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As we announced Monday, the Second Annual Valentine’s Hearts for the Herd is underway. To enter our contest, all you have to do is mail a Valentine’s to your favorite member of The Herd (To: Dog’s Name, c/o The Thundering Herd, PO Box 1835, Maggie Valley, NC 28751-1835).
One lucky reader will be selected from all of the Valentine’s mailed to win a beautiful gift basket from Smoky Mountain Dog Bakery! The basket last year was overflowing with awesome treats, chews and toys. We get our own freshly baked Pumpkin Treats from them – which they will gladly ship to wherever you are.
To help you decide which dog deserves your Valentine’s, we will be running profiles of each member of The Herd. This year, we will be doing the order from the dog who received the least number of Valentine’s last year to the most.
Kiska came into our lives filling a great need – just as we filled a great need for her. For us, we were in the final days of the Great Nikita, the ruler of The Herd for many years. Nikita was a larger than life personality – talkative, bouncy, and certainly in charge. Nikita was Mama Bear and Natasha was Baby Bear (and poor Rusty did his best being bossed around by the two of them).
Kiska was found wandering the streets, petrified of humans, and in great need of a stable family. The rescue had done a terrific job of cleaning her up and starting her on the path, but she needed lots of patience and time. The same as the humans in losing Nikita.
The funny thing is that the Hu-dad was really not looking for a project. He had a different dog in mind and kept trying to figure out what to do. And that is when he learned the greatest phrase from the lady who ran the rescue. “Sometimes, we don’t get the dog we want. Sometimes, we get the dog we need.”
So, in August of 2006, Kiska came to Chez Herd.
Her first several days were challenging, particularly since she trusted so few humans. Hu-dad knew that pushing too hard would never work, so he took to sitting on the deck floor with her and reading. She would inspect him from a distance, trying to decide whether he was trustworthy. Hu-dad will always list as a life highlight the day that he felt Kiska walk up behind him, sniff, and then gently lay her head on his shoulder. He didn’t move, didn’t reach for her – he just let her relax on his shoulder.
Her second foundation was built on Natasha’s strong, firm leadership, which gave Kiska a lot of confidence. To this day, she is rarely more than a few steps away from her Queen, always willing to be the Queen’s enforcer (aka, the Fun Police). And when confronted by something that makes her nervous, she always wants to be by Natasha’s side.
And, for those that don’t know, recognizing that she needed a new start, we provided her a new name – Kiska – a Russian word meaning pure. Pure of heart.
To build her confidence with humans, we got into the habit of sitting in our little downtown on Sunday mornings – early enough that only a handful of people would be on the sidewalks. While still not wild about meeting lots of new people, Kiska today can handle it well.
Her other big jobs are Head of Security for Chez Herd (Hu-dad has long since learned the difference between squirrel/rabbit warning and bear/coyote warning) and Director of the Sibernacle Choir (instigating song time repeatedly throughout the day).
So maybe Hu-dad didn’t adopt the dog he was looking for that day, but he sure got the dog he needed – and who needed us. Remember that the next time you are looking to add a canine to your world. Sometimes you get the dog you need.
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Tomorrow, we will profile the runner-up of last year’s contest – Typhoon – who received 49 Valentine’s and raised $384 for Sarge’s.
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This Week's Thundering Herd Special Features
Weekly thoughts from our Hu-Dad with the latest updates on his writing projects, the books he's reading, and a gratuitous dog photo of us.
Way Back Wednesday
Each week, we reach back into our vault of over 4,500 previous posts and share a favorite. We hope you enjoy this look back.