The first time that I even knew Nala existed was Michelle and I’s second date. Entering her home in Bremerton to pick her up, we were on our way to Mount Townsend in order to do a hike with her friends from church. On our first date, I think she mentioned having three dogs. Walking into her house, I fully expected to meet them but she had them all in a different room. Perhaps she thought it would be a little overwhelming to me on only our second hangout to meet her crew: Boo Boo, the feisty chihuahua (read his remembrance here), Chief the spastic border collie and Nala the dominant greyhound/husky mix.
Nala welcomed me in once we officially met and I started showing up to Michelle’s house on most Monday nights and often on Saturdays (I lived in Seattle so Michelle and I put a lot of miles in during our dating chapter). Later, when I walked into Michelle’s house one Saturday, Nala leapt about three feet off the hardwood floor planting her paw into the center of my chest while having her mouth open and tongue hanging out. I knew I was in at that point.
Nala was a complex dog. Michelle told me lots of stories including when she rescued Nala while living in Canada. Involvement with training for dog sledding teams may have left Nala to be neglected and possibly abused. When Michelle was driving back from first picking her up, she named her Nala (the previous name was “Sandy”). I thought Michelle was reminded of one of the main characters from “The Lion King” but she actually wasn’t. She just liked the name.
About 60 pounds and with beautiful tan fur, many of my friends thought Nala looked like a wolf. In Michelle’s single years, she used to take Nala on runs through sketchy parts of Bremerton. No one ever really messed with them.
The sophistication of Nala was all in her personality. There was a sweetness to her that longed for connection. She would prance elegantly up to a loved one and bury her head in their lap demanding to be petted. Another tactic was brushing up against one’s knees, waiting for a fellow family member or friend to extend their hand out. It was also true that Nala liked her space. She would sometimes be out of sight, behind a couch or in another room lying down away from people. The dichotomy was noticeable.
This was also a dog terrified of house flies. Upon spotting one, she would race back to her kennel and hide as close to the back wall of her crate that she could. Even while being scared of flies, she hunted possums in our backyard (why I gave her the nickname of “the beast”). I caught her at least twice with a possum trapped in her jaws as she violently shook her head from side to side. In the aftermath, there would be specks of the possum’s blood on Nala’s fur around her mouth.
One of those episodes, I remember looking into Nala’s eyes and she returned my look. There was a stark wildness there. I will never forget that.
So many memories are recalled. A big one was hiking Mount McDonald with Michele, Nala and Chief early in our marriage. More come when I think about Nala and myself moving into our new home a few months before Michelle and I got married. Jumping the six foot fence in the backyard, Nala embarked on an adventure into the neighbor’s yard. That episode put me into a panic but Nala just simply leapt back over the fence. Prior to getting married, I would come home from work and Nala would often just be in her crate with the door open. Adjusting from her former house in Bremerton to a new one in the North Seattle area was quite a change. Perhaps as a trip to nostalgia bliss, I started playing Tecmo Super Bowl on my old school Nintendo (the original) prior to getting married. Nala would never come out of the dog room or her crate. Puzzled by this I, of course, told Michelle and she mentioned that Nala probably hated the whistles on the old Nintendo game. Being a former snow dog, whistles likely brought up unpleasant memories. I muted the volume after.
The richest recollections are Nala interacting with my kids. She seemed to understand their smallness and was always so gentle in her encounters with them. My son, Reuben (one years old), and Nala especially made a connection. Reuben was always fascinated with her and actually called both of our dogs “Nala”.
Of course, my boy is probably too young to have lasting impressions. That is too bad. Naomi, my daughter, is being introduced to the long term enemy- death and what death takes. At the dinner table when Reuben called out for “Nala” one night after her passing, Naomi matter-of-fact told him: “Nala isn’t coming back, Roo. She died.”
With a presence missing in our house, it still doesn’t seem that Nala’s passing has settled in. I haven’t come to terms with it really. She got sick very quickly and at that point, the time was short. Shocking. A few times I have expected to see her as I have walked into our mother-in-law kitchen downstairs that doubles as the dog room. Chief is always there waiting, a faithful friend but a member of the family is missing and not coming back.
Nala the beast ??? to Monday, June 18, 2018