Nika died today after fifteen and a half great years in our family. She was a Golden Retreiver / Australian Shepherd mix, which meant she was smart, aglie, and loved to swim. She had a beautiful, thick, dark coat that made people think she was a flat coat retriever. When she was a puppy, she needed a lot of exercise and entertainment to keep from getting bored, so she and I started a long tradition of daily (and often more) walks. I’d guess that in those fifteen years, she and I easily walked over 3,000 miles together. She loved running through the forest, swimming in every water body she came across, jumping high in the air after snow when we shovelled the deck, and when she was younger, fetching tennis balls. She came with us everywhere and was always willing to “go for a ride?!” even if it basically meant sitting in the truck once we got wherever we were going. I took her to work with me practially every day and walked her on campus, and later at the Peat Ponds.
She was a happy dog, eager to get up and go for a walk until the very end, when old age and declining strength meant she was prone to falling down and had a hard time getting up the stairs or up onto the couch. Eventually, it got to the point that we felt like she would probably rather not be around if she couldn’t do the things she loved.
I’ve spent so much time with her in the outdoors—on the trails around our property, walking up and down Goldstream Creek in the winter, hiking on campus and at the Peat Ponds at work—that I don’t know how I’m going to be able to go for a walk without missing her company. We used to sing, “Doo do da doo, Taiga Dog!” and she’d get all excited.
With the loss of Nika and Piper today, there’s a pair of huge holes in our family, and even though I know we’ll get over the pain of losing them, we will never forget them and all the happiness we shared together.
We lost Piper today to a neurological condition that seemed to rapidly take her bright and wonderful personality from her, and from us.
We got Piper from the Fairbanks Animal Shelter in December 2002. I wasn’t too sure I was ready to adopt a new dog, but when they let her into the visiting room, she immediately came up to us and won us over with her charm. She was a beautiful orange and white husky mix with bright blue eyes, a barrel chest, and quick, graceful movements like a fox. She loved sprint mushing with Andrea, was great with kids, and always knew for sure that she was the cutest dog in any pack. She came with us wherever we went, and even slept on a bed in Andrea’s office when she worked at the Alaska Bird Observatory. As she got older, I started taking her for walks on the trails with Nika, and she enjoyed bounding through the forest exploring and chasing snowshoe hares.
Last winter she almost died from an abscess in her chest cavity, and even though she was eventually cured, she never really got all her strength back. But the neurological issue that finally claimed her life was the hardest to deal with because it seemed to drain the happiness and personality from her seemingly healthy body. Despite that, I’m not going to let this disturb my memories of what a great little dog she was. Always a wagging tail, willingess to “Ooooh” on command, and to cheer you up with her infectiously happy behavior.
I could use some of that cheer right now.
Deuce died today from liver failure probably caused by a problem with his bile duct or gall bladder. He was just shy of fourteen years old and was a very healthy dog except for a having a toe removed a few months ago due to a slow growing tumor and an incident a couple years ago where he somehow managed to break his tail (!?).
Dusenberg (he came from a litter named after luxury cars) was our first sled dog and our second dog after Nika. He was a tall, gorgeous looking husky with a great coat and very upright and alert ears. We got him in the fall of 2001 when he was four years old, and despite his many quirks, he was a great dog once you learned how to handle him so he felt comfortable. He was an outdoor dog for the first six years we had him, coming inside only for food. Whenever we’d try to keep him in the house beyond dinnertime he’d pace back and forth until we let him out again. Then, suddenly, in December 2007, he decided that being in the house was OK. It took several more months before he learned to lay on a dog bed instead of the floor, and by the end of his life, he actually preferred being in the house, curled up on a dog bed. After his foot surgery, he stayed inside every night, and often during the day while we were at work.
He’d still get nervous when anything changed or he heard loud noises, often grabbing a dog bowl and pacing around with it like a safety blanket:
He was a very sweet dog, and the only one in our yard that would run away from a fight instead of trying to get involved in it. Whenever I’d clean the dog yard, he would follow close behind me, patiently waiting for me to turn around and pet his head. And in the last year, he enjoyed playing with the kittens, pawing at them and pulling them around on the floor (video at the bottom). Every morning when I came down the stairs, there’d be Deuce curled up on a dog bed (he was afraid of going up the stairs). Tomorrow morning will be hard, not seeing his furry ears and bright face looking at me as I come down the stairs.
Rest in peace Mr. Deuce. We love you.
We’ve been wanting to let the kittens into the rest of the house for several weeks now, but when we got close to letting them downstairs we realized they could get into all sorts of trouble in the utility area in the bathroom where the water heater, pump, and washing machine are. Worse, if they got in there, they could climb around behind the shower and tub surround and we’d have no way of getting them out.
So I built the doors you can see in the photo. They’re made from clear pine. I’d originally planned on using “pocket-screw technology,” on the doors, but when driving the pocket screws from the back of the rails into the styles, they cracked the styles. I wound up using glue and dowels instead, and they seem solid. I was a little worried because the doors were so large, but they’re flat and slide easily in the tracks I made.
The image looks a little warped because it's a series of photos that are joined together using the AutoStitch iPhone app. It's a pretty good alternative when you don't have a wide angle lens.
Today was the first day the kittens came downstairs (except once when Jenson escaped), and things seemed to go well. Nika and Piper have been spending nights with all of us, so they’re used to the kittens. Buddy and Deuce mostly seemed afraid. Koidern and Kiva were both very interested, and spent the whole time cautiously following the kittens around. After an hour or so we put the kittens back upstairs to let everyone relax. I opened up the gates again this afternoon and captured this video of Kiva’s interaction with Tallys (and a little of Jenson). Tallys is the one rolling around on the floor in front of the heater, seemingly trying to play with Kiva’s feet.
The music (which was playing on the stereo as I recorded the video on my iPhone) is from Four Tet's latest record.
It’s been an interesting 12 hours: seismic activity in Interior Alaska has really ramped up, causing a multitude of small quakes, and three large enough that we felt and heard them. Last night there was a magnitude 3.5 earthquake around 9 miles from our house, and this morning there have been two more (a 3.2 about 11 miles away and a 2.9 that was only 6 miles away). None caused any damage, but they do shake the house and make enough noise that the dogs perk up. Experiencing tectonic forces so large and powerful is a sobering (and exciting) experience.
There’s a general perception in the lower 48 that California is the most seismically active place around, but the huge subduction zone that stretches from the Aleutian Islands all the way to the west coast of North America causes earthquakes and volcanic activity all over Alaska. The 1964 Good Friday quake (pictured in the photo) was the largest ever recorded in North America, and the 2002 Denali earthquake (which we rode through at the Bird Observatory) was an order of magnitude larger than the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake that ripped up the Bay Area during the World Series. Most of the major earthquakes are south of the Alaska Range where the plates are moving against each other closer to the surface, but all the pressure creates fault lines up here in Fairbanks and can trigger some fairly large events.
Our house is less than ten years old, but knowing it went through the Denali quake without incident allows us the luxury of appreciating the power of the geologic processes at work without worrying they’ll destroy our house.
Update: 31-May-2009, 21:35. Magnitude 3.8, eight miles away.