The Secret Life of a Dog

April 2017: 3rd place winner in Screamin’ Mama’s Creative Non-Fiction contest.


My Siberian Husky, Nikki, was leading a clandestine life, reaping a bounty of untold riches. I had to protect her from herself. Though 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 meant we got 200 to 300 inches of lake effect snow 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 ski lodge.  The other homes 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.

When I let her out on snowy mornings, she’d put her snout down into the 12 to 18 inches of newly fallen 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 and became aware of it quite unexpectedly. These ski houses were purchased as an investment by private individuals and rented through the ski resort rental association. The owners of the house next door called, asking 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 filled with pictures. 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 her on her hind legs, begging for a morsel. She was having a ball!

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

But 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, I’d hear a far away door slam and soon Nikki would magically appear. Now it all made sense.

But there were 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.

I went to see Helen, who owned a local leather and gift shop. She suggested attaching a leather tag to Nikki’s chain. Helen made an oval, flat piece of leather, approximately two by four inches where she’d pounded a message: DO NOT FEED OR TAKE INSIDE.

I felt devilish as I attached the tag to her collar. Sometimes it’s hard to be a good parent. Almost immediately, I was pleased that Nikki showed up promptly when I called; there also were no more mysterious slamming doors.

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 an owner cared so much for this beautiful and friendly dog. The writer thanked me and was happy to honor my wishes.

So our life went on and Nikki continued to make her rounds of the neighborhood, always showing up right away. Arriving home she always had a treat for being such a good girl. I now rotate between popcorn and ice cream.




1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Kathy Wicht
    Jan 23, 2017 @ 18:59:01

    You and George could be great friends if you would get a dog. You know that’s possible because of living on the first floor. Nikki looked like a lovable Husky.

    Sent from my iPhone




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