Requiem for a Dog

We had to put Debbie’s dog Nick to sleep yesterday afternoon. In just the past few weeks he’d developed kidney problems, and in the past few days they failed on him completely. I’m still in shock — as recently as Monday, we thought we’d have another year with him, possibly, and now he’s gone.

To say Nick was a special dog would be a trite understatement of the worst degree. A few years ago, he came into the vet hospital where Debbie works after being hit by a car. His hind left leg was never completely right after that, but otherwise he recovered fully. He stayed at the vet for awhile as a blood donor for emergencies, since he was so sweet-tempered. Generosity was one of his most notable traits — people always talk about what he’s given them (happiness, fun, comfort, security, etc.). Debbie adopted him and brought him to the farm in the summer of 1999. He seemed to know immediately that he’d found his true home. From his slightly hyper temperament (induced by the cramped quarters of the vet), he developed into the most loyal, steady, intelligent, and happy dog you’d ever seen. Debbie took him through two rounds of obedience training until I swear that dog could almost talk English.

Nick was a mutt. We never knew his real age (6 or 7, we think) or pedigree, but he looked to be a mix of Husky and Border Collie, with German Shepherd ears, one of which flopped over in a comical way. His mouth was always laughing, and when he got excited his tongue would hang out of the side of his mouth. Debbie and I always said “Nick’s looking at me funny!” because he had one blue eye and one brown, which became more noticeable in the past year and a half as he went blind through a degenerative genetic condition. After that, he was always slightly pop-eyed, from straining to see. You’d never know he was blind if we didn’t tell you, though, because he got around so well with his other senses.

Everyone in the neighborhood knew Nick. He used to let himself into our neighbor’s house through the dog door, which we’d feel badly about if the neighbor didn’t keep treats for him. He had friends up and down the street, and I never knew him to be unfriendly to anyone, unless he perceived a threat to Debbie or me.

It’s hard, because people give condolences to Debbie, not even thinking that I loved him too. After all, Nick was her dog. But he was one of my best friends, my constant companion, my comforter and confidant. I can’t believe he’s gone. But few people offer me sympathy because he wasn’t “my dog”.

But after all, I can be grateful because he was such a great friend and we got a few great years with him, and got to say goodbye. I’m not overly prone to sentimentality (snort), but I swear the second he stopped breathing, the phone in the room rang only once, and I thought of “It’s a Wonderful Life”: “Every time a bell rings, an angel gets its wings.”

My friend Pam sent me a great message today, including the lines:

“A faithful friend is a sturdy shelter;
He who finds one finds a treasure.”
– Sirach 6:14

That’s Nick.