Yiska – July 2019

Yiska is a Navaho name that means the night has passed. We named our two-year-old Malamute mix Yiska because his night had passed – he was scheduled to be euthanized on the day that WAMAL removed him from a kill shelter. It was always clear to me that Yiska understood just how close he had come to death.

When my late wife Vanessa and I first met Yiska, he was waiting for us in an enclosure. As I entered, our eyes made contact, and Yiska immediately approached me, jumped on me, and stuck his face in my face as he carefully examined me. (Vanessa always insisted that Yiska desperately needed glasses.) I knew immediately that he was our dog. (Interestingly, we later discovered that Yiska disliked and distrusted men.) Unfortunately, he then did the same thing to Vanessa. Because she was short, he towered over her, and she was frightened. He then topped off his performance by going behind her, jumping on her shoulders, and inspecting the back of her head. While it was obvious to me that Yiska was our dog, Vanessa was not convinced. We did, however, finally adopt Yiska and brought him home.

Yiska had an unusual case of separation anxiety – it surfaced whenever I left home, even if Vanessa or our daughters were home. Its severity, of course, was worse when no one was home, as we soon discovered. The first time we left Yiska home alone and uncrated, we came home to find garbage strewn all over the floor, the blinds in the kitchen and upstairs bathroom pulled down and chewed to pieces, the lower kitchen cabinet doors open with broken dishes strewn on the floor, and the family room furniture pulled out from the wall into the center of the room. It was an impressive scene of carnage and devastation.

Along with medication, we tried crating Yiska when we left home, with indifferent success. Although I reinforced the cages, a heavy-duty crate lasted on average for only about three weeks. Just maintaining a viable crate for Yiska proved to be a major challenge.

You might wonder why we wanted to keep a dog who was so destructive. Part of the reason is that, in the end, he only destroyed dishes and household possessions, some of which we replaced and some of which we realized we didn’t really need in the first place. But more importantly, in his own life, Yiska manifested love, commitment, and faithfulness. Dogs by their very nature are faithful; Yiska took faithfulness to new levels. He was absolutely devoted to me, had an uncanny ability to anticipate my thoughts, and was always eager to provide whatever support he could. He was an amazing, loving friend and comrade. The trail of devastation that he left behind is trivial in comparison to the strength of his personality and his love.

The first time Yiska’s night approached, it passed him by through an act of mercy. No living being can forever avoid nightfall, however. On the evening of Monday, July 15, 2019, at the age of 13, Yiska’s night did not pass. He lives on in our memories, and he lives on in his legacy of hope, faithfulness, and love.