We lost a member of the Atomic family recently. Maja, my 11-year-old Siberian Husky, reached the end of her long, happy dog life.
We got Maja as a puppy, and though we tried numerous crates and outdoor kennels, she was not a dog to be away from her pack. So from a very early age, Maja came to the office with us. She must have met hundreds of customers, guests, and other office visitors over the years. I can only think of one she didn’t like, and only a couple of people who didn’t like her (they were allergic to dogs).
Maja had a big personality. She was an integral part of my family’s life, and she’s the dog my kids will always remember. She was a dog I’ll never forget.
Maja learned and loved pheasant hunting. She pointed up roosters other “real” bird dogs had given up because it was too snowy to keep looking. She learned to flush pretty well, and perfected the husky half-retrieve. She hunted with her ears. My hunting friends laughed when I brought her to South Dakota dressed in safety orange. Huskies aren’t bird dogs, after all. Maja was.
Ever notice how many dogs in the pound have some northern breed look to them? Huskies like to wander. They typically need to be kept on a leash at all times. The Chuchi native people of Siberia used to turn them out in the summer to fend for themselves, after a winter of being used as vital transport. I always thought this explained the wandering and fondness for garbage. Huskies aren’t good off lead. Maja was.
Maja didn’t like it when I was away from home. She’d be a pain to be around, nervous, anxious and restless. Siberian huskies typically have fairly aloof personalities, and aren’t “one-person dogs”. Maja was.
Maja recognized our kindly FedEx delivery man from the upstairs of our building by the way the door chime rang when he entered the building — should have been impossible, but she did. He always brought her a treat.
Maja slept at the foot of our bed. Except for those nights when she decided to sleep on the bed. She’d carefully circle a few times before landing, always finding a place where she had plenty of free space, but was just touching me. I found myself the middle of three spoons on plenty of cold winter nights.
Maja loved riding in the trunks of our cars — dark, small, secure spaces, just like the dens of her wolf ancestors. She laughed when I got busted by the Canton police for letting her spend time there while shopping at IKEA.
Maja was a regular at The Greenwell. She parlayed her pack separation anxiety into a walk and inclusion at dinner. She’d happily wait, tied to the fence, napping under the lilies, while we ate on the porch. The wait staff brought her water, and sometimes a meat scrap from the kitchen.
Life wasn’t always easy with Maja. She sometimes acted like she never fully mastered being housebroken. She’d shred the trash if left alone with sandwich wrappers. She really didn’t like being brushed. She bit a hole in the ear of a sweet dog named Bear over a hot dog. She needed daily medicine so she wouldn’t leak on the floor. Sometimes she leaked anyway. I referred to her (fondly) as Alpha Bitch.
In her last year she was happier spending time on the AOHQ’s first floor, or outside under our overflow conference room table (aka the picnic table). I never figured out what started bothering her about the second floor. Too many people? High-frequency electronic noises? Ghosts? When she spent the day outside this snowy winter, she looked the part of her ancestors, happily curled up, with her tail over her nose, letting the snow build up on her thick, warm coat.
Maja’s buried in northern Michigan where my family has been laying dogs to rest for over 60 years.
I miss her.