The Story of Atat

We lost our dear dog Atat earlier this month. I’d like to tell the story of his life with us.

We had our dog Downey when we moved to this house in the U.P., but Downey seemed lonely. We wanted to get him a friend. But I didn’t want a small dog, I wanted a really big dog. We stared searching online, and on Petfinder I saw this puppy:

His name at the time was Landon, and he was 4 months old. He was at a shelter just outside of Duluth Minnesota, and they had him listed as an Akita mix. We did the paperwork and were approved, and drove the 4 hours to Duluth (and 4 hours back) to pick him up.

We brought Downey with us so they could meet and we could make sure they’d get along, and they did. Downey was mostly indifferent, so that was fine. We got in the car, started the drive home, and the new puppy must have been nervous because he suddenly had diarrhea all over the back seat. We had to stop and put him in the very back (I had a station wagon at the time) and you could see Downey was not impressed with his new brother.

We got him home, and the puppy had long lanky legs and was a little awkward (just being young) so my son, who was 5 at the time, said he looked like an AT-AT (those giant machines from Star Wars). So we named him Atat. (Pronounced like At-Tat – both “A”s like in Tattoo.)

At 4 months he was already the size of Downey, so we knew he would get way bigger, and looking at him you can tell he was a Mix of German Shepherd and Akita. (A Shepkita).

He did get bigger, and he was a great dog. He would jump on people sometimes but it was always friendly, and he actually helped pull Downey out of his shell – Downey had been having some anxiety issues when people came over, but since Atat wasn’t scared of them, it helped Downey to calm down with visitors.

He and Downey were great brothers and loved each other. We eventually got their sister Nova, and Atat was obsessed with her. He had a very long torso, and a big curly tail, so he would curl around her, and they’d play on the carpet and on the couch a lot.

Here are our three dogs chewing on their chews. (Downey, Atat, Nova, from left to right)

After several years we lost Nova, and the two boys were sad for awhile but eventually got into a two-dog routine again.

Last spring, Atat started drinking a lot, and peeing a lot. We brought him to our vet, who could not figure out what was wrong. He was going in the house at night because his bladder was full. We started getting up at 3am to let him out, and then we just added a doggy door so he could go whenever he wanted. That really helped, but still didn’t tell us what was wrong.

I ended up switching vets, and the new vet diagnosed him with Cushings disease. With the pandemic and stuff, we weren’t able to get this diagnosis till December. (I called to make an appointment in July and they couldn’t get us in till late October). We planned to treat his Cushings with Melatonin, because the actual vet medicine for it, something called Trilosane, was way too expensive since Atat was over 100lbs. (Melatonin was recommended by some vets online as a gentler way to treat it, but still effective).

Over the Christmas holidays, I noticed that he was really slowing down – he had been slowly getting slower since he started getting symptoms, but this was a lot. He had been dealing with ongoing swelling in his belly (like fluid) – the vet had told us his first visit in October that she first thought he might have congestive heart failure, but then I thought she had ruled it out – she had done an xray and his heart was not enlarged, but we still didn’t know what the fluid was from.

I got the Melatonin (I had to order a dog-specific version in the right dose) the week before New Years, and I gave him his first dose on a Tuesday. On Wednesday I noticed he perked up a bit, but on Thursday he had Edema (swelling) in one of his legs. Then over the next day or so the other one swelled, and then he was having trouble getting up. We were helping him to stand so he could go outside. He also started panting really hard like he was having trouble breathing.

That Tuesday, January 4th, I went to work and actually called a vet that does euthanasia house calls, to find out pricing, in case. But my husband got home and found Atat outside in the yard, pretty much in the middle of dying. He called me and I came home, but he was gone before I got home. We figure it was congestive heart failure, based on how it happened. So he must have had that and Cushings together.

Our sweet boy guarding his domain.

We are in the middle of winter, with a foot or so of snow on the ground and frozen earth below. So we put him in the garage, thinking in spring we would bury him. My husband and son went yesterday to move him under the snow – we remembered that when we get a warmup in spring, our garage sometimes gets hot so, we didn’t want a bad situation. But they went to move snow and found the ground near our garage, where we were planning on putting him later, was only frozen about an inch or so down, so we laid him to rest in his permanent spot.

Downey has been sad, but getting a little better about everything. We got a kitten last year, and she wasn’t afraid of Atat but she hangs out more than she did when he was here. Our other cat comes out more as well. We will miss him -he was a great dog. I get really upset because he had only just turned 8 years old in December. I feel like he didn’t get long enough, but I guess that happens with all dogs.

We’ll miss him.

Our sweet Atat.

Rest in Peace, Sweet Nova

Here is Nova enjoying the sunshine and some petting.

We lost our wonderful dog Nova this past Monday. She started coughing in late June, and our vet at first thought it was bronchitis. A week or so later she started coughing blood – they did an x-ray and she had a massive tumor in her lung.  The nearest vets that do any kind of biopsy are way down in Wisconsin, or way down in the Lower Peninsula; the tumor was pressing on her trachea (actually bending it) so we figured the best thing to do was to keep her comfortable for whatever time we had left.  I hoped it would have been longer, but it was only about a month.


We had her for almost 4 years. Nova was a yellow lab mix. She came to live with us in November of 2015; Her story as we know it starts when she was roughly 2 years old, she was a stray dog down in Georgia, found with a dog that they figured was her daughter.  She was adopted from a shelter by my former coworker’s son, who was in the Air Force down there at the time. She was with him for a couple of years until they moved back up here. Nova lived with my coworker for a little while, since her son could not keep Nova at his new apartment, but she seemed lonely there.  I had two other dogs so my coworker let us take her so she would always have someone around.  She was a very good dog, she loved to eat (too much – we had to buy her a “slow down” bowl).  She loved to eat apples off the ground when they fell off of our tree. She loved cuddling with us on the couch. She loved to play with her dog brothers, Downey and Atat, and she loved to sit in the sunshine.  Her favorite thing was to get petted by people. She didn’t care who it was, or what else they were doing (cutting her nails, etc) as long as she was being petted.


Our hearts are broken but at least she is not hurting anymore.  We will miss our sweet little dog.

nova ears

A Beautiful Spring Day!

After a pretty schizophrenic winter, spring appears to finally be here.  We had big melts in January and February this winter, but I’m hoping the nice weather will stick this time.  This is the U.P., so it’s very likely we will get some snow again, but I’m going to enjoy it while it lasts.  The last few days were kind of crummy – cold and rainy. But today it was finally sunny, and in the low 50s. We got some things done outside, and the animals enjoyed the sunshine.

snow remains
Our chicken coop – you can see our snowbanks are still here. Our yard is pretty much a mix of snow and muck right now. The sun should dry it out.

collecting sap
It’s Maple Syrup gathering time! There have been some weeks this winter where I heard others were tapping, but March is the correct month – when nights are below freezing but days are warmer.  I tapped them today and the sap is really running well.

tap in the tree
You can kind of see the drip of sap getting ready to fall into the bucket here.

The ground thinks it’s really spring as well – the daffodils are coming up!

Baby crocuses are coming up too!

big red
The chickens and ducks enjoyed the sunshine today – here’s our rooster Big Red.

general and hens
Here is The General, our other rooster.

chickens in the mud
The hens enjoying the sun. You can see the muddy ground here – there is a layer of mud on top of ice – the ground has not thawed yet.  Once it does the ground will dry out a little easier.

atat outside
Atat enjoying the sunshine.  At least that part of the yard is just dead grass, not mud.

I’m hoping spring weather sticks around for awhile.


Happy dogs!

For the past couple years, we’ve had a small, roughly 35×30 foot, fenced portion of our yard for the dogs. Over the last few weeks we’ve been working on expanding the dog run to encompass most of the southwest corner of our yard.  Today we finished the fence. The dogs love it!  They now have 3 to 4 times the space they had before. Here are some pictures of our happy dogs playing in their much larger yard.

Downey running, near my son’s (currently on the ground) tire swing. Atat is peeking out  from behind the tree.

happy nova
Nova running. There is enough space between the dog run and the duck pen that we can fit the lawn mower between.

All of them, running. The patch of deep grass in front of them will be turning into my son’s small garden – we will be fencing that.

Nova and Atat near the fire pit

Downey exploring

My son Daniel having fun with the dogs

The dogs chasing each other

More running

Having fun

Daniel and Atat

Snow Dogs

We had a couple inches of snow from last week, and then yesterday we got about 6-8 inches.  The dogs had a lot of fun playing in it –  Even Downey – he hates water and being wet, and won’t go out in the rain.  But he loves snow.

dogs in the snow 2
The dogs playing in the snow

dogs in the snow
More snow – Nova almost blends in to the snow compared to the other two

snow dogs
Downey and Atat

more snow
Our garage and cedar tree

The yard covered in snow

Late November on the Farm

woods with snow
Snowy woods.

We’ve been very busy this month.  In my last post, I said I would get some pictures of snow… well, then it melted.  But on Thanksgiving, which was a couple days ago, we got about 4-5 inches. So we have snow again.

Here is Nova.  We got her about a month ago, from our coworker.  Nova was her son’s dog, when he was in the Air force in Georgia.  Now he moved back to town and is going to college, and couldn’t keep her, and my coworker felt bad that Nova was home alone during the day.  So we took her in.  She gets along great with our other dogs and she is a sweetheart.

Our Nova

three dogs
The three dogs on the back porch. Nova likes to eat snow.

nova 2
Another picture of Nova

The chickens aren’t minding the snow so much.  I have heat lamps in the two rooms of their coop, so they can go in and warm up their feet if they get cold.  Our batch last year (which we still have the hens from) didn’t like to go out in the snow. I’m not sure why they don’t mind this year, but they don’t.

winter coop
The chickens don’t seem to mind the snow at all.

snow chickens
Snow chickens. The dirt spot here is where we took away their old roost that was out there. We had to steal the sawhorses that held it up, for the rabbit hutch, which you will see below.

chickens in snow 2
Yesterday they found the dirt spot, and they were taking dirt baths in it. The ground is not frozen yet, luckily.

Last weekend we went up to my cousin’s to get the original hutch that I got with the rabbits.  We have set it up near our other rabbit hutch, so it’s now Rabbit Row:

bunny row
Rabbit row. On the left are the rabbits in the hutch we built, and on the right is the one that came with the bunnies. We’re getting it set up for the baby bunnies when they get bigger. The garbage bags in the picture are straw and hay – I have them outside, but covered for easy access.

old new hutch
Here is the hutch that came with the rabbits. It had a roof which we removed in order to get it in the back of the truck. We are just planning on using one side for the winter, so we have closed that side in with wood.

hutch inside
The inside of the new (old) hutch. It has a wire bottom, but I will cover it with straw to try to keep the babies’ feet more comfortable. I need to look it up, but I believe it will be a couple more weeks before they go in there. Hopefully we’ll get the snow out of there before then. We brushed what we could out, but it may melt a little too.

And here are the little baby bunnies:

baby bun
They are starting to munch on food – this one is eating hay.

Here they are – they are all brown. But some are darker brown, and one has a little lighter fur. I’m assuming they change color as they get older, but I could be wrong. I’m still new at this. The mom is black and the dad is gray, so I don’t know how the brown comes in.

baby bunny pile
They like to pile up on top of each other, outside of the nest box. I think there are 8 of them. I’ve tried to count without taking them all out, and they jump around too much so I have not gotten a good count. I will be able to get an accurate count soon when I need to move them.

The rabbits have been doing ok with the cold so far.  We’re going to add a tarp to the front of the hutches to block wind from the inside. That’s one reason I positioned the hutches into “Rabbit Row.” – I figure it will help block wind somewhat. I’m already planning on a new setup once spring comes – more of a rabbit shed, I think. I’d like to add a run of some sort so they can hang out in the grass also.

We’ve also decided on names for the adults.  They are Earth, Wind, and Fire. (my husband came up with it) – The gray buck is Earth (since he’s on the left), the white doe is Wind, and the black doe is Fire.

white bunny
My husband built nest boxes for the other two rabbits, and they are lined with straw, so they can stay out of the wind when it gets very cold. They like to sit on top of them sometimes, as you can see Wind do here.

The farm is pretty much ready for winter.  It’s a nice time to just cozy up inside – we don’t have a lot of projects we can do outside in winter, except reinforcing animal housing and doing normal feeding chores each morning and night.  I like that it’s kind of a relaxation time.  Of course I’m already planning in my head what we’ll do when spring comes.



Downey & Atat

My dogs - Downey and Atat
My dogs – Downey and Atat

I have two dogs, and I realized the other day that I have not posted about them for some reason.  That is very strange because I really love dogs – I just have a lot of other stuff to write about, I guess.

I got Downey in 2010 when we lived in Los Angeles; we got him jointly with my sister.  I had a very old dog named Drake at the time, and he wasn’t able to go on real walks anymore, because he had really bad arthritis. My sister thought it would be nice if we had a dog we could take with us on our daily walks around the neighborhood.  One day a coworker posted some pics of a Shar-Pei mix that his friend was getting rid of – they had 5 kids and no time for the dog, and their landlord wouldn’t let them bring him inside.  He was 11 months old.  I sent the picture to my sister thinking she would say no, but she surprised me and said we should check him out.  We took him in and I’ve had him ever since.  Drake was not a fan of Downey.  He was 13 years old and couldn’t see or hear very well, and Downey was a very playful pup. My Drake died a couple months after Downey came to us.  Eventually my sister and I moved to different places and Downey came with me and my family; and then he came with us to Michigan.


We kept the name he came with – Downey.  He’s a great dog – he loves other dogs; He can be a little aggressive with people he hasn’t met – we’ve worked with him and he has gotten better over time with that; It’s mostly a fear response, we’ve found.  He was always very playful, and a bit lonely.  I wanted to get him a friend for a long time.  When we moved into our current house, we decided to get a second dog.

I was looking for a puppy, but not a small breed dog.  And I didn’t want to pay a breeder for one. I’d rather adopt.  I saw a really cute fuzzy face on Petfinder – an Akita mix; he was in Northern Minnesota at a shelter.  We called them and decided to go get him.  He was 4 months old, but 40 pounds already.  We brought Downey with us to meet him; they got along well that day, so we took him home.  His name at the shelter was Landon.  He was a little smaller than Downey at that time –  about an inch shorter and only 10 pounds lighter.


A week after getting him, my son thought he looked like an At-At from Star Wars.  So we changed his name to Atat. (Pronounced At-Tat).  He is now almost 1 and a half years old. He is very large – he weighed 98 pounds at his last checkup about a month ago.   He’s a great dog; very friendly with people – sometimes a little overzealous.  We are working to get him to stop jumping up on people since he is head height with me when he jumps up. We think he is part Shepherd as well; he looks like a giant German Shepherd with a curly tail.  He’s probably twice Downey’s height.   He went through a very destructive phase, as most puppies do – he tore up the back of our couch, that we had gotten about a month before him.  His destructiveness has gone down a lot now.  He is still very playful – he and Downey are great friends; Downey gets a little upset with him sometimes because Atat always gets his way when they play. Atat is just so large, Downey can’t compete sometimes.

Here are some photos of my awesome dogs:

Playing -  Downey was growling at Atat here.
Playing – Downey was growling at Atat here.

Downey on our back porch
Downey on our back porch

Atat jumping around in their fenced portion of the yard.
Atat jumping around in their fenced portion of the yard.

Dogs facing away from each other
Dogs facing away from each other

Big tongued Atat
Big tongued Atat

The dogs playing on the porch - I'm not sure if Atat is kissing or biting Downey here.
The dogs playing on the porch – I’m not sure if Atat is kissing or biting Downey here.