“Live by the sword; die by the sword”
Nikki and I acquired Nanook, a beautiful black and white, 6-month old, female Siberian Husky from Prairie North Kennel in Bismarck, North Dakota on August 8, 2008. I called my then husband, Dan and broke the news to him assuring him that she was a “demure” husky. He took it with good humor and liked to poke me with that phrase every time she was less than demure.
Before we even got home there was trouble. We were driving my big old Buick LeSabre up to Turtle Mountain Reservation to visit Joe, a friend of Nikki’s. We made the mistake of leaving Nanook in the vehicle unattended while we all traipsed through the property looking for some escaped horses. When we got back to the car, Nanook had ripped the headliner just about all the way out. I had driven that car, which belonged to Rainey, back from Atlanta with her two cats and yorkie which I fostered for several months for her. I needed a car, so the Buick became mine. It used to be a pretty nice car! The car eventually became the property of Nikki’s brother Josh, who had the headliner replaced for about $200.
This episode foreshadowed the years to follow.
Nanook seemed to be more coyote than dog even though she was a registered Siberian Husky. She simply marched to her own drummer. She wouldn’t let anyone even touch her except me for the longest time—maybe a year or so. She acted terrified of men, and men in hats. She got along fairly well with the other dogs as long as they left her alone. She didn’t try to dominate anyone, but she didn’t tolerate being dominated either.
She didn't really make any close connections with the other dogs. Mack, a yellow lab we acquired from Dan’s dad, just about tore off her lip. They seemed to get along alright, but if one of the dogs tried to boss Nanook around, she would get snarly. The vet sewed her up and she was as good as new.
She just wouldn’t mind. Even me, except when she wanted to. And she loved and trusted me. I may have threatened to kill her a few times, but I also pulled her through some pretty awful illnesses at great financial, emotional, and mental expense
Maddie, our German Shepherd and Nanook got along OK and played. I don't remember them ever getting into it with each other.
From left back to right: Mita, Greta, Angle, Tanka, Nanook. Greta and Nanook got along OK. Greta was the pack leader, and ruled with a velvet hammer. It seems to me that they pretty much ignored each other. I think as long as Greta was the boss, Nanook was protected by staying in her shadow. Greta died October 10th, 2016. We had to put her down. She was suffering cancer and congestive heart failure. She was almost 15.
Hunka who was also acquired by Nikki in North Dakota was killed by a car on November 10th, 2012. All the dogs escaped their kennels and were thereafter collected--except Hunka. As I was searching the foggy ditches with a flashlight, a man in a truck stopped. Hunka was dead in the bed of the truck. We were all devastated. I don't remember much for about a week due to sedation.
Nanook jumped into the pen where I had my first lambs and eviscerated one of them, but it didn’t die right away. I heard Nanook’s yip of triumph and the lamb bleating and just knew. My fury was making my hands shake, but I somehow managed to get the gun out of the safe, load it, and put the poor lamb out of its misery. I was tempted to shoot Nanook too, but instead tried to turn it all into a learning opportunity. For us all. Double the security. No, triple the security. I put the fear of God into all the dogs with the lamb carcass but didn’t touch them except to put them on a leash. The sound of the whip did the rest. And my fury.
Nanook graduated to killing chickens. Again, my fault really. The damn things wouldn’t stay in their own pen and eventually one would venture into the dog pen where Nanook made a quick but full meal. She downed feathers, guts, feet, beak, EVERYTHING. I tried to save a couple, but they ended up dying. Another learning opportunity: triple the security on the chickens.
Then there were the cats. A couple of strays met their end with Nanook, as well as one of my own cats. I don't know how I continued to feel love for her. It was her nature to be a predator, so I just forgave her. I resorted to keeping her on a leash when in the house, and devised safe zones to keep the dogs and cats separated when going in and out of the house.
Nanook was an excellent mouser as well. She also ate gophers and rabbits. God knows what else she ate. She quickly acquired the nickname “Killer.”
None of those meals seemed to bother her digestive system in the least. It wasn’t until she ate a package of chicken jerky treats made in China that things started to go downhill. Nanook came down with a nasty case of pancreatitis and required weeks of intensive care. We were amazed she pulled through. I pretty much kept an eye on her 24/7. Kept her in the house, and administered subcutaneous fluids, and even slept with her. Finally, she started to eat just a little again.
Eventually, she warmed up to some people. She liked kids, Lea’s daughter Sierra, and Dan. She was always a bit wary of Nikki but warmed up in the last few years. She never liked people to approach her. She would take a side-ways approach sometimes and even let them touch her briefly. She did let Sierra brush her.
Somewhere along the line, after I fostered and adopted Angel, an Australian Cattle Dog from a rescue organization, relationships between the dogs started to deteriorate. Once Greta got too old to be the pack leader, Mita took over. But Mita was and is an insecure dominant. I scolded Angel for her incessant barking while I was in the horse paddock doing chores, and Mita would become my enforcer. It sounded like she was killing Angel although she never did do her any harm, but that may be because Nikki laid the law down in no uncertain terms.
However, her insecure and now whetted aggression was turned to Nanook. Nanook was always bucking the system. Going left when she should go right, digging out of the pen. And as mentioned, killing anything that moved and was smaller than she was. She got scolded a lot by me. One day Mita and Angel decided that it was Nanook’s turn to die. Their decision wasn’t really all that sudden. I had started keeping Nanook separate from them because I could see the little displays of aggression and had to break up a couple of scuffles. One day, Dan accidentally let Nanook out with them, and hell broke loose. But it broke out as soon as I appeared on the scene. I was the trigger. Dan and I managed to break it up, but it was a traumatic experience for everyone.
My scolding was setting the stage for Mita feeling that something must be done with Nanook. Angel was more than happy to assist. Being a blue heeler, she had a lot of energy to offer. I’m sure they considered me a weak leader. And I was. I didn’t figure it all out for the longest time. As I worked through some difficult times with my personal and family relationships, I became depleted, insecure, and irritable. Hence the scolding.
After that foggy November night when Hunka was killed, we put a perimeter fence put up and a couple of sturdy gates. Nevertheless, I couldn’t just let the dogs roam unattended. I caught Nanook digging under the perimeter fence again even with me out there and resorted to putting a long check rope on her so I could catch her. There was lots of space for them to run and I played fetch and frisbee with them to drain their energy. We haven’t been able to do that here at Tarawood yet. However, Nanook never got the hang of fetch or chasing inanimate objects.
For the past couple of years, Nanook has been on desmopressin, a hormone replacement for the antidiuretic hormone with a diagnosis of diabetes insipidus. So twice daily she had to get pills to keep her alive. She wasn’t thriving. Despite eating more and more, she was getting thinner and thinner. Living north of Effie, just beyond "The Edge of the Wilderness" after Dan's and my divorce, things became very tough. I didn’t have adequate facilities and all the dogs were going nuts without exercise.
This summer Nikki did most of the work on a nice pole structure next to the shed which houses two kennels and opens to two runs. The dogs have some room to play and potty, but not like they used to. Winlock was set up perfectly. There was a large open play area with a 6 foot chain link fence above with two feet buried underground so Nanook couldn’t dig out. Did I mention what a digger she was?
So now that I’ve set the scene, I can finish the sad story.
About a week ago Nikki adopted a new 6-month old female border collie puppy, Cola (Lakota for "friend") that looks a lot like Hunka. However, she hasn’t been able to keep it just yet due to her and Lea moving from their apartment to Nikki’s new house. So, I have Cola. And none of the dogs seem too keen on her. She has a lot of puppy energy but isn’t really a puppy and she needs spaying. Mita especially is not impressed, and so neither is Angel. The tension has been a bit high here lately. Their schedules are disrupted, and mom’s attention has been occupied with a new brat.
Halloween evening around 4pm I decided to go outside and rearrange the dogs so that I could bring Cola out for some exercise in one of the runs. I soon realized that I had left a gate open and all the dogs were intermingling. At that point, Nanook wasn’t being attacked. It was my appearance that did it. Almost immediately hell broke loose.
I tried in vain to organize the dogs into their respective areas, but Mita and Angel had Nanook down. Tanka and Buddy took to their kennels when I yelled at them, but Kiki was timidly getting into the fray. I had to grab her and get her in with Buddy.
After that I just remember Nanook’s screams of terror and pain as Angel buried her teeth in her throat and shoot her with all her might. Mita was biting at Nanook’s groin and legs and I was screaming, crying, and trying to beat them off with the poop fork.
I’ve lost memory of how I managed to get Mita and Angel off her and on their side of the fence again. I barely remember going into the house because I’d wet my pants and needed to call the vet. I don’t know exactly the order of events either. I do remember seeing Nanook trying to get up and walk and then falling down, lying on her side and eliminating her bowels. She was still breathing and not bleeding too bad, but I knew that she was going to die. I squatted there petting her dirty, wet, and bloody fur, apologizing, crying, and then she put her paw on my hand like she always did. She knew I was there. I hope she knew I tried.
I don’t know when I called Byron Sugden, the local vet and his wife Ann. But they were home and came right over. Luckily, they live only about 3 miles from me. They brought a shot to put her down which we all agreed needed to be done.
I don’t exactly know how I functioned after that. I know we put Nanook in a sled in the shed and pulled a large plastic bag over her. I don’t even know when I called Nikki. I remember going between complete calm and blubbering.
Then I realized my left leg was bleeding. I did not escape without a bite after all. I drove myself to the Bigfork hospital emergency room and they stitched me up. It wasn’t too bad, only two stitches and a huge hematoma. Can’t wait to see the bill.
I really don’t remember much. I know I took a shower, and I must have taken all the dogs out and put them back again a couple times, but I can’t remember it. Nikki arrived at the house around 11pm with rice krispie bars and brandy. The next day, Nikki and I buried Nanook on a high spot near the crab apple tree. Pet Cemetery has now been established.
Angel had blood on her after the attack and was limping but wasn’t showing signs of great injury, but Byron said she might need an antibiotics. I looked her over carefully and she has no injuries. She’s not even limping now.
Mita also seems to be just fine. Well…not really. Mita’s teeth chatter now and then which Nikki likened to someone’s hands shaking. Mita and Angel are both acting subdued and odd. I’m trying to act normal and I’m using my reassuring sweet voice but I think deep down they both know I’m on the verge of putting them down too.
Lately, Angel has been taking her aggression out on Tanka as well. His poor face has new lacerations every time Angel’s energy level escalates to a fever pitch which only takes the UPS truck coming up the driveway to trigger. And that escalates Kiki. It's a vicious cycle.
The barking is driving me nuts. I've been scolding too much again.
I can never trust Mita or Angel ever. If they hurt Tanka, I will either beat them to death with a club or calmly go get a gun and shoot them both.
I don’t have the energy or physical capability to break up dog fights. Even if I did, one person cannot break up a multiple dog dog-fight. I am coping with a torn meniscus and sacroiliac injuries and can barely get up and down the stairs—which I must do all day long. I am just now feeling human again after resuming HRT. Since my accident with Buddy at the end of last March and my fall down the wood stairs outside a few day later, I just haven’t been feeling that great. Old bodies cannot take insult to injury like young bodies can.
I’m turning 64 on November 24th and am feeling my age. I am simply not having a great time with all these dogs. I just don’t have it in me to be a badass. I just don’t have it in me to be the tough leader they need.
Nikki is now talking about finding Cola a new home. Lea is getting apprehensive about Cola’s imminent presence in their new house and the extra work that will fall on her. Nikki cannot do this alone. Nikki and I have now lost two of our dogs tragically. I pray we don’t make it three.
It was clear that Nanook never gave one compassionate thought to all the creatures she killed. Nevertheless, I loved her dearly and I know she loved and trusted me. What a strange world. I’ve had about all I can take of it right now.