Thursday, December 16, 2010

Solitary Niko

Most of the time, Niko is within eyesight. He hangs out in the living room the most. On occasion, we would not see him for a while and have to look for him. There are times he seeks solitude in his room.  The other day, he stayed on his bunk long enough for me to snap a few pictures.  I promise, I was not punishing him. He went to the corner all on his own. Maybe he was mad at us for something?
Is it a cat?
Nope, just a shiba

Friday, December 10, 2010

"Namaste" says Niko

Niko the Shiba Inu gave $20


I am happy to say that Niko just gave his first donation to a charity. Yay. Namaste Nepal is a charity set up by my friend Joe who recently took a trip to Nepal. He is raising money to help a school buy land to build a playground and new building. It is an inspiring story how he fell upon this unplanned endeavor. Check out the widget I just added to read about this cause. Namaste:  "The Spirit within me recognizes and honors the Spirit within you."

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

First Signs of Winter

I was never a huge fan of winter weather. Niko's excitement over snow definitely makes me more cheery to see winter arrive. This weekend, we got our first significant snowfall. Niko was sooooo excited to see the lawn covered in white. I wonder if he remembered it from last year. As soon as he got outside, he truly frolicked in the snow and couldn't get enough of it.  He hopped around, buried his head in it, so much fun to be had. I can't believe dogs can withstand the direct contact with snow. Niko didn't mind the cold at all. Niko's no water dog, but he is a snow dog.
It was a busy weekend because we also put up the Christmas decorations. I had to get Niko's  Santa hat out. It's the only piece of clothing I've gotten him because he's fussy about outfits. Last year, he ran away whenever he saw me coming with it. He was more tolerable of it now. He kept it for awhile on without a fuss.
What's a tree doing inside the house?

Monday, November 29, 2010

Thanksgiving Stuffing

We hope everyone had a nice Thanksgiving. Niko enjoyed some stuffing, but not the traditional kind that goes with turkey. This toy lasted only 2 hours before it was put to rest.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

To The Tennis Courts

Off leash time for Niko is the best time for Niko.  He gets to run fast and hard and exert his energy.  He is at his happiest when he goes off leash. Without a fenced in yard and the danger of cars make off leash time a rare occasion.  I subscribe to the Dog Trainer's podcast and a very good tip I got from her is to find a fenced in vacant tennis court to take your dog to.  The weather in upstate NY has turned rather chilly, so tennis fans have put away their rackets for the season. Although, last week, we had exceptional warm weather and Niko and I were bummed to find people playing tennis.  Anyway, ever since the first time we let Niko off least at this these courts, he gets very excited when we go in the direction of the park. He pulls and hyperventilates from the excitement.  

On the walk to the park, we make sure Niko eliminates so he does not do it in the courts. We play tennis here too, so we respect the courts. Also, as dog owners, we must be courteous and mindful and not ruin a good thing for others. With the shorter days, it is a challenge to get Niko outside before dark on weekdays. Here's a picture of Niko taken with my phone as the moon is rising:

We toss a tennis ball around over and over to play fetch. I tried jogging the perimeter of the courts and Niko outruns me of course.  It's amazing how fast Shibas can run. Very fun to see him gallop like a horse. He has pretty good brakes too.  Tennis balls are good and reliable toys for Niko. He never gets tired of it. They are cheap and he chews threw them if we leave them around.  
When we first brought Niko home last year at 8 weeks old, he was very shy. He shook and trembled for a day or two.  We bought him a few toys and were dismayed when he didn't show interest in any of them. We even worried that we chose the wrong puppy out of the litter: "What's wrong with this one, he doesn't play!"
On his second day, I took out one of our tennis balls and rolled it around. Right away, Niko stared at it and chased it.  It was a big moment for us because he showed his playfulness for the first time.  The tennis ball was Niko's official first play thing. Here's a picture from that 2nd day. He could barely fit the ball in his mouth at the time.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Behind Bars

We took an overnight trip to the Philadelphia are on Saturday and had to figure out a place for Niko to stay.  Our options at home were limited because places don't open on Sunday and we wanted to be able to pick him up on Sunday. I did a little research and found Wagsworth Manor in Malvern, PA.  What a delight to first read about the place and then to actually visit it. In our small town, we don't have "pet resorts."  Our jaws dropped at the nice accommodations this place had.  There was a pool for training and recreational swimming. The facility was immaculate and we couldn't help but admire everything.  

Compared to Niko's one other kennel experience, this one takes the cake.  Niko was fearful when we walked in, but the staff was very friendly. They took him on many potty breaks and we prescribed individual play time. The dogs are separated by size and there are dividers between each "suite." The amount of barking was minimal and there weren't any of the usual smells of a kennel. We saw many workers cleaning different areas of the facility. The outdoor play areas were big and grassy.  When we picked up Niko, he was happy to see us. Compared to the last time where we found him foaming at the mouth(from the stress and anxiety of neighboring barking dogs), Niko was well rested and acting himself when we found him at Wagsworth.

Niko's stay was 24 hours long and we knew he was in good hands. We were given a report card during checkout which I thought was icing on the cake.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Cheap Toy

When we went to Mexico earlier this year, the resort had great accommodations and niceties. One of which was leaving towels folded into cute animals. One of those towels mysteriously ended coming home with us:

We kept it in its original form for months as a memento of the trip.  As we have discovered months ago, Niko reacts in a jealous way when we show affection to animal like objects. Ed took this towel bunny and started to pet it and Niko jumped at him to get to it. It may be the eyes too that captures Niko's interest. 

I took the pipe-cleaner off and replaced it with a rubber band before I handed the bunny to Niko. The sticker eyes didn't last long. The rubber band came off and I had to think of something else. 
Here's what we got:

I rolled the towel from one corner to the another diagonally and then tied a knot. The ends resemble ears and I drew eyes on the head. Niko likes to chase it, chew it, wrangle it with his mouth and shake it until it unravels. He continues to play with it when it's a regular towel. We would take it and tie it up again for him. This is by far the cheapest toy for Niko.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Pumpkin Playtime

Headless horseman costume? This is as close as we'll get to Niko wearing a costume. (Chuckle chuckle)

That's Niko sticking his head into a plastic jack-o-lantern my friend Nichole got for him. Last year, Niko was fearful of this thing. When I brought it back out this year, he showed some anxiety. Then it hit me, it's the face that he was focused on.  I have noticed how fixated Niko becomes on objects that have a face. With any stuffed animal we give him, it's the head/face that is annihilated first. Actually, the eyes fall out and then holes are bitten through the head until it's not recognizable. 

I turned the pumpkin so that the face is turned away from Niko and I put toys and treats in it. He hasn't growled at it since even when the face is visible.  This pumpkin also turned out to be a great storage bin for Niko's toys.

I learned of a fun game from The Dog Trainer podcast and modified it with this pumpkin. Her game entailed a few empty yogurt cups and hiding a treat under one or all of them. Then, let your dog tip the cup over to get a treat. I flipped the pumpkin upside down and hid small toys and treats over and over again for Niko to "find." This is one of many ways to entertain a dog.

I think pets in costumes are super cute. However, Niko is skittish and doesn't enjoy wearing articles of clothings or accessories. It was a lot of work making him wear a Santa hat/kerchief around his neck last Christmas. When Niko suspects anyone coming at him to give him a bath or to put clothes on him, he goes into "catch me if you can" mode and it's nearly impossible to get him.

Don't you dare come near me with a costume! Argh...
Notice how he's curled up under his cheetah chair. He's in this position a LOT. We'll be watching TV and not hear a peep out of him for 30 minutes. Then, out of no where, we would see the chair move up, down,  or tilt slightly. When he gets out, he sometimes get stuck and moves the chair with him a few inches. It's like in the cartoons when a character hides under the rock and the rock moves slyly. 

To see a Shiba in costume, check out Shio the Shiba!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Apple Thief

Niko has been a backseat passenger ever since he got too big to fit in my lap comfortably.  He is very quiet and un-excitable in the car.  He likes looking out the window but isn't fussy at all. He has the whole backseat to himself most of the time.

We went to a local apple farm to pick up some apples. I put the bag of apples on the floor of my seat up front. We stopped to grab some lunch. When we returned to the car, Niko wasn't in the backseat. He was on the floor up front. It was a funny sight because it was so unexpected. He must have been curious over the sweet aroma of the apples. He just had to discover what it was. I found a hole in the bag (even thought the bag wasn't tied up). I found an apple with a bite mark on it. All is well, as I had planned to make oat apple crisp dog treats for him. I used that apple he picked out as part of the ingredients.

I let Niko stay up front for the ride home. It was fun an interesting having him look up at us at a different angle.
Bite mark on an apple. Niko?

Monday, October 18, 2010

Autumn Hike

The rain all week long meant Niko had to stay indoors except for quick potty breaks. On Saturday when the sun came out, Niko and I took the opportunity and went over to a very beautiful place called The Glen. It is less than 5 minutes away by car.  There are a few trail heads and I chose one that goes along a creek.  The autumn scenery was very nice to take in.  
The creek was running and we had to cross it a few times. It was at most an inch deep, but I tried my best to step across rocks to avoid wet feet. Since it was so secluded, I let Niko off the leash. As I have mentioned in other posts, Niko hates water. This summer he made baby steps by approaching ponds slowly to drink out of them. One other time, I had to drag him on the leash to cross a shallow part of a river with me. 
On this particular hike, Niko showed some courage. Maybe it was because he was off leash and the excitement of discovering the place overshadowed his fear of water. As I carefully stepped on rocks to cross the creek, he trotted over the shallow water like a natural and a bit like a showoff!

We came to a small waterfall and I paused to take some pictures. Niko darted around the wooded area behind me. He would disappear and then I would hear leaves rustling and see the ball of energy charging down the hill. 

After that, we continued walking uphill. Niko marked his territory every chance he got. He must have known my directional skills are horrible when I'm in a place with no street signs or buildings. And since Ed wasn't with us, there was a chance we'd get lost. It reminded me of the story of Hanzel and Gretel when the ingenious kids left crumbs to find their way back. Except, Niko didn't have crumbs. So, he had to keep drinking water.
On the way back, I stopped and found a spot by the same waterfall to take a break. I did some reading and snacking. It was so nice to have the waterfall in the backdrop and to listen to the natural sounds of the water.  To my surprise, Niko went down the hill, drank some water from the bank, and stepped onto what was the top of the waterfall. It sounds dangerous, but he was OK since the water is very shallow and not strong enough to pull him  into the waterfall. He crossed to the other side and went up another trail. I saw him pause to see if i was coming. When he realized I was seated by my tree and not going anywhere, he came back to me. Of course, my gourmet platter of cheese, crackers, and pepperoni  made coming back to me more motivational.
Crossing the top of the falls
It was a good time and Niko loves being off leash.  It was another small milestone in his progress with water.  In his own pace, Niko got his paws wet. It was cool to see him do this. I won't expect him to go swimming on his own anytime soon though.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Where's Niko?

Not very often does Niko get to run off leash. I love this picture because he is camouflaged. His face shows he is so happy, being able to run free and explore. 

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Niko in New York City, Take 2

Niko is somewhat of a celebrity to my "peeps" back home in NYC. Every time I visit, relatives and friends ask if Niko is coming along.  His last trip was eye opening to say the least and we didn't venture out of Brooklyn. Right after we got out of the car, to my surprise, Niko went to the bathroom right on the concrete sidewalk! His city senses must have told him grass is a rare sight where we were and he shouldn't wait.  When he wasn't as desperate to go, he would wait until we reached the one patch of grass we have to walk a long block to; it was like clockwork, same spot everytime.

At my parents' home (which is relatively small in comparison to what Niko is used to), Niko was very timid.  He once again found his bark/voice.  Fortunately, the barking did not carry on outside. It must be enclosed spaces that he does not like.

During this trip, Niko had the opportunity to meet his Aunt Tracey for the very first time. It was a meeting that was long awaited for by both parties. Tracey has gotten Niko toys before and is an avid reader of the blog.  With patience, Tracey gained Niko's trust and quickly became friends. Niko really needed those rubs on the head because he was feeling homesick =)

I took Niko for walks and to parks as much as possible. For the first time, I took Niko with me into Manhattan. I didn't want to take my chances with the Subway, so I drove. As usual, he did very well in the car. He napped and looked out the window as I drove through the crazy midtown traffic. On foot and paws, Niko quickly learned how to wheeze in and out of the swarms of people with me (I held the leash tight and short).  He followed my stops and go's. It certainly helped that he wanted to stay close to me in an unfamiliar world.  We went to Central Park where we met up with a bunch of friends and children.  It was a beautiful Fall day and it seemed like every New Yorker took advantage of it and was at the park. 

I finally drew the conclusion that Niko is extra tolerant of kids. After seeing him with different sorts of adults and kids,  he always sits peacefully as kids come up to him to say hello, play, and pet him. He was totally calm even with a group of 3 to 5 kids all excited to meet him. If it were a bunch of adults crowding him like that, Niko would surely run and hide. It must be the short size and playfulness of children that Niko connects with. I personally like seeing kids' faces light up and it's super cool when Niko's the reason behind it.

As cool as NYC is, Niko prefers the slower pace of his suburban neighborhood. We give props to all the shibas (like Shio  and Kit & company) who call NYC their home.  For now, we will live vicariously through these City Slickers by reading about their adventures!
Niko taking it all in...

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Cheetah Chair, Check!

Almost a year ago, we picked up a small arm chair that was in good condition for Niko. It became one of Niko's favorite spots to hang out at home. He uses it to prop himself up to look out the front window, take naps, even as a den/cave under the chair.

All this use took its toll on the chair, especially Niko's tender loving chews...

It was time to either let the chair go to crap or bring it back to life. We chose the second option. We went to the store to look for some fabric. I like the feel of flannel so we found a leopard print piece.  With zero upholstering experience, we bought a few yards of  the fabric and a staple gun.

I wasn't sure how Niko would react to such a drastic change to his beloved chair. So, I made it a slow transition. (I also didn't get enough fabric so we had to wait a few days to complete the project)

" guys sure about this tacky print?"
I laid the cloth out on the floor for Niko to sniff it out. After a few moments, he chased it like any old toy. 

As you can see, i only had enough fabric for the top half of the chair. The thing was half complete for a week but I think it was a good way for Niko to ease into the change. Here he is, in his "cave." He's very territorial about this space; he growls if you try to invade his space when he wants to be left alone.

Here's the finished product:
Why, hello there. Want to join me?
We call it the "Cheetah Chair" and its very fitting because as most Shiba Inu owners know, these dogs have some feline qualities. In fact, Niko sometimes climbs on this chair very slowly and gracefully. It reminds me of a recent show I saw of tigers going up on their pedestals.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Don't Waste That Egg Yolk

I always found it annoying when recipes call for egg whites or egg yolks only. I would throw out the other part of the egg. This time, when I used up the egg white and had a yolk left, I fried it scrambled style and served it to Niko. I have heard egg yolks are good for dog's coats.  Niko thought it was a good way to add some spice to his kibble.

Monday, September 20, 2010

A Tight Squeeze

Niko enjoys playing fetch with tennis balls.  We throw it from where we are sitting and more often than we'd like, the ball would roll under a cabinet.  Niko always try to get the ball out on his own.  The little guy is very persistent. At times, his entire head is under the cabinet. After a few minutes of trying, you see him staring at the ball obsessively until one of us gets the ball out for him. He sometimes resort to a quick bark to get our attention.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Skating Buddies

Taking Niko with us when we go rollerblading is a great workout for him. He can keep up with us when we skate. And when we feel a little lazy and slow down, Niko would run ahead and pull us to help us out. When he is pulling, we chant "mush, mush!"  It is a lot of fun and we shorten the leash when other people are around. We get lots of comments and smiles.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Chicken Nuggets

We bought a dehydrator and I found a recipe book that had a section on making pet treats. I found one that required only 3 ingredients - water, sweet potato, and ground chicken.  This was very easy to make. I cooked everything up, blended it, shaped the mush into little rectangles and placed them in the dehydrator. I let the thing go for 6 hours and presto, out came these hard, crunchy treats that resemble chicken nuggets. What's great is they can be stored at room temperature for weeks and in the fridge for months!

While I was doing all this, Niko seemed to know it was a special treat for him. Perhaps it was because I was doing this after dinnertime and he knew it was out of the ordinary and I couldn't be cooking again for us humans. Niko stayed in the kitchen the whole time looking at what I was doing. He sniffed the air and watched the stove. I gave him some cooked chicken along the way.

Niko didn't get to taste test the finished product until the next morning, but I think we have a winner! These are great because they are healthy, nutritious treats that can take the place of Niko's regular food. I can train him with these treats without feeding him unhealthy stuff.
Placing the nuggets in the dehydrator
Final product

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Sushi, No Chopsticks Required

Keeping in mind that Shiba Inus originate in Japan, I am mindful to share my sushi with Niko.  
I have read that seaweed is good for their coat (not sure if it's true). Surprisingly, Niko likes fish. Raw and cooked. In fact, a few months ago, when Ed was fishing, Niko stole a tiny minnow when we weren't looking and chomped it down. He has a wide ranging palette. There isn't much he doesn't like to eat.  Food is the key to Niko's heart.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Books for Sale, Not the Dog

We went to a small festival and parade this past weekend. When we approached a book sale, Niko scoped out the only shady spot--underneath the table of the book sale.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Nobody Leaves This Building Without Me!

When Niko thinks we are going outside, he quickly follows us to the door. Even when he is tired, he doesn't want to lose any chance of going outside.  He blocks the door by laying right in front of it. As an extra measure, in the picture, he laid on top of my flip flops. He'd surely wake up if I have to put them on to go outside.

He would make a good jail-keeper, wouldn't he?

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

A Prince On His Throne

This is a picture from our camping trip at the Adirondacks. On our campsite was a tree stump that Niko climbed up to and rested. It had a good vantage point. He was able to see the lake and keep an eye on the campsite and scope out possible food scraps.  

This was a unique camping trip in that it was very secluded and the site was accessible only by boat or by hiking trail. We usually camp at places where you drive your car up to.  Since Niko is afraid of the water, transporting him by kayak was not an option. He gets veeeery skiddish when he is near water.  So, Ed loaded my kayak with our supplies, tied it to his kayak and rowed to the site. Niko and I walked. It was a half a mile hike, not bad at all. We did that several times to get to different areas of the park for activities.

At the ranger's office, there were signs about bears and precautions on how to avoid bears. We had that in the back of our minds.  Niko's very sensitive to his surroundings and barked when he sensed strange movements or noises. If there were any bears around, I think they would have stayed away because of Niko.

When we are in the wilderness like this, Niko is in his element.  He absolutely loves camping and has a good time digging holes in the ground, sniffing out bugs, and howling like a coyote at random times.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Scarecrow Niko

In the backyard, I have a small vegetable garden that is near and dear to my heart.  Lots of time and care have been put into it.  The process started in mid March when I started seeds indoors. The garden itself doesn't have protection in terms of fencing.  

Earlier this summer, a neighbor who is a very experienced gardener marveled that my green bean plants were unharmed. He said rabbits love green beans and they'd be able to get to mine easily. I took my chances and didn't install a fence. This week, the same neighbor reported of groundhogs eating his cucumbers and traps didn't work and he had to fence them off.

Luckily, it is now August and my garden has been unharmed by any sort of rodents (knock on wood).  We think it is mainly due to our unintended scarecrow, Niko. He spends time outside by the garden a lot and chases chipmunks, rabbits, and squirrels whenever he sees them. One time, out of no where, I heard him growl quietly. I looked up to find a deer crossing the backyard. The deer didn't think twice about coming near my garden.

Our scarecrow doesn't stay outside 24 hrs/day.  The usual suspects probably smell him when they come near and stay away. Thanks to Niko, we are able to enjoy home grown veggies. Thanks, buddy!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Turtle and the Niko

We rescued a turtle from the side of the road one day to put him in the woods away from traffic. But before we took it to its new habitat, we brought him inside to meet Niko. 

Niko's got a knack for sensing what's different.  I bet he'd be great at those games where you look at 2 very similar looking pictures and you have to pick out what's different. As slow moving and inconspicuous as the turtle was, Niko was bothered by it right away. He probably smelled it.  Niko barked at the turtle and sniffed it. The poor turtle stayed in his shell.  We didn't keep the turtle inside very long, we spared them both the torture.  The turtle was brought to the woods and Niko stopped barking.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


Niko's got a new outdoor toy. It's a frisbee with a whole in the middle. He loves fetching it.  He also likes holding the thing in his mouth, run, around, and toss his head back and forth like with his other toys. 

At times when he does this with the frisbee, it flips over his head and on his neck. The first time it happened, it was so cute and funny. The frisbee landed around his neck like a necklace. Niko was stuck and couldn't get it off and it drove him nuts. He eventually shook it off him. I was able to snap a few pictures the next time it happened. He looks like an act in a three ring circus.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Niko. Jealous?

I might have mentioned it before. Niko is not a cuddly dog. He only shows affection when we come home after not seeing one of us for more than a few hours. He'll spend maybe 30 seconds to greet and lick us. That's about it. Oh, there's also when we have food. He would stare us down until the food is gone.

Sometimes we wonder if he even likes us. Would it make a difference to him if we gave him away? Would he miss us? Probably not.

I found a furry toy (a woodchuck?) that is stuffing-less. Great idea since Niko, like most dogs, is infamous for ripping the stuffing out of his toys. This thing became his favorite toy in no time. When  Ed got his hands on the woodchuck, he held it on his shoulder and made "meowing" noises to be funny. In an instant, Niko became alert to the sound and barked. He lunged at the toy and gnarled and gnawed at it as if to kill it. 

After that, we experimented with a few things to see the cause of this reaction. The meowing sound really gets to him, even if we're not holding the woodchuck. It explains the time I held a cat on my lap and Niko growling.  We then tried talking to the toy like it was Niko. We said endearing things  we usually say only to  Niko. Boy, did that get to him! He didn't want us talking like that to anyone but him. Ah- ha! Niko does like us. Well, he's a jealous dog, to say the least.

Saturday, July 10, 2010


For those who have practiced Yoga, you  may be familiar with the downward dog position. It's one of my favorites.  It is often referenced as a dirty joke in movies whenever Yoga is present. 

This Yoga move is based on a stretch that dogs do. Niko is a pro at downward dog position.  When he wakes up in the morning and whenever he feels the urge, he stretches his front paws out in front of him, sticks his butt in the air and it gives his spine a good stretch. He also goes into this position when he plays or chews a bone. It is similar to the play stance, where his behind is lowered and his tail wags as he looks on to another dog or whoever he wants to play with.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

I Dream of Niko

The other night I had a peculiar dream.  We were on vacation in a dry, arid place like Santa Fe. Niko was off the leash and we were walking down a street with adobe buildings. I lost sight of him for a bit. I rounded a corner and came upon a dozen or so Shiba Inus all looking up at me. In the dream, I had a dilemma of identifying which Shiba was Niko. They all looked very similar. I don't recall the rest of the dream, but I hope if I ever lose Niko in a crowd of Shiba Inus, that I'd be able to sniff him out.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Adirondacks (trust restored)

We were invited to The Adirondacks this past weekend and had some unique lodging.  It was a reconstructed silo turned cabin.  The cabin faced a decent sized lake and Niko got to hang out with our friend Ryan's dog, Cabela, a 2 year old black lab. They met half a year ago when Niko was smaller. They had a fabulous time together. Cabela is the best behaved dog I've come across.  Ryan takes her duck hunting and Cabela knows how to fetch the game. I witnessed her carry a piece of firewood from the back of the cabin to the fire pit  in front. She is a great influence on Niko.  Niko's training is lacking when compared to Cabela, but Cabela's discipline was motivation for me to do more training with Niko this summer.

This trip was also a milestone for Niko. For months now, after a few runaway incidents, we haven't let Niko off the leash outside any kind of barrier.  The Shiba Inu breed is known to be independent and the wandering type.  The property was on a private lake in the woods, with very little traffic. We were on a dead end road next to a neighboring cottage.  With Cabela's influence, we let Niko roam free during daylight.  The first several times he went off, we held our breaths. I learned not to chase after him because that would make him run even more.  After discovering the neighbor's property up the hill, he'd jog back down to see us. We even took 2 hikes with him off leash. There were several unnerving times when he'd go down a path we didn't plan on taking.  We would slow down and continue on our way without Niko. Eventually, we would hear the jingling tags on his collar and he'd come trotting back to join us.  The sound of him in the distance was a great relief each time.  Our trust in Niko has been restored (for now).
The bugs were out especially on our hikes. Niko would walk ahead of us and out of nowhere, plops down and snaps his jaw to kill the flies that were buzzing around him.

Niko once again had an excellent time in the outdoors. He was active from morning till night and at times even tired out Cabela, who is twice his size and full of energy herself.