It was Autumn, 2004. We were living in Sanibel, Florida, and had just come through one of the worst Hurricane Seasons on record. I was working as a Realtor at VIP Realty, where I had made friends with Diane Barr, a wonderful woman who loved animals as I do. Diane had attended a fund raiser event where lots of local animal charities exhibited. She came back to the office excited about the variety of charities, and told me that I simply must check out the website of the Siberian Husky Rescue of Florida. Who knew such a group even existed? Anyway, after much cajoling, Diane convinced me to at least take a look. I maintained that we would not be getting another dog at this time. I had solid reasons why that made good sense. I had no intention of adopting a Siberian, after the six I had previously owned. I was resolute.
Then I saw his face. There he was on the website in all his Black and White glory with those huge brown eyes. It was all over. My resistance melted away instantly.
I called the Rescue Group and the next thing I knew I was being interviewed by a member of the Siberian Husky Rescue of Florida in my own home. They were quite thorough, as they wanted to be sure the potential adoptive parents were aware of the requirements of (and I use this term loosely) “owning” a Siberian. Once I told them that this would be my SEVENTH Husky, things went much more smoothly. Soon we were given an address in St. Petersburg, Florida, where our new Husky boy was being cared for by foster parents. We drove to St. Petersburg on December 21, 2004, and found the address given to be a small house in a quiet neighborhood. When we entered the house, the kind foster Mom led us to the kitchen, where our Boy and another Husky Girl were waiting. Our new fellow, whom I had decided to name Mikhail Tretiakoff Beardsley, aka “Misha”, bounded across the tiny kitchen at my friend, Richie, who leaped aside in fear. This was a large Husky…about 1 and 1/2 times the size of a standard of the breed. Richie soon found himself being licked and hugged, by this sweet guy, so his fears were assuaged.
We loaded Misha into the car, which was a Volvo Station Wagon, and put him in the back cargo area behind my daughter Caroline, who was sitting in the back seat. The cargo area had a strong woven mesh net that you could lock onto the sides of the car to keep everything in the rear from moving forward. Misha found the side where there was a several inch opening; this was just wide enough to slip one’s hand through. Somehow, this 76 pound dog was able to squeeze himself through this small opening by forcing it to stretch beyond its limit, and made his way to the back seat to sit next to Caroline. We now had some idea of the strong character with which we were dealing!
From that day forward, Misha became the wonderful center of our household. He ran away constantly; we retrieved him. He dug out from under the fence constantly: we retrieived him. He ran through alligator-infested waters on Sanibel more than once; we retrieved him.
Sometimes late at night(like, 2 or 3 in the morning) he would dream deeply. During these cycles he would emit the most mournful cries imagineable; they were sustained for many seconds, which would make your hair stand on end. You would think that he would have awakened himself, as he did the rest of the household.Yet, these eerie howls would last for maybe 6-8 seconds sometimes! Really scary if you happened to be in a deep sleep yourself!
Misha loved snacks, and was an excellent catcher. One could toss a Milk Bone biscuit ten feet or more, and he never missed! He also was a consummate begger; I mean, really professional. You could never eat anything without sharing some with him. He was just that good.
Tennis balls were objects of great delight to Misha. He could chew and puncture one from metal can to “pop” in a matter of seconds. At Christmas he always knew which wrapped gifts were for him. If it had tennis balls inside, a sealed can held no surprise when his giant nostrils started sniffing!
Misha often appropriated furniture. Couches, chairs, wicker love seats….whatever was most comfortable. We always gave in and allowed him his choice. He also seemed to have a bizarre romance with one of the couch cushions; but, I really never wanted to fully know what that was about. What goes on when I am out of the house…..let’s just say I am better off not knowing!
Misha travelled thousands of miles with us, as we went from Florida to Maine and back each Summer. He was the best traveler ever. He sat in too small a seat with a harness on and never complained a bit.
His name came from the Russian for Michael, which is Mikhail. His middle name I took from my former landlord back in San Francisco in the 1970’s. George Tretiakoff was one of my favorite characters, and he was from Siberia. So, I deemed it appropriate to take his surname for Misha’s middle name. “Misha” is the diminutive, or nickname, for Mikhail. Sort of like “Mike”.
Misha was part of so many of our adventures and memories. Once he got stuck under Caroline’s bed, as he used it for a den often. We actually had to move the bed to get him out! Another favorite memory involves his standing up on his hind legs, very soon after we brought him home, and devouring a fancy Xmas cake that was to be a gift. He also nailed a casserole on the stove and sent it shattering on the tile floor! We learned how to keep our food covered or watched!
Misha had a very sensitive and protective side. When one of us was ill, he voluntarily chose to spend days outside the bedroom door. Never left.
When we were visiting my friend Nancy, who had injured her foot and was in a cast, Misha chose to stay by her side for two weeks. Never left.
When we brought home Teddy, an irrepressible and obnoxious puppy, 6 years ago, Misha started to toss him across the room. I yelled at him, and he never touched Teddy ever again. That was a big mistake on my part, but I thought I was protecting the puppy at the time. Teddy continued to harass and adore Misha for the next six years, but Misha never once put him in his place. He was remarkably smart.
He had the most peculiar sleep habit: he always seemed to need to wrap his big paws around a table leg or chair leg or perhaps put all four legs up on the wall! He looked uncomfortable to us, but he always slept in odd positions. Then, as he moved in his sleep, furniture would move around as well!
We loved this dog for over eleven years. We saw him go from remarkably strong and healthy, to old and weakened. We believe he had attained about 13-14 years, and was struggling to walk,stand up, go out, and generally just get around.
His time to leave us came today. It was a bright and glorious June 1st. The sun was high in the cornflower blue sky when the Veterinarian came to help Misha cross over. We all cried a lot and tried our best to be brave for each other, and for Misha. In the end, He, of course, showed us all up by being the brave one. He didn’t cry, or moan; he took the first shot, which was meant to sedate him, without even wincing. The final shot, according to my daughter, Caroline, who held him through until the end of his life, acted quickly, and his Spirit passed away. She told me she could feel it leaving him. As his life force left his body, she patted and kissed him goodbye. He was loved and cared for until he breathed his last breath.
I am truly heartbroken. I cannot even begin to imagine how my heart will ever heal. I miss him so much already.
As I said goodbye to my darling Boy, I told him to wait for me. And I told him to run as fast and as far as he could.
No more pain.