Nikki's story

"Nikki is dead. I had her killed."

Nikki is dead. I had her killed. She was young. She was healthy. She was very sweet with people. Her sins in life were to be large, strong, and belong to an owner who never taught her anything.

A lady called and asked if I was the person who does Malamute Rescue in Ohio. I said yes. She said they had a young female, unspayed, sweet temperament, good around other dogs, nice with kids, who knew a lot of obedience but needed practice. She said they lived in a small condo with a very small yard, and the dog was so large she just didn't fit in their home any more. She said she was willing to keep her until I could find a home for her, or until I could find a home for Granny, the rescued bitch who was already living in my living room.

Before a week was up, she called back to see if I had come up with something yet. I told her no, but that I was working on it. Her boyfriend called the next morning and said they had to get rid of the dog now, and was there any way I could take her immediately? I said yes.

The young man seemed nice, although I couldn't picture him living with a Malamute. He had a two-seat sports car and seemed kind of sporty himself. He came into my dining room, where I had crated all my dogs since an adult bitch was coming in. He asked lots of questions about my dogs, and he always replied "Well, I'll be darned," and added that explained why she did this or that.

As I talked to him, I learned that Nikki had been left alone, and when she did something wrong, she was isolated further and further until all she was concerned with was being with people. She had taken large pieces out of their Sheltie (they had told me she was good with other dogs); eaten their couch and a couple of chairs; dug up or ate everything in their tiny yard; and eaten her way through three garage doors. The man said they rented and he was concerned about being sued for damages caused by the dog.

I put Nikki in the yard and went to get my camera to take her picture, and here came her owner with her in tow. She had broken my gate made of four-by-fours to catch up with him when she saw his car pull out without her. I took her picture.

Now started the problems. She couldn't stay in my house because she was really dog aggressive. She couldn't stay in my yard because she would do anything to get out. And I already had a gate to fix. I put her in the kennel, but she dug out before I got half way across the yard. So I put a leash on her, started across the yard to bring her in, and skied in the mud about a quarter of an acre. I yelled "Nikki, heel!" several times; not only did Nikki not know how to heel, she didn't know her name, either. I said some really unpleasant things about that man.

I brought Nikki in my pantry, shoved her into a crate, and sat down in front of her and thought. I called everyone I knew who had kennels with concrete floors, but no one felt their set-up was strong enough to contain Nikki. I took her to my veterinarian to be kenneled while I considered my options. He has glazed concrete kennels that are very secure. My son (six feet, four inches and 240 pounds) walked Nikki to the veterinary kennel for me. He was ready for her, yet she pulled him off his feet three times. She was unbelievably strong. I left Nikki knowing she was safe.

I called everyone that anybody I talked to suggested, and no one felt they could safely house Nikki. I knew I couldn't.

Sitting with Nikki and patting her head, I realized she was sweet with people. She would be very affectionate. She had had no training. She didn't understand anything except that she was all alone and was scared.

I was advised to put the dog down. I talked to one friend who asked "Can you honestly place this dog with anyone and fell good about it?" No. She needed time and training by someone who understood Malamutes, someone very strong. She needed accommodations that none of us had. She came at the wrong time. Right now, when there are so many Malamutes, so little money, and even fewer people who will give time and space to them, she was very expendable.

This was my first killing. All of the Malamutes I have gotten up until Nikki were placed. Sheba was sick and needed to be nursed and loved to health, but she was controllable. I felt very lucky to have had all the good experiences behind me when I had to deal with Nikki. If she had come earlier, I might not have been able to cope with what I had to do. But I remember Granny, Sheba, Blizzard, Tasha, Cookie, and the dogs I've helped even though they weren't Malamutes, just because they needed help. Harley, Pippin, the black Labrador, the Chesapeake Bay Retriever reunited with its breeder, the Borzoi Stoli back with his owner. Lots of good ones.

I went to the veterinarians office early in the morning and held her head, and cried the tears her owner should have cried. I apologized to her for being so unprepared. I told her I cared that she was dying. I asked God to bless her spirit, to make whatever was going to happen to her better than what she had in this life.

I was unprepared for how quickly she died. Killing an animal is so easy. Just a little shot, and in seconds, it's all over. So easy -- but one of the hardest things I've ever done in my life.

Linda Smith

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