The Dog Who Came in From the Cold

First place winner in WWA’s 2018 Jade Ring Contest, humor category; published in 2018 Creative Wisconsin Anthology

My Siberian husky, Nikki, was leading a secret life. Clandestine meetings; trading favors that resulted in a bounty of untold riches. For her. Though she’d probably never forgive me, I just knew I had to protect her from herself.

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 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 de 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, airy, fluffy 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 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 had called, asking me to see what utensils and glasses their house needed before the next season began.

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 who came around really liked 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 then I began to worry.  I recalled the many 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. Did 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 my friend 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 Nikki’s collar. Sometimes it’s hard to be a good parent. Almost immediately, I was pleased that she 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.

Our life went on with Nikki on permanent house arrest. She continued making her rounds of the neighborhood, showing up right away when I called. Arriving back home she always got a treat for being such a good girl. Rotating between ice cream and popcorn.

 

 

 

 

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