May 11th, 2005

Hellhound Jess

When The Time Comes To Say Goodbye...

On Sunday, we went to visit our old dog, Nikki. When I was a kid, we got a white German Shepherd, and we called her Nikita. This was our first family dog ever, but when we got her at 7 months of age, she wasn’t trained, nor socialized or anything. So being very inexperienced, first time dog owners, we didn’t know how to handle a dog that was so full of energy, destroyed the house, scared visitors with her barking, and escaped our backyard in the middle of winter (try to find a white dog in a blizzard…) and we had to pick her up at the pound the next day.

We spoke with dog behaviorists, but Nikki was too much to deal with, for the trainer that we knew. So after three months of doggie hell, my mom finally decided that we had to give Nikki up. We weren’t happy about it, but we didn’t really have much of a choice, at the time. But we found a woman who had a farm in Pickering, who was happy to take Nikki. She owned her house, the backyard was all woods and trails, so there was plenty of room to run around in. She also had four other dogs at the time, horses, chickens and ducks, rabbits, and barn cats, so Nikki always had other animals to socialize with.

Now, Stephanie is one of those loud, tough, scary kind of women you would probably find in a bar brawl. She’s the one who wears the pants in the family, very aggressive woman, but she’s crazy about her animals. My mom was a bit hesitant about leaving Nikki with her in the beginning, since Steph was rather harsh in her punishments when her dogs misbehaved… But with Nikki being as smart as she is, she quickly picked up on what behavior wasn’t acceptable, and she’s been one of Steph’s dogs who have never, ever left her side. A lot of Stephanie’s past dogs would either run off into the woods, following the coyotes, and never come back… or they wandered over to the highway and got hit by oncoming traffic. O.o Nikki, and Steph’s Australian Shepherd, Silver, were the ONLY two dogs that have never left the property.

The great thing about Nikki living with Steph, though, was that Stephanie always invited us to come back and visit the dog. I’ve known a lot of owners who say that, but don’t actually mean it. Once you give up a dog, that’s usually it. But Steph was ALWAYS happy to see us, when we came to visit, and I remember how much fun I used to have when I was younger, playing with the animals on the farm, wandering through the woods, and taking the horses out on the trail. And even though we don’t have the time anymore to visit as often as we used to, (we usually still go on major holidays) we’ve been visiting Nikki for twelve years solid.

Now the last time we went to visit, Nikki gave me a bit of a fright. She’s getting older, her hips are pretty much gone, and she’s a lot slower now. But she usually always greets us happily whenever we come to visit. Last time, however, she didn’t… she was just lying in a room, quiet. Tired. No greeting, and no saying good bye when we left. And it got me thinking, what happened if one of these days we went to visit her, and she was gone? O.o Her twelfth birthday is next month, on June 16, and I told my mom I wanted to go visit, like we do every year. Mom suggested that we go earlier, so we went this past weekend. But this time I was really nervous, since the last time we had gone to visit, Nikki looked to be in really bad shape.

When we got there, though, I was surprised to see how great Nikki looked! She was all up, and wagging, and came to say hi like she always does! And we learned that she had just come back from the vet’s, because they had to extract a rotting tooth. She had also had a bath, and she looked MUCH better than the last time! I felt so much better!

My mom did talk to Stephanie about how I was all scared of coming to visit, and about my worries of coming and Nikki not being there. But Steph assured my mom that the day Nikki ever passed away, she would call us right away, and let us know. She said that Nikki would be buried on their property, and that we could still come visit the farm if we wanted. But they also said there was nothing they wouldn’t do for that dog. They had just spent nearly $500 on her, just for her last vet visit, because they want to make sure that she stays in good health. They’re hoping that she’ll still be around for at least another two winters.

I like visiting Nikki. There have been so many dogs in my life that I wonder about even today. When I used to work at the no-kill animal shelter, a lot of those dogs were my babies, and sometimes I wonder how they’re doing, and if they got really good homes. And potoroo won’t have Panda for very much longer either, since it seems we’ve found a family that wants to adopt her. A Native American family, with four kids, and lots of grandkids. They really liked the dog, and Panda seemed to love the attention the kids gave her.

My mom said she talked to the mother of that family for a good hour, and they seem very nice and genuine. And since they know how much Panda really means to me, they’ve said that we could certainly keep in touch. I hope I still get to hear from them, and that I can maybe visit on occasion. But most importantly, I hope that Panda is happy in her new home, and she’s well taken care of.

It’s so hard to see my babies go. -.-
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