We used to have two dogs, two Siberian Huskies named Liriel and Nanika.
I haven’t talked a lot about them here, in large part because they were very elderly, and were living very quiet lives in their kennel and run outside, and while we interacted, it was very obvious that the two of them were in the twilights of their lives.
Liriel died in October, when we were in Columbus with Kat. She died quietly and quickly, and without warning; Morganna had fed her an hour before, and she had been quite perky and lively. When she went out later to give her a treat of table scraps, she was curled up, dead in the yard.
I didn’t write about it at the time, because I was too sad and too caught up in everything with Kat.
Here is a photograph I took of her a couple of years ago, from when she was laying in the kitchen in our house in Pataskala, Ohio, watching me cook.
Liriel was a really sweet dog, but she was fidgety and nervous. She lived in the house with us for a long time, but then, other times, she would insist on staying outside. Huskies really like the outdoors, and cannot be kept completely in the home. They need to be outdoors, in nature, to be completely happy.
But Liriel was great fun. She was an escape artist, and could wriggle or dig herself out of any crate or fenced yard. She could excavate tunnels, she could open windows and undo door latches. She was great at it. She loved to chase small creatures, and would catch and eat voles and shrews quite casually. She’d bait possums and raccoons with her food bowl, patiently for days before making a move on them and killing them. She was a great adventurer and loved the snow, and when white crystalline flakes of it would drift from the sky, if she was inside, she would howl to go out. And there she would stay until the snow melted.
She loved sledding–but only if she was seated on the sled with the person, traveling downhill fast. She particularly loved our friend Bryian, who took her downhill sledding many times. God bless, Bryian–while we were in Columbus, he came and dealt with Liriel so my Dad, who was staying with Morganna, didn’t have to.
Nanika, the husky pictured to the left, we found running loose, starved and beaten, by the side of the road here in Athens, years and years ago. We stopped, and I got out of the car, and unlike most huskies, she didn’t run up to me–most of them are so friendly that they have never seen a stranger. That is when I knew something bad had happened to her. In trying to avoid me, she dove out into the road into the path of an 18 wheeler. I zipped up my leather jacket, and dove after her, tackling her and scooping her up into my arms to keep her from being hit. I carried her back to the car (she is not a small dog, btw–at the time she weighed over forty pounds), and we ended up keeping her.
She trusted me right away, and warmed up to Zak later. However, she was always afraid of most men, and a lot of women. She only trusted little kids and people in wheelchairs. She was always gentle with people–if she was afraid, she would just shy away, and never was aggressive the way some fearful, abused dogs can be. If she trusted you, she looked at you with the most loving, calm eyes, and would follow you anywhere.
She would follow anywhere, but especially if you were leading her to a body of water. Unlike most huskies, Nanika loved to swim. And she loved to hunt frogs. And more than once, she’d drag Morganna into a pond or creek, because she was leaping after a big bullfrog.
In the picture above, she is swimming the creek that bordered our house in Pataskala. I loved roaming those woods with her, and she and I wandered far and wide many times. She only nearly ripped one of my arms from its socket once, when we startled deer and they dashed right in front of us–only a few yards away–and she tried to run them down, while I was holding her leash. I ended up nearly plastered against a tree, and Nan was so mad I didn’t let her go get those deer. I really believe she would have caught one and probably brought it down. She was an expert huntress and was always killing possums, large raccoons, groundhogs, squirrels, rabbits and the like.
Which is why she couldn’t live in the house, and had to live outside. She thought of cats as prey animals.
Liriel could always tell the difference between pets and prey. Pets lived in the house, prey lived outside. Cats are always pets, even when they are outside, and they are to be loved and cuddled. (Liriel would curl up with cats and sleep.) Ferrets live inside and are friends because they liked to comb Liriel’s fur, and so they were pets. Groundhogs, squirrels, rabbits, raccoons, and possums lived outside, tried to steal her food, and thus were prey.
To Nan–there was no difference. If it wasn’t Liriel, or a person, it was prey. That meant, if it was another dog–it was prey. If it was a cat, it was most certainly not only prey, but a snack that we thoughtfully let run loose in the house. She once picked up a cat -by the head-, and nearly killed it. She dropped her because I leaped across the room and pried her jaws open, while another cat jumped on her back and scared her.
Poor Nan probably had cancer and last night, it was hurting her fiercely. I stayed with her for a long time, as did Morganna and Zak, and we all comforted her as best we could. Today, when Zak and I took her to the vet to have her put down, we had to make a blanket stretcher to carry her. She could no longer walk or stand. We stayed with her till the end, so she wouldn’t be scared.
Ironically, the sun was shining this morning as we took Nan on her last drive. It was beautiful, and I am glad that she got to spend one last morning laying in the sun. I hope it gave her some comfort, and the warmth made some of the pain fade. The sky was the color of her and Liriel’s eyes, and every time I look at it, I will think of my two husky girls and all of our adventures.
Goodbye and good hunting, old friends.
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