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Frames of Time...

001_06 - Nikoma
Originally a "bark" for July 28, 2006

Nikoma, "Niko", our Akita, left us today. However, I know he is keeping an eye on us. I know it because he loved to watch people from high above. When he would visit me at the Fox/Marvel animation studio, he would stop in the lobby which was on the second floor. It featured a huge window that looked down on the main lobby of the building. Nikoma would always stand at the window, watching the people below. When visiting Santa's Village, a local amusement park that closed years ago, his favorite ride was the Bumble Bee. It was a monorail type attraction that traveled over the entire park. Nikoma would grin widely as he viewed the park guests below.

Born November 30, 1994, I was with Rachel the day she picked him up in February of 1995. When she moved up to the house that summer, Nikoma came with her. On the first day here, he lifted his leg for the first time. We always said this indicated he was "home". Speaking with a slightly 'surfer dude' voice, he was a grand companion. Even though Rachel originally thought Akitas would be her breed of showing, and though Nikoma got favorable comments, his Akita aloofness made him not the snuggler needed. So we got a Great Dane puppy, and then another. But Niko always had the claim that he "was here first." Niko was with us through several generations/groups of our Danes and he became the "nanny", gently supervising each new puppy or litter. Folks were often shocked to hear that an Akita could work so well with other breeds, especially puppies. But Nikoma was unique among Akitas. His smiling, fluffy face was a constant joy. With over ten years of memories, it is hard to list them all. He loved to play, eat yellowjackets, run around, and even "fix" squeaky toys (by breaking the squeaker). He loved performing his tricks, though he frequently did all of them at once. He loved travelling. He loved going to dog beach in San Diego. He loved the convention in Arizona, where he got his own con badge. But most of all he loved Santa's Village. It was a unique park that allowed pets and Niko loved to ride the rides there. It was sad when it closed... but we made sure that Niko was there that final day. (Image is Niko riding a flying elephant on a snowy day.)

Over the past few years, Niko began to grey, as pups do. But last year a major change occured. He cracked a tooth and had to have it removed. Apparantly during the surgery he had his first stroke. Afterwards, he had problems regulating his heat, keeping balance and remembering "where" he was. He also began to become incontinent, and his once beautiful howl became gargling. But still he continued to work hard at his duties. He nanny-ed the 2005 litter of Eagle and Luca. He continued to be the official watchdog, keeping an eye on the house when we were gone, and an eye on the girls when they were in heat. For some time now, he had become more lump than pup. He tended to want to just stay put than move, as moving had become more difficult. But a few days back, we had to leave the house for a short errand. Since he was asleep in the kitchen, we decided to let him stay in. As we began to climb the stairs we spotted him staring out the window. We went back and let him out. He was telling us that, even though he was on the decline, he wanted to be on the job. He was that dedicated. For the last few days he had become a bit reclusive. He would want to be outside and as far away from everyone as possible. His eyes were more frequently the foggy, glassy gaze of "nobody home" instead of the sparkle of his youth. In fact, when the time came, it almost appeared as if he left his body on his own.

Now he is free of the pain and confusion. He is up with his original pack buddies - Bronx, Hoss and Jordi, where they are all able to once again sleep together upstairs. He is also keeping an eye on Keitaro, one of his younger charges that was sent away too soon. Due to the short lifespan of Danes, we used to say Niko saw them come and go. Now he can re-see the ones who left, and greet the next ones who must make that journey. Knowing his dedication, I know all of our kids will be in good paws. I often joked that Niko thought I was a "hero" for sneaking him a snack out of the refridgerator or bringing home treats. In the end, Niko was the hero. Brave, dedicated and devoted to family to the end.

text, photo and format John Cawley

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