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.
Kiva died today as a result of an inflammatory disease that we couldn’t bring under control, and the pain this was causing her. She was a little over seven years old.
We got Kiva from the Fairbanks Animal Shelter in November 2004 when she was only a year and a half old. She’d been abandoned because she “didn’t want to be a sled dog” by the same musher who had previously abandoned Piper. Throughout her life she was a super energetic dog that had a hard time staying still, loved sprint racing, and was the best fetching dog I’ve ever seen. She was great with people, and seemed to be completely in love with the cats (our old cats Ivan and Alexi and the new kittens we got late last year). We sometimes called her “devil dog” for her personality, dark coloration and bright blue eyes. Unfortunately, she didn’t get along with Piper, and started four major fights. The latest fight, two weeks ago, happened in the house, and we think it was because her pain was increasing. We finally decided that it was time to say goodbye.
As much as we love Kiva and all the energy she brought to our household, we struggled with her disease and her fighting. We agonized about euthanizing her for years, and even more over the last couple weeks since her latest fight, and we finally decided that it isn’t fair to her to be living with enough pain that she’s intolerant of the other dogs and can’t go to the bathroom normally, and it’s not fair to the other dogs (or us) to be placed in a situation where they might get injured or killed. I wish there had been something else we could have tried, some treatment or medication that would have made her happy and peaceful.
Some things I remember about her:
- Whenever she was excited she’d run in counter-clockwise circles, over and over again.
- She liked coming with me when I went out to the red cabin to get beer.
- We played fetch with her using chunks of wood when we lived on Whistling Swan and bought a Chuck-It so we could throw it all the way down the dog yard or driveway here on Railroad Drive.
- She loved it when we changed the kitchen garbage.
- She was the only dog that would howl, usually before races.
- She hated water and would go well out of her way to avoid stepping in puddles.
- She went absolutely crazy when there were dogs outside the dog yard.
- She got so excited before races that she’d chew the lines and would slam forward, rock back and slam forward the entire time at the line.
- She was a nervous little dog that scared easily.
We miss her.
Our cat Ivan died of kidney failure today. We’d known for some time that it was coming, but he had been managing pretty well with subcutaneous fluids and a restricted diet.
I got Ivan and Alexi (who died a little over three years ago) at the Portland Animal Shelter in 1993, and they traveled up to Alaska with me in the Volaré. He was a very playful cat and had learned to play fetch. He’d bat a toy around on the floor for a little while, bring it back while meowing, and then flop next to the toy until someone got up to throw it for him. As he got older he became very affectionate, and whenever we were home he’d curl up on our legs. At night before bed, and in the morning when my alarm went off (sometimes before it went off!), he’d come up on the bed, snuggle in close to my neck and purr and knead. It’s going to be hard to get to sleep tonight without him coming up to say good night.
Good night little buddy. We’ll miss you.