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Sputnik is a Rat Terrier, although his dark brindle markings would disqualify him from registration with either the AKC or UKC. He is about eleven years old, weighs 16 pounds and stands 15 inches at the withers. I found him listed on Petfinder and adopted him when he was about a year old. Sputnik came from a shelter in New Jersey where nothing was known about his background. At the shelter, he briefly went by the name of "Jax". My name for him comes from our mutual love of balls - mine being 1960s signs such as these and these. Sputnik's ears look very much like the spikey projections of these signs. The actual Russian translation of his name is "fellow traveler" which is also very appropriate.

Nik has boundless energy and is crazy about toys, especially balls. When I adopted him, his teeth were already ground down to stumps from obsessive chewing on tennis balls. He also loves stuffed toys and squeak toys but guts them instantly. If a toy isn't handy, an empty bottle or a tiny piece of paper is a fine substitute. His high-pitched screaming and manic barking are luckily only an outdoor phenomenon. A few times, his screams have actually frightened squirrels enough to make them panic and fall from trees. I trained Nik for agility but he didn't enjoy competition since you can't bring a ball into the ring. We developed our own form of agility using trees, trash cans, benches, etc.

In 2008, I discovered that Nik was completely blind in his right eye. The vet believed it was probably a genetic defect. The retina in that eye is completely detached. He may have even been blind in that eye when I adopted him. Despite the handicap, he caught balls with great precision and was able to leap and go around objects efficiently at top speed. Nik evidently developed his own system for depth perception.

In 2011, I began to notice some vision loss in his left eye. The vet detected the beginning stage of a cataract. The consistency of the eye was too soft for an operation. It would most likely result in retinal detachment (blindness). At this point, Nik probably only has 2% of vision in his one good eye. I have to be careful where I run him since he doesn't see poles, chain link fencing, dips, and sometimes trees or people. We stick to big grassy areas and beaches. He can see just enough to run full speed, parallel to the water and listen for the ball's bounce and then fine tune to find it with his nose. Luckily, among the many tricks that I have taught him over the years, he knows the words "left" and "right" which allows me to help him find his toys. He also grinds to a crawl when I say "careful" which means he is approaching an object. Despite the eye problems, Nik's enthusiasm for life and chasing toys is undiminished. We will both savor every day that he can run around like a maniac. When he's not outside running, he prefers to be alone sleeping in the closet.

photos taken the day I adopted him, no muscles yet and such an innocent face:

rare motionless moments:

action photos below thanks to Misa Martin

Nik needs foot/leg wraps when the ground is frozen/icy or he comes home with bloody feet

Nik is fast and fearless in the water. He loves scaling the waves and riding them in pursuit of his ballie.

"Throw it!"
(photos thanks Eric Maierson)
Nik is crazy about lure coursing Nik & the Pacific

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