Nico 1995-2010 RIP
On Monday April 26th, 2010 we said goodbye to our beloved Siberian princess Nico.
She came into this world the day before Valentine’s day in 1995. At the time I was saving up all I could to move from a small town in Michigan out to Washington State. I had a 1978 Volkswagon bus and was dumping money into to it to get it road worthy. My girlfriend and I were kind of on shaky ground but she wanted out of there as much as I so we decided to travel together regardless. She thought it would be a good idea to have a dog to travel with and since we would be on the road for a few months we would have plenty of time to train it. I was totally against the idea.
One day in late March of ’95 she came to me with an add from the local newspaper for AKC Siberian Husky puppies: 6 weeks old, black and white, blue eyes, $200. Somehow she convinced me to go with her, “just to look” at the litter.
The kennel where the breeder lived was out in the sticks. When we got there he informed us that there was only one puppy left in the litter, a female. Her mother had been deathly ill with something that was normally known as an equine disease. She must have gotten it from one of the Arabian horses this guy was also breeding. He informed us that the puppy was sick as well and had been weaned from her mom and hand fed early on. She was also on some medication but he said it was her last dose and she appeared to be fully recovered. Then he asked if we were still interested in seeing her. I looked at my girlfriend and we both sort of nodded at the same time.
He brought her out nuzzled into the thick flannel of his chest. And there, poking out was a set of the most piercing blue eyes I had ever seen on an animal. She had a very clearly defined white 3 leaf clover pattern that grew from her stubby snout up between her eyes, these pointy bat-like velvet ears, and a white diamond on her nape. The fur on her body was actually a little gray and a bit rough from poor nutrition, we later found out.
We both took turns trying to hold her as she squirmed around in our arms. We asked if we could set her down and play with her a bit. The man nodded with a slight hesitation. We set her down, played for a few seconds, then she started to wander away, slowly at first, than as fast as her tiny legs would take her. The chase was on! Little did I know that it would be the first of many.
After we fished her out from under the van, we decided we really wanted to take her along with us, nurse her back to health and give her a happy home, wherever it ended up being. We paid the man, he gave her the last of her medication and we were on our way.
At the time I was going through Velvet Underground phase and thought Nico would be the perfect name for this exotic looking creature.
Nico was kind of a crazy puppy. She was an escape artist and could sneak out through the crack of a door. While she knew what the command “come” meant, she would often blatantly disregard it. I am also convinced that when she was on the lamb, hearing me call her name made her go deeper into cover. I don’t know how many hours I spent scouring neighborhoods, forests, and coastlines for her furry little butt. And just because you found her it didn’t mean you could catch her. She could try your patience like no other.
She was an Alpha dog and didn’t mind mixing it up with dogs twice her size or half her size.
She had a love for all things stinky. Our first week on the road she discovered bison poop in the Badlands. She would find a wide variety of stinky things to roll around in here in the PNW: spawned out salmon ( one of her favorites), compost piles, bloated seal carcass, elk carcass, deer carcass, dead seagulls. If it was dead and smelled rancid it was good for a roll.
Like all huskies she loved to run. It was really a thing of beauty to see her clipping along at full stride. In the woods or on the beach and especially if other dogs were involved in the chase. Few could keep up with her for long except of course other huskies.
She was never a barker but had a unique way of “talking” to you that sounded a bit like Chewbacca. She would use it to express joy, confusion, a pressing need (like wanting out), and even sorrow. At some point in her last year she stopped talking and adopted a seal like bark and loud whine when she wanted in.
She had a fondness for poultry. The first week in Washington we were staying with some friends who lived in a commune like setting off the grid with a community garden, a small pond with a few geese, and some chickens. Like she often would, Nico snuck away from our friend’s cabin and before we knew it had killed two chickens and maimed a goose. Needless to say she was banned from the property after that and we were stuck with the vet bill for the poor goose.
There were a few other instances involving chickens as well. On her last day with us I took her for a walk around our neighborhood. Someone down the road has a little coop with some chickens and a goose and put up a few benches so people can sit and enjoy them if they like. So I sat with Nico and the chickens all came down, and the goose came down and Nico just sat and watched them. The killer gleam in her eye had faded. She didn’t pull on her leash, howl or whine. She seemed at peace with the chickens almost as if she were making some kind of amends. And even though the goose started hissing at her she just calmly looked it, then slowly and casually turned away and we continued on our walk.
The last few months have been difficult. Some nerve damage in her spine had given her problems with her hind quarter and she would sort of drag her back paws as she walked, especially when she was tired. She developed a way of loping along that reminded us of an old lady with a walker, taking several small steps with her front paws then dragging her back paws up. She got into a habit of circling around our bed in the evenings, sometimes for hours before settling in. She was getting confused and would end up in the closet or waiting to be let out at the bathroom door.
It was also hard for her to squat down and poop. You can imagine how heart breaking it was to see her trying to squat down to poop, lose her balance, topple over then have to lay there on her side to finish her business. Of course her tail and whole furry rear end became a mess and she would track it back into the house. She had a few bad bouts with diarrhea which made it even harder to keep her and the house clean. When I was cleaning up her last one on Saturday I noticed some blood and mucous discharge. We decided then that it was time.
On Sunday we went for a very slow walk in the woods. It was a little bitter sweet seeing all the fresh spring growth and blooms and Nico ambling along in her final days.
After visiting the chickens on Monday morning, we took another walk on the beach & hung out in the yard for most of the day. Both Trixie and I were taking pictures of her. I let her off her rope so she could wander around a little more freely in the yard. I went inside for a minute to pee and heard Trixie yelling for help. I looked out the front window and there was Nico making a final break for it. Only she looked like an old lady trying to sprint with her walker. I had a bit of a teary eyed laugh knowing that we had come full circle.
She was pretty wiped out by the time the vet and her assistant got here. They were very gentle with both her and us. The whole process was peaceful yet emotionally charged. Soon they were carrying her limp, lifeless body out the front door as Trixie and I hugged and wept.
It’s been a hard few days. I keep thinking I hear her or turn a corner and expect to see her. After taking care of her for this long I do feel a bit of a void in my life. I know things will get better soon and I know I’m really going to enjoy a pet free existence for awhile.
I could write for days about all the adventures we had both good and bad. But right now I am feeling a bit drained and in need of some sleep. She was a great dog, a fine companion, a bitch and she will be missed.
Nico 04/13/1995 – 4/26/2010 ** Long may you run.
Be sure to check out Trixie’s blog for a little more pics and insight on Nico’s last few days – http://www.tastytrixie.com/aging/rip-nico-with-pics/