Creative Collaring

 

nikki 002(Bessemer, Mi. 1999) My Siberian Husky, Nikki, was leading a second life filled with intrigue, reaping a bounty of untold riches. It took all my creative instincts to find a way to protect her from herself. Though I knew she’d probably never forgive me, I had to do it.

We lived at a ski resort located in the Big Snow Country of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Being about 10 miles from Lake Superior, we got 200 to 300 inches of snow every year. That’s every year! A skier’s paradise.

It was also a builder’s paradise, which was why my husband, a building contractor, and I lived there. We were the only year round residents on the wooded cul du sac a half mile from the main lodge. The other homes on our road were ski chalets, rented by the week or weekend during ski season.

Besides skiers and builders, this location was also perfect for Nikki. The surrounding woods were her playground. Huskies are known for being runners, but Nikki was good. She always came home. And she loved the snow.

I still laugh as I recall her antics when I’d let her out on snowy mornings. She’d put her snout down into the 12 to 18 inches of newly fallen, lake effect snow; then she’d run at full speed, spewing a snow-plow-like spray as she buzzed the length of the driveway. Each day after work, I’d release Nikki for her check of the neighborhood. But I had no idea what was really going on.

I became aware of Nikki’s clandestine life in a round-about way. The owners of the house next door called asking for a favor. Most ski houses were owned and maintained by private individuals who lived in far away, big cities. They’d purchased these second homes as an investment and rented them through the ski resort rental association. The next-door owners asked me to see what utensils and glasses their house needed before the next season started.

While checking the cupboards, I noticed the bulletin board hanging in the hallway. It was usual for owners to put bulletin boards and guest books in their houses to promote area activities and give renters an opportunity to comment on their stay. That was good PR.

On this bulletin board, there were lots of pictures. Among them were lots of pictures of Nikki. My Nikki. There she was, cuddled up near the fireplace being hugged by a couple of young children as though she were a part of their family. Another showed Nikki shaking off the snow. Yet another of her on her hind legs, begging for a morsel. She was having a ball!

The guest book was filled with renter’s comments about the friendly dog who visited daily throughout their weekend or week long vacation. One guest even recommended to future renters that the friendly dog who comes by really likes ice cream. So, be sure to keep it on hand. No one had to tell me how friendly and loving Nikki was. I knew this very well. But the ice cream comment surprised me. I always thought her favorite snack was popcorn. Whatever.

Now I was worried. What if, though she had a collar on, someone decided to take this lovely, friendly dog home? Then I remembered the times I’d stood out on the porch and called for her, gave up, went in and then ten minutes later tried again. Finally, after I’d called a few more times, I’d hear a far away door slam and soon Nikki would magically appear. Now it all made sense.

But there are six ski houses on this road. Does that mean she makes the rounds to each of them? Knowing Nikki, this seemed likely. I knew I had to do something.

nikki 001I went to see Helen, who owned a local leather and gift shop. She suggested making a leather tag to attach to Nikki’s chain. It was an oval, flat piece of leather, approximately two by four inches. On it Helen pounded the words: PLEASE DO NOT FEED OR TAKE INSIDE. I felt a bit devilish putting the tag on her collar. Sometimes it’s hard to be a good parent.

Right away, I was pleased that Nikki showed up promptly when I called; there also were no more mysterious doors slamming. Then one day, Nikki returned with a little surprise for me: a piece of notebook paper rolled up in her collar.

The hand written note said it was so great that the owner cared so much for this beautiful and friendly dog. In a world where people let their dogs run wild, here was one owner doing the right thing. The writer thanked me for reminding them to honor my wishes. Vindication. I no longer felt guilty for spoiling all her fun.

 

So our life went on as usual. Nikki continued to make her rounds of the neighborhood, always coming home right away. After she was no longer with me, I kept the tag and draped it over a frame filled with pictures of her many poses.

I knew Nikki would be my last dog due to the massive hair shedding Huskies are famous for which activated my allergies. Whenever I look at the tag, I’m always reminded of the many challenges of taking care of Nikki. And of how lucky I was to have had her in my life.

 

 

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