It was the same every time I’d show up at their house. I’d walk into the side kitchen door, beer in hand, and I’d be greeted by him. He’d be about 7 feet away from me standing next to his kennel and food bowl. I’d give him a smile and set the beer on the washing machine located next to the kitchen door. “Hey Nanook! Hey Buddy! How are you?” He’d tentatively eye me before stepping back a foot or two, lift his head to the ceiling and give me his howl of approval. I always wondered if the steps back he took were a cautionary action, or his way of saying “Well come on inside. Take a load off.” I’ll always think the latter. After taking off my shoes I’d walk in and kneel down to give Nanook a head scratch, and he’d come in and lick my face. A sign of friendship? Checking to see if I had anything in my beard? Probably both. Either way Nanook, the affable, gentle giant Siberian Husky that was the true king of the castle had given me his seal of approval.
The beers were cracked open. The games had begun.
It had been this way at this same home since very early 2002 when a Siberian Husky puppy that would be named Nanook was brought home to 736 W. Market Street. This was where a couple would raise him not like a pet, but like a family member. Now if you’ve never seen a Siberian Husky up close, then any sort of description can’t do them justice. Big, and I mean like 70lbs big, with beautiful deep eyes and a white and grey coat of hair. They don’t bark as much as they groan and howl. It’s a language all their own.
Now when I’d come to this two-story home where Nanook ruled the roost, I’d always have my spot on the couch where I’d drink my beer and watch whatever movie was playing on the television. Unfortunately for Nanook and I, this was his spot as well. He’d let it slide for awhile, but pretty soon he’d come walking out from the kitchen and mozy on up and look at me with those deep, shiny eyes of his. He’d stand there for a moment before giving me the one-two howl as if to say “Get the hell up! You’re in my spot!” Indeed I was. He’d relent and lay down on the floor, giving me the cold shoulder. But like anyone that has ever had the honor of having a dog of their own in the house, he forgave me no questions asked.
A week ago this past past Saturday was the last time I ever saw this furry king. He’d gotten sick a month prior and wasn’t getting any better. I walked in like I always did, beer in hand through the kitchen door, and there stood my pal Nanook. But in those deep, expressive eyes I could see a pooch that was tired. A pooch that was weak and hurting. Yet, he still gave me the howl, the two steps back, the “Come on in.” It was a rough night for Nanook and the humans that loved him and nurtured him not like a pet but like a family member. On Saturday afternoon I got the phone call that Nanook went to sleep for good. He was sick beyond mending. He was tired. He was ready.
The next time I visit 736 W. Market street I’m afraid it just won’t be the same. No howl, no two steps back, and no “Come on in.” The first round will be for you, Nanook. Hell, the second and third will be, too.