She has been with me for the last sixteen years. I found her huddled in the back of a cage in a Seattle City shelter. My life was going through major changes: I was leaving my partner at the time; I had unloaded a lot of stuff (both the physical and meta-physical); I was beginning graduate school; I was in some early mid-life “where the hell am I going” crisis. I’m not sure what prompted me to rescue her. Maybe I just needed a friend and she needed a home.
She was this beautiful golden, terrified puppy cowering with her much larger brother in the corner of their run. It was raining and I remember being let into the cage to become acquainted. If you’ve ever been to a shelter, you know that with the cement floors and the chain link cages and dozens of freaked out dogs, the noise is deafening. I was able to take her to another quieter room, but didn’t want to try to walk her down the row of fear. Instead I scooped her up and carried her in my arms. As we walked I realized that she was so terrified that she was peeing down the front of my parka. I took it as a good sign. I lowered her to the floor and crouched down on the ground by her. She immediately crawled under my coat and hid. I remember looking down inside at the soft-golden face poking through the zipper. Call me crazy but that was all I needed to know and I plunked down my fifty bucks and we went home—that was 1995.
She grew quickly into this amazing Shepherd-like guard dog. She was fearless. C-o-m-p-l-e-t-e-l-y fearless. She was protective of me and the house, sometimes overly. I remember one time when my oldest brother came over. I was running late and still in the shower so I told him to let himself in. What I didn’t realize is that he had not been properly acquainted with the Mika-dog or rather she with him. As I exited the bathroom and entered the kitchen, I found my brother with his back up against the refrigerator while he was reaching into the treat jar feeding Mika biscuits. All the while she was chowing through one biscuit after another her ears erect in guard-dog mode and letting out this long slow growl. From that day on, my brother referred to my sweet little puppy dog as Killer.
Then there was the time her arch-nemesis strolled by the house. Miss Mika saw most dogs as a threat to me and to the home. Unfortunately I had the front door open, when I noticed this smaller and whiter version of Mika straying into our yard. Before I could shove the door closed, Mika was down the steps and on top of the marauder. I ran down and pulled my ninety pound moose of a dog off of the unfortunate nemesis—happily no one was worse the wear. I however, got an earful from the nemesis’s owner. Though Miss Mika had done quite well in obedience school and was good on command, when it came to other dogs, she was never able to complete finishing school.
Though the neighborhood where I lived in Seattle was not much for crime, Mika did show herself to be a good protector when it was necessary. One day I went to answer the door and as I opened up, she went ballistic. There in the doorway was a grizzled looking guy, strung-out, up to no good, clearly scoping out my house or worse. It was all I could do to keep her from leaping out onto the porch. As I began shutting the door on him, he continued for a moment with his scam but quickly backed off, realizing that whatever he was selling, Miss Mika most certainly wasn’t buying. For all of her fearlessness, it has always been measured—she’s no attack dog. Her presence has always been so intimidating that flexing a little puppy powered estrogen muscle along with verbal warnings has always been sufficient to get her point across.
That is one of things I most respect about her—she knows her power and wields it wisely. Barring an imminent threat to her family, I don’t believe it is in her to attack anyone. Since entering our family, all dogs of the house, past and present, quickly fell in line following her lead as the alpha. I too over these last sixteen years have learned to trust her instincts.