Nikko was rather fearless and foolish, a tireless trail dog and a dining room mooch. He had selective deafness and a tail that wagged almost constantly. He would rest his snout on your lap if you sat on our couch and he was not afraid to steal food if you weren’t looking. He loved nothing more than racing down trails through the old growth near our old mountain home. If you threw a stick or a tennis ball, he would run all day, but he would rarely bring the item back, and he would never clue in about why I’d get frustrated. Nikko traversed many years and miles with me, and we had a lot of great times together.
Nikko was a tiny ball of fur at the pound in Bend, Oregon when we first saw him in 1998. He’d been abandoned in a burlap sack on the side of the road. He was so cute, Denise didn’t have a hard time convincing me to get him. Still, neither of us could have guessed that Nikko would survive so long. He always had an insatiable appetite, as if being abandoned as a pup made him neurotic about his next meal. Accordingly, he got chubby for a while, but he still managed to race ahead of me on hikes around Mount Hood. Flag Mountain, Castle Canyon, and the Salmon River were favorite spots.
He enjoyed visiting lakes and rivers, although not as much as his sister Rikki did. He liked to cool off, but was rather lazy and tentative about swimming. That’s okay. So am I.
Nikko was always up for a walk or a hike, even a simple release into the green of our backyard. He frequently got antsy in the car when he knew we were headed for a trail, and he had a little pathetic whine that went something like “whoo whoo woo”. While Nikko lived to run, he was also basically content at home. He enthusiastically greeted us when we got home, and besides a puppy’s shoe fetish (including a pair of slippers owned by the late great drummer from Ghana, Obo Addy) he stayed out of too much trouble. Never mind the tubs of leftovers we’d get careless about on the counter.
Odd stuff happened with Nikko. A few years ago, he got injured when he walked out the door a little slower than anticipated, and it was slammed shut on his tail. He didn’t need that last inch anyway. Five or six years ago, Denise and I were walking our dogs in the snow at twilight when we passed a bridge washed out by a flood. I just wanted to check it out. We had crossed it many times, but I wanted to see the destruction up close. Nikko followed me, then passed me recklessly, flying straight off the ragged end of the bridge into darkness. He yelped and was silent. The fall was about twenty feet on to a rocky bank. He was actually across the main channel of the river, so without an intact bridge and in the cold darkness, a rescue took some serious ingenuity and a lot of friends. Yet Nikko was fine. Shockingly, nothing was broken. Sure, he started waking up in the middle of the night to pee, but he hiked as hard as ever, and until the past year, he was still a thing of beauty running across a field.
Just last summer, Nikko accompanied me on a great hike up Mount Hood’s Cooper Spur. It wiped him out, and I could see his hiking days were fading, but he kept trying. Nikko was a goofy loveable creature who never stopped being a puppy despite his gray face. In some ways, he is a reflection of me.
Nikko, aka Nikko Biko Freako, was put to sleep this week, just weeks shy of his fifteenth birthday. We will miss him a great deal.