My friend and companion of ten years died today.
Nikki was my dog, or perhaps I was her human. Actually, I’m certain that it doesn’t matter. She grew from a tiny puppy on our farm in Washington State. These last few years work has taken me away from the farm more than I would like, but if I was there she was nearby. Whoever was doing the most interesting task, from her perspective, that was who she was with, but she was always close.
When it was time for me to wake in the morning, she would wander into the room and lick my face. Then someone, usually my wife, would take her on a morning walk around the farm and nearby woods. I guess Nikki needed to be sure that nothing had ventured onto her farm. There would always be several more patrols as the day went on. As the sun was sitting she was usually on the grass near the front porch watching.
In her younger years she would chase the shadows of swallows as they flew to and from their nests in the nearby trees. She also loved to snatch Frisbees or balls from the air. These last few years those things seemed to have moved faster though.
Intruders, such as raccoons, deer and postmen were never welcome on Nikki’s farm. The chickens would walk right up to her in the barnyard while she merely watched, but predators never ventured there. Deer never ate in the orchard because Nikki was on the watch. I never worried about the house when we were gone. Nikki was there.
She was always there for us, but I’m sad to say that in the end I was not there for her. Both my wife and I are up in Alaska right now at the village where I teach. On Friday, my youngest son, Robert, told us that Nikki was in pain and after a thorough examination we were informed it was probably cancer. Robert said we would know more soon, but it looked grim. That night I sent him this message;
If it is necessary to put Nikki down tomorrow I want you to remember that she was loved every day of her life, that she had room to roam and explore, plenty to eat and a warm and comfortable place to sleep. As dogs go, that is just about a perfect life. She has no concept of personal death so she is not afraid of it. Remember the good times we had with her and do what needs to done to make the rest of her life (however long that will be) as good as it can be. If you do that, you have done everything you can for her. Thanks for being there for her.
I am thankful that Robert was with Nikki when she breathed her last. I’m grateful that the last thing my faithful dog saw was a loving friend. As painful as it would have been, I wish I could have been there to share the burden that they both had to endure today.
Goodbye Nikki, old friend, I miss you already.