And then there was the one in the back. She was The Mamma.
Nakota pushed her way through the pack and, with me now seated on the floor with my back to the wall, sniffed me up and down. She then gave me a look as if to say that I was now allowed to scratch her ears. When I had done that, she walked over to where Jenn was getting some stuff together and laid down beside her… Leaving me to the slobbering tongue and the “Love Us We’re Cute” brigade.
I was later, much later, told that this inspection by Nakota was one of the reasons Jenn knew she could trust me. It turned out that Nakota had a habit of vetting Jenn’s boyfriends. Sometimes the vetting was rather painful it seems. Nakota apparently knew what male genitalia was for. It was for target practice if she didn’t feel that you were an acceptable suitor for her person. Family legend has it that she even sent one poor dope to the hospital.
Despite what that line may suggest, Nakota was actually a very gentile dog. When she had her litter of puppies (three of whom were in the attack pack I mentioned above) she adopted Jenn’s new kitten Nio into the litter. Years later when I got Jenn a kitten for her birthday, Nakota adopted Rikki like he was her own puppy.
It was endearing and hilarious on several levels. It was cute seeing Nakota as excited as she was. Her tail would wag ferociously and she would get a happy “I’m a Mommy Again!” look in her eyes. She treated Rikki like a puppy that needed protecting whenever anyone came into the house. She also tried to pick Rikki up and move him to safer locations with… mixed… results.
Jenn had told me once that Nakota was a good mother to her puppies, but that she was also a bit unsure of herself in some regards. One of these areas of uncertainty was in picking her pups up to move them when they went where they weren’t supposed to go. She would act like she was afraid of biting down on them too hard and would basically just keep gumming them. Well, that’s what she did with Rikki. She would walk over to Rikki, reach down and place her jaws gently around the loose skin at the nape of Rikki’s neck and gently lift. And Rikki would stay exactly where he was on the floor. She would then try again and Rikki would again stay were he was at. This bit of comedy would repeat itself several times over the next minute until Nakota would give up and simply plop down next to Rikki and Rikki, now covered in dog slobber, would look up at Jenn or I and let out a quiet, pleading mew.
She was that way (minus the picking up attempts) with children as well. Jenn had Nakota when she worked at a day care center and Nakota grew up around small children. She was happy to play “pony ride” whenever she could or to simply play tag with children. Amongst Jenn’s nephews, nieces and nieces by osmosis; Nakota was one of the favorite attractions of any visit. Everybody loved her.
Nakota also had a tic that I loved to tease her with. Nakota loved to have her belly scratched. Scratch her belly and she was a happy puppy. And it didn’t matter what positions she was laying in. If you reached over and scratched her belly she was going to shift over and lift one leg to expose that belly. She even did it in her sleep. If you just brushed against her belly when she was sleeping she would lift her leg in her sleep. So, of course, when Jenn first moved in and I discovered this I would reach over and touch Nakota on the belly, saying the word belly in a silly, child like voice, about a hundred times a night. The leg would go up and stay there as she waited for the scratching to start and would only slowly begin to fall back into place after ten or so seconds. I would then wait about five seconds and do it again. After five or six times of this Nakota would shoot me a look like I should sleep with one eye open and I would make it up to her by scratching her belly and her chest. Long before Jenn was even pregnant I was jokingly threatening to teach any and all kids we had how to do that.
Good to my word I started trying to get Ian to learn how to say belly while poking Nakota’s belly in the week before we left for Dragon*Con. Ian never got to learn how to do that trick.
Two days ago Nakota starting walking funny. She didn’t want to move her rear legs and when she did she walked slowly and swung her legs in an unusual gate. Jenn was worried about the possibility of hip dysplasia coming on but hoping it was just bad arthritis combined with the weather fronts shifting as violently as they were. It’s unfortunately an all too common problem for an older Husky and Nakota was approaching ten years of age. My mom came over and watched Ian for us while I went out and got some over the counter stuff from Pet-Smart. We gave her some hip chews and senior vitamins, kept her comfortable and she actually seemed to be doing better by bed time.
Yesterday morning she didn’t want to get up at all. She wouldn’t move her rear legs and just wanted to lay in the floor. We took her down the street to the local vet and came back home while they examined her. Shortly after we got back home the vet called and said that Nakota was bleeding into her stomach from unknown reasons. They knew there was a problem, but they didn’t have the equipment to really tell us what. We got my mom to come by and watch Ian and take care of Jenn (who could barely move around with the knee pain she was experiencing) while I went back to the vets to get her and take her to the emergency vet in town. The vet had pumped her full of vitamin K since she believed that the bleeding was caused by the ingestion of rat or groundhog that had been dosed with high amounts of rat poison. Good news since that meant the problem could be cured in a day or so.
I was at the EV with Nakota for less than 40 minutes when the vet brought me in to a side office and told me that there was a lump of some sort in Nakota’s stomach and that they needed to perform $4,500 to $6,000 surgery, but that the surgery might only give Nakota another 60 days of life in discomfort. Jenn told me over the phone to let Nakota go. I asked the vet if Nakota was in pain at that moment and he said that there were no signs of pain. I told him to wait while I went to get Jenn and bring her to Nakota. He said he would but asked that I sign off on one piece of the treatment schedule. He wanted to run the full scans of Nakota to get a better idea of what was wrong with Nakota before Jenn got there. Maybe he would find good news.
When I got Jenn back to the vets they moved us into a back room. The scan showed a number of growths in Nakota’s stomach, liver, spleen and surrounding tissues. The largest was the one in her stomach and it was causing the bleeding. Nakota had widespread cancer and there was nothing that could be done at this point. They brought her in to us so that we could hold her one last time. When Jenn was ready she gave the vet permission to inject the sedatives into Nakota’s IV. A few seconds later she had quietly slipped into unconsciousness. A few seconds after that she was gone.