|Why didn't I play with her more?|
|Could I have done something different?|
|What sign did I not notice in time?|
|What treatment was left unexplored?|
|- WHY? -|
She refused to go into that gentle night - so at 3:30pm on 21 December we made one last trip with her to the vet. One long sad trip with her in my arms and my wife driving - to a place far better than she could have here. As much as it was needed, it was the hardest thing we had ever done. We could not hardly even say the words. We had been preparing for this moment for the past month - both agreeing that when it was time for her to go we would help her if needed, yet somehow hoping that day would never come. As we drove to the animal hospital, the hopelessness of it was beginning to weigh heavier and heavier. I felt I could hardly walk, still waiting to see a wag of the tail or glint in an eye that signaled "I'm ok daddy" . As she lay on the table waiting for the vet to arrive, all I could do was weep and say over and over how sorry I was. I never knew what it meant to feel totally helpless, empty, lost and feeling utterly without purpose - until that day.
At 4:00pm, Thursday 21 December 2000 aged 12 years, 11 months and 16 days - Nikki left this world to play with her friends across the Rainbow Bridge .
Even now - the pain and loss seem to be endless. Everything I do with my remaining Husky brings wave of remorse and feelings of guilt for soft words not spoken, trips not taken, places not visited and things left undone. I know these feelings will diminish over time - that soon only the happy times will remain. That thoughts of pain and guilt will be replaced by remembrances of love and joy. Until then I can only hope to be a better person by remembering the things that Nikki taught me:
- Nothing is worth being stressed over
- Nothing more important than this moment in time
- This moment in time is meant to be enjoyed, so play........
- PLAY WITH ME NOW DAMN IT! IM READY TO PLAY!
Thanks to everyone who helped usTo Dr. Sedricks and all of you at Telegraph Road Animal Hospital - we thank you for being there for us. You treated her with the loving kindness and dignity that such a special creature deserved. You allowed us to stay with her till the end - and we know that she went gently, surrounded by people who loved and cared for her and certainly not alone.
Thank you Dave for understanding and making the time for us - we know how busy a time of year this is for you. Your note was very thougtfull and kind. It's perfect.
To our friends, family and associates who understand and who did everything to help us remain at home as much as possible - our undying gratitude, we could not have been here without your support.
We know that she is waiting for us across the bridge with spaghetti, hotdogs, well done beef and chicken cutlets. We know she will greet us with her usual spontaneous 'Moo' when we are united again and can play together forever.......(and once again take our rightful place at her feet serving her biscuits and tossing her Frisbee - and then retrieving it ourselves as well)
We are going through our video collections now and will probably post some videos as soon as we can deal with that.
Where can you start and where can you find help regarding your loss? .....If you want to check out some sites dealing with pet loss, the grief that accompanies it we suggest the following as a starting place:
- The Pet Loss Grief
Explanation of the Rainbow Bridge Weekly Candelight Ceremony for recently deceased pets Add your pet to the Bridge List , the Special Needs List or view the Bridge List Archives Online chat for those grieving the loss of a pet Pet loss articles Dealing with the guilt Phone support numbers Suggested readings
Husky Forum Breed Information Huskies over the Rainbow Bridge Husky photographs, Screen Savers, GIFs
There are a number of online resources to help determine if this breed is for you:
- Siberian Husky Club of America (SHCA)
- Is a Siberian Husky Right For You?
- AKC Siberian Husky breed standard
- SHCA - Your Husky: It's Hips and Eyes
- Siberian Husky FAQ
- Owning a Siberian Husky
- From the mouth of Billie and Shadow - things to think about and Breed Info
Shannon .....The true story behind the song SHANNON by Henry Gross (about 2/3ds down the page)
We would like to hear from any and all who have seen this page, especially if you found it helpful.
|email Nakidka's Human mommy||email Nakidka's Human daddy|
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