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In Memory of Niko Akni 2007 – 2018
If you are very lucky, there comes a time or two in your life when you have the privilege of connecting with an animal on a level that runs very deep. I found this with Niko Akni. He was named after my dog, a Siberian Husky, named Niko Tavi-da, who touched my heart in the exact same way. Almost from the moment you meet, you both know that you are kindred spirits.
Niko Akni was born a few weeks after my Husky died. His parents, Wa-ta-chee and Ohoyo graced us with four beautiful pups, Niko, Chito, Woha and Nita. They were all so much fun and had uniquely distinct personalities. Niko was the only male. We gave him the second name of Akni which means first-born in the Choctaw language.
He had a bit of a rough start. When we pulled the pups from the den at 11 days old for socializing, he was the smallest by far and should have been the largest being the only male. We soon discovered while bottle feeding him that he appeared to struggling to nurse. It would take hours to get the same amount down him that his Sister’s were taking in minutes. Our Vet showed us how to make more of a semi-solid food for him to supplement what he wasn’t getting from the bottle and soon he thrived. He became the largest Wolf we had here at the Preserve. When his teeth started coming in we discovered why he was having such a hard time with the bottle. He had a severe under bite. Caretaker Don and I have said many times through the years, that if he had been born in the wild or if we would have left him with his mother any longer, he wouldn’t have made it.
When Niko was a pup, I slept with him in my bed when he was not feeling well and we grew very close through the years. He also loved caretaker Don. He and his siblings spent a good deal of time in our house. His first chorus howl with his siblings took place in our front yard. They were only a few weeks old.
He was a favorite with visitors that came to help us socialize the pups. He got a lot of hugging, loving and grooming. As an adult Wolf, he was the most trusting of us caretakers. His Sister’s ran the show, though. It wasn’t until much later that he realized, hey I’m big. I don’t have to put up with the shenanigans of my Sister’s any longer. He had a fierce loyalty to his Sister, Chito who was our longest reigning Alpha. He never once tried to take her place. He always had her back until the day she died. She was the only one who could weasel her way in the mix when he was getting attention from his caretakers. He mourned the loss of Chito when she died last year and was never quite the same.
He had a rivalry with another male Waya, who was a few years older than Niko. The two would put on these dominant displays almost daily but they never hurt each other. It was just a lot of posturing and trash talk. Niko really missed Waya when he passed away.
Niko Akni was our big gentle giant. Everyone knew which one he was because of his under bite and size. He was the high soprano in a chorus howl. He loved playing with squeaky toys. He’d throw them up in the air and catch them. His favorite foods were deer or beef hearts, roast beef, and occasional treats of brats, cheeseburger pizza and ice cream. He enjoyed belly and back rubs from his caretakers. He loved to be in your face.
Sadly, he developed testicular cancer which then metastasized. This past month we noticed a decline in his health. We decided along with our Vet that the kindest thing to do for our buddy was to let him go peacefully. It was a heart wrenching decision even though we knew it was right. We helped him pass over the bridge on October 24, 2018. He will always be in our hearts.