1997 - 2011

Up the Taku, 2010

The beginning
I found Nigel behind bars at the Gastineau Humane Society in late September 1997 as a cheerful nine month old puppy.  Other than being male (I thought I'd adopt a female dog) and named Kramer he was just what I was looking for.  All the other dogs barked or leaped against the chain link doors when I walked by, but this dog sat just on the other side and looked up at me sweetly.  I think it was the ears that won me over--one half up and the other flopping down.
  The next weekend I took my potential dog on a leashed walk up Dan Moller to the overlook shelter.  Along the way he was friendly to people and dogs and seemed eager to snuggle when we sat down.  He even seemed polite about the cat, hiding behind my legs when I introduced him to Oscar back home.

Being nine months old already, I was curious about his background.  Apparently he'd been adopted the weekend before I met him so his records had been discarded; one employee thought he'd been a stray.  The family that adopted him returned him after a few days claiming that he didn't get along with the "man of the house" which, given Nigel's unfailing and indiscrimate affection, seems a poor cover for other family issues.  In any event, their loss was my gain.  I was warned by the humane society of two other possible problems--he was apparently not house broken and he chewed his collars so vehemently that they kept him collarless.  Despite these warnings, and with great pride, I officially adopted Nigel on October 6, 1997.  He came with a license, a bag of dog food, a box of biscuits, and a toy.  After a few days struggling with names, my dog became Nigel.  The first afternoon of his adoption I took him for a romp on Sandy Beach where I'd often fantasized about walking my dog.  (He turned out to be house broken and never chewed his collar.)

The early years
Nigel soon began to frequent Sandy Beach, where he became part of a small pack of close friends and a wider pack of acquaintances.
Sandy Beach quickly became one of his favorite places and remained so the rest of his life.  Those were the early years together--meeting up with the pack at 6:00 am on weekdays (no matter the weather) and a little later on weekends, mixing it up with morning hikes up Dan Moller and Mt. Jumbo on the weekdays, Outer Point and longer hikes on days off.  At the beach he soon met his best friend, a male pit bull/Labrador retriever mix named Cavall, as well as a small pack of very close friends and play buddies (Nigel was a well known player on the beach for years).  The other members of that original pack passed away long before Nigel (Bridget, Annie, Cocoa,  Eli, Olie, and others) and after moving to mainland Juneau he and I didn't frequent the beach enough to build up another.  For a few years his other best friend was Fred, a husky/Australian shepherd mix from Hoonah.  Fred and Nigel together were a terror to their owners and to neighborhood dogs, turning into foot loose gang members when they met up.  They hiked the Chilkoot Trail together, but Fred has since moved away.  I could always tell Nigel's friends by his willingness to let them near his toys and food.  Nigel's "cousin" Rosie (my parents' dog) was the dog he socialized with most in his latter years, though he and Cavall remain enamoured of each other all through their lives.

Adventure buddy
When Nigel was nine I started taking him on the boat to adventures at Snettisham and up the Taku, something I hadn't done often before due to his anxiety about boating/flying and the fact that there was someone at home to watch him
.  I was concerned, but Nigel proved himself immensely adaptable, much to my delight. 
He never enjoyed the boat rides very much, but he loved where they took him and became an accomplished boat dog in the last five years of his life.  He was my #1 adventure buddy and I was loathe to leave him behind on any adventure; his joy compounded mine.  His favorite place in the world (based on his excitement as soon as he could smell it) was up the Taku, where he roamed through the meadows, chased bears, and hunted mice.  He came with me on almost every trip to Snettisham starting in 2006, lying on fresh piles of dirt while I built porches, alerting me to bears, wandering the beaches, snoozing on his blanket in the lodge in the evenings, and joining me on walks (though he did indulge in bear poop rolls now and again); for a few years he was often my only company at Snettisham.  Nigel unabashedly loved the snow and romped with childlike abandon in fresh snowfall.  He was also a wilderness badass.  He nipped the tail of a wild wolf, chased moose and many brown bears and black bears, and even treed a wolverine.  Romeo (the black wolf who spent several winters at the Mendenhall Glacier) tried to entice him to play once, but he was a little too suspicious of Romeo to engage.  Even through his last summer with me (as his age started to catch up with him) he was rarely left behind.  In the fall his strength waned and we limited our walks to flat trails, usually the flume or Sandy Beach, both of which he visited on the last two days of his life.

Nigel was pretty much the best dog in the world.  He adored everyone.  He was polite and extremely well behaved, joyful and enthusiastic about adventures, mellow and adaptable, and generally completely wonderful.  He passed away early in the morning of March 12, 2011, of lymphoma and will be missed forever.  Below are some of my favorite photos.

(Photos enlarge with a click.)

Snettisham Nigel:
Boat dog
Boat dog, 2008
Iris dog
At the homestead, 2008
Constrtuction dog
Hermit Thrush Cabin porch construction, 2007
Lamp dog
In the lodge, 2007
regal Nigel
Enjoying the spring sunshine, 2009
sorry Nigel
Stranded at the homestead, 2009
rock Nigel
Adventure dog, 2009 (photo by Kellee Purdy)
water Nigel
Ready for the boat ride home, 2009
boat Nigel
Nigel Boat Dog, 2009
Heading back into Douglas Harbor, 2010
Relaxing on the porch, 2010
porch Nigel
Snoozing on his favorite 2010 hangout

Taku Nigel:

Meadow dog
Exploring the meadow, 2008
Canoe dog
Canoeing behind the cabin, 2008
Canoe dog
Canoe dog, 2007
Taku Nigel
Fall, 2007
On a fishing trip, 2009
Eating a mouse, 2009
Taku sniff
Smelling the Taku on the way up, 2009
Taku dog
Summer in the meadows, 2009
King Nigel
Nigel the Alaskan husky, May 2007

Hiking buddy Nigel:

Hiking dog
Sheep Creek, 2008
Nigel adorable
Mendenhall Lake, 2008
Camping dog
Eagle Glacier Trail, 2008
pump house
Sandy Beach, January 8, 2011
flume dog
Flume, January 30, 2011
Sandy Beach dog
Sandy Beach, March 8, 2011

Random adorable photos:

Nigel age
Christmas 2008
Nigel and Santa
Christmas 2007
10th anniversary
10th Anniversary, 2007
snow dog
Sandy Beach, 2008
At home, 2009
doorway dog
At home, 2009

Nigel's pack:
Nigel and Cavall
Nigel and Cavall, 2007
Sandy Beach
Nigel and Cavall at Sandy Beach, c. 1999
Frosty paws
Nigel's 10th anniverary party (enjoying Frosty Paws): Emmy Lou, Cavall, Nigel, Rosie, and Dani
Sandy Beach
Nigel, Cavall, Emmy Lou, and Dani at Sandy Beach, 2007
Fred's anniverary party: Cocoa, Bridget, Fred, Cavall, Nigel, Eli, ?, Rosie, c. 2001
Christmas dogs
Nigel and Rosie, Christmas 2010
Meeting Romeo
Meeting Romeo, 2009
Solicitation to play
Romeo's solicitation to play, 2009
walking together
Nigel and his mom at Sandy Beach, January 8, 2011