J's Nika
December 25, 1984 - September 3, 1998

You brought such joy into our life. We miss your crazy antics and your butt runs through the house. We know you have made many new friends at the Rainbow Bridge. Someday we will see you again.

This is our 1st Malamute. She's 12 weeks old in this photo. We were living at Barksdale AFB in Bossier City LA. She was an Air Force puppy. The kids on base loved to come and ask if Nika could come out and play. She was excellent with kids and loved people in general. She had alot of great doggie friends too.

We were amazed at how fast she grew! She's about 5 months old here and we have gone out on a fishing excursion with some friends. She loved being outdoors (except when it was 85 degrees with 100% humidity! Even we hated that!!) We took her almost everywhere with us, and she always made herself known by woo-wooing at anybody within earshot. Nika never barked.....only "talked".

Here she is at 2 1/2 years. This pup let us do all kinds of goofy things with her. She's a "lounge lizard" here. We also dressed her up as a cowgirl (complete with Stetson hat!) Clown, AFCOMS dog (The old Air Force Commissary Services) and many others.

In 1988 we were transferred to Lajes Field, Azores, Portugal. We were fortunate enough to be able to bring Nika and her cat Tasha, without any quarantine time. It was quite the experience to pack up pets and house and move to the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. We had fabulous Portuguese neighbors who loved to spoil Nika with food scraps. I had to keep a watchful eye for chicken bones!!! Nika impressed the local children by doing "tricks" on command. (Sit,down,speak,shake, etc.)
It was a wonderful experience to be able to live there. Many wonderful memories.

Next stop was 2 years in New Mexico. No sooner did we arrive, than "Dad" was sent over to Desert Storm. Nika was great company for "Mom" during this stressful time. Tasha the cat was good to have around too. It gave Nika somebody to play with while "Mom" recovered from multiple back surgeries. Once again Nika met and made lots of new "people" friends.

In the fall of 1992 the US Government decided to reduce the size of it's armed forces. We left the Air Force life and returned home to West Michigan to become "civilians". The pets would not have to move anymore. As you may have noticed, Nika's coat is quite short for being in Michigan. In the early spring of 1994 Nika became very ill in a very short time. She dropped alot of weight, became lethargic, wouldn't even eat her favorite food in the world (cheese). By the time I got her to the vet she was very near death. She was hospitalized and tested for a suspected rare disease: Addison's Disease. People get it (President John F Kennedy had it) but it was very rare in dogs. Turns out that's exactly what she had. Her vet, Dr. Dave Durham of Woodland Veterinary Clinic, was currently treating 2 other dogs with the same disease. Thanks to research done at Michigan State University, there was a treatment for the Addison's Disease. She would receive injections of a hormone called DOCP that brought our Nika back to us. She was 9 1/2 years old when the diagnosis was made. The treatment was a bit expensive, but the quality of life that it gave Nika, was priceless. Due to her compromised immune system, she became extremely allergic to flea bites and would get nasty hot spots that would spring up literally overnight. In order to keep her skin in the best condition possible, we decided to keep her coat shaved very short in the summer and about 2 inches long in the winter. She was 100% house dog so this worked out well for her and us.

This photo was taken in the spring of 1996. Nika now owns 2 cats. Squeaker (gray male) moved in the summer of '95 and her Air Force buddy Tasha (female) has been around since the spring of '86. They all get along great and were frequently found sleeping together. Nika is 11 1/2 years old now and still playful as ever although she is starting to show signs of aging.

This was taken in March of 1998. Nika is now over 13 years old and her age is catching up to her. By June of 98 her health begins to slip a little, and by late August she begins to fail quickly. We found ourselves in a bit of "denial". Nika had always bounced back in the past. On September 3rd we had to make the most difficult decision of our lives. We hated to lose her right before our own birthdays (both over Labor day weekend) but it was unfair to Nika to let her keep losing control of her bodily functions. We knew it was "time". I had to work that day, so my husband said his goodbyes that morning. Her gave her a few bites of an apple. I came home on my lunch break to make the longest drive to the vet clinic I had ever made. I took her in for the last time and hugged her goodbye. I never in my wildest dreams could imagine the pain I was feeling as my heart ripped in two. Nika was safely delivered to the Rainbow bridge by her vet and favorite vet tech. The grief was overwhelming but we survived by telling Nika stories and talking about her often. A few weeks later I decided to have a little "party" for the vet staff to celebrate Nika's life and show our gratitude for the exceptional care she received from everybody at Woodland Vet Clinic.
Sadly, less than 10 months later we would have to send our cat, Tasha, to the Rainbow Bridge due to cancer. At least we knew Nika was waiting for her.

Our very first Malamute: Nika