A Memorial For Two Friends

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.

14 Comments

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  1. I’m so very sorry. What beautiful babies they were.

    Comment by Missy — April 2, 2007 #

  2. Oh, I am so sorry for your loss. I remember both Nan and Liriel, and am glad I got to meet them both. What a lovely tribute!

    Comment by Amy — April 2, 2007 #

  3. My deepest condolences on the loss of your dear friends.

    Comment by Xyrra — April 2, 2007 #

  4. What touching stories. You’ve made me cry! I’m very sorry for your loss. I am sure that the sun helped Nan in her last moments. When my cat was put down a couple years ago, they carried him outside to die lying in the grass in the sun, and I like to think he enjoyed slipping out of the world that way.

    Comment by Zoe — April 2, 2007 #

  5. Thank you all.

    Missy–They were lovely girls, the both of them. They squabbled now and again over dominance issues–northern breed dogs are that way, but they mostly were good friends to each other, and were a lot of fun to walk with. They sure turned heads, they were so pretty!

    Amy–I am glad you got to meet them, too. They were just starting to get middle aged when you met them, so they still had a lot of pep and bounce in their personalities. They really came into their own when we moved to Pataskala, though–especially Nan. She was always meant to be a country dog who got long rambles in the woods, and a territory to police and defend.

    Thank you, Xyrra.

    Zoe–I think that the sun was good for her, too. And for your cat, too. I only wish we could have had the doctor come to the house to put Nan down so she could have been in the sun, on the grass, with the sky overhead.

    She was so brave, and patient, though, when we carried her in the blanket, and sat with her in the office. Such a good dog.

    Comment by Barbara — April 2, 2007 #

  6. A lovely tribute, Barbara. We have a hunting dogs – sight hounds – so I know all about the prey drive LOL! Cats are never, ever pets to mine and I would never keep a cat. But then, I’m more a hound person.

    Huskies are so beautiful and have the same wildness about them as the sight hounds have, I think.

    Steph

    Comment by Steph in the UK — April 3, 2007 #

  7. I am sorry about ‘Nanny. I knew how you all felt about her. I thought I would share something. Here is a little pic I was saving for my first published book, but I thought you might like to see it:
    It’s me and Liriel, back when you were still at Mayapple.
    http://home.frognet.net/~bwinner/images/Author.jpg

    Hope it brought you a smile :)
    -=Bryian=-

    Comment by Bryian — April 3, 2007 #

  8. Good Journey to your dog friends; may they find themselves young and spry together in the Land of Always-Possum.

    Comment by wwjudith — April 3, 2007 #

  9. It’s taken me a while to offer my condolences…we have two very old and much-loved cats, one of whom has been very ill. We feared for the worst, but today he is eating and swiping….it’s always a matter of time. Your post was just beautiful!

    Comment by dindi — April 4, 2007 #

  10. I am so sorry to hear this. You must be very sad. But it sounds like they had a great life with you. What a blessing for the time you had together.

    I have a big black kittie – 12 years old. He’s the light of my life. Talkative, affectionate, and very sweet.

    Comment by Diane — April 4, 2007 #

  11. I am so sorry to hear about your loss of Liriel and Nanika. Thanks for saving Nan. I think she knew you were good people and decided to live with you! I am sad but happy to read about loving family who had big heart to provide loving home to a needy animal. Thanks you. -Jill-

    Comment by Jill — April 4, 2007 #

  12. I’m so sorry Barb, I almost cried reading your beautiful story of these two wonderful members of your family. We had a Huskey/Sheppard mix when I was still living at home and he was my baby. He lived for 15 1/2 years and had a great life and was also a stray like Nanika. I have a mouse pad on my desk at work with one of my favorite pictures of him. He’ll always be in my heart.

    Comment by Barbara (Biscuit Girl) — April 7, 2007 #

  13. Thank you, Bry. That is a good picture of you both.

    Than you all. Judith–I like your name for Dog Heaven!

    Jill–all of our cats are rescues. I don’t tend to buy pets, and never will again. I get them from shelters or from the street.

    My family has this theory that people who are good and love animals have a special scent to them that animals can sense and they know they can trust them. This smell apparently extends around a person’s house and sometimes, car, because lots of folks in my family have stories of rescuing animals (including a newborn calf who had rolled under the fence into a roadway after he was born–my aunt couldn’t just leave him there! The farmer was quite grateful….as was Mamma Cow) and of injured animals showing up at our houses .

    Even wild birds seem to know who can be trusted….

    Barbara–Huskies and Shepherds are some of my favorite dogs. They have great personalities. I understand how you feel about your boy, too.

    Thank you all, again.

    Comment by Barbara — April 10, 2007 #

  14. I know how you feel, we lost our baby
    Cody when he was bitten by a snake. Our Cody was huskey and sheppard mix with the prettiest blue eyes you ever saw. Cody was our our child in every sense of the word and gave us more love and companionship that any human has a right to expect. We got him from the socitey to protect animals when he was 8 wks old and he lived to be 10 yrs. old. We lost him April 11th 2007 and I cry every day with a broken heart. So please except my deepest sympathy. I really do feel your pain.

    Comment by Shirley Abernathy — April 15, 2007 #

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