Nick (02-42), the Greatest Christmas Gift Ever

02-42 Nick

Nick It was during the Christmas Season of 2002 when I became a foster home for GRINN. I had that Fall lost my 11-year-old Old English Sheepdog, Daisy, and was broken hearted, but felt lost not having a dog for the first time in about 30 years. I heard about GRINN’s Foster Program and thought that would be a good way to solve my problem. I could help rescue a dog, and not get attached and have my heart shattered again. I didn’t know then that keeping a foster dog was an option. So I contacted GRINN and went through the process of becoming a Foster Mom.

In mid-December a woman was driving to work somewhere near Gretna when she saw a dog sitting by the side of the road. The next morning she saw him still sitting there and she stopped. He was sitting on a jacket next to an empty bowl, just waiting. She picked him up and turned him over to GRINN. GRINN named him Nick, for St. Nicholas. The GRINN volunteer brought him to me to train and socialize for his forever home to be. He was initially timid and quiet, but well trained and even house broken. He started out in a crate that he would go into whenever told to, but soon had free reign of my home and slept in my bed. He was close to perfect except for his persistent humping behavior. Every time the GRINN volunteer contacted me I would tell her how wonderful Nick was, except for his male exuberance that limited his adoption possibilities. During one phone call, when I raved about how wonderful he was, she asked why I didn’t adopt him. Well, I hadn’t known that was allowed so it put a whole new light on things. I had loved him from the moment I saw his gentle, sweet eyes and was hooked on him, although I didn’t know it yet.

He loved toys, tennis balls, going in the car, and everybody. Several years prior to this, my best friend and soul-mate, Greg, had been bludgeoned to death. Greg was a supremely kind and gentle man and we had spent hundreds of hours together having coffee, sharing our deepest feelings, walking in the park and night star-gazing. We were so close people would often ask if we were twins. To think of how this gentle, compassionate man died from a senseless and brutal act was heartbreaking and I felt as though a part of me had died.

One wintry night in January 2003 while I was pondering whether to adopt Nick, we were out in the yard covered with a foot of snow. Nick was plowing through the snow chasing his tennis ball. I looked up and saw the beautiful starry night and realized I hadn’t appreciated this gift in many years. I knew right then that Nick and I were meant to be together and our 10-1/2 year journey truly began.

All of my dogs had had their own special song I’d sing to them, and Nick’s became apparent soon after that. In the morning I’d give him his breakfast while I sat beside him at the kitchen table singing, “You are my sunshine, my only sunshine. You make me happy when skies are grey. You’ll never know Nick, how much I love you. Please don’t take my sunshine away.” Nick was special in many ways and trained me more than I trained him.

One day he came running to the back door with the newspaper in his mouth. I let him in and told him what a good boy he was. From then on I’d let him out the back door and tell him to go get the paper. He’d come running back with it so proud of himself you could see it. He was so smart. I’d cleaned his ears with a paper towel while he lay on the kitchen floor a few times. One day he was in the living room and I tore a paper towel in half. He came into the kitchen and laid down on his side. After I cleaned one ear he rolled over on the other side so I could clean the other.

I guess he was my Christmas boy on more than one occasion. He loved everybody and went frequently with me when I visited people. One Christmas I took him to my sister’s home for Christmas lunch. Nick politely stayed in the living room while we ate in the dining room. That evening my sister called and laughingly said she discovered after we left that Nick had peed on the Christmas tree and packages. I couldn’t believe it as he had never relieved himself in the house, but after all, he was a boy and it was a tree. Fortunately, my sister comes from a family of dog lovers and we laughed. We now have a funny Christmas memory of my boy. Nick was my joy and comfort.

My mom became widowed 25 years ago at age 75. She continued living in my in-law house thirty feet from my back door and we became good friends and helpmates. It was good for her to have our daily contact and help when needed and nice for me to have my mother nearby. Seven years ago she suffered a stroke that wasn’t disabling, but was the start of many mini-strokes that affected her memory and reasoning. As time went on her dementia increased and during her last two years I became her primary care giver. It’s an emotional challenge caring for someone you love who has dementia. She was a very proud and independent woman who wouldn’t have wanted to live another day if she couldn’t be in her own home with her little Bichon, Trixie. So I did most everything for her without letting her realize that I was. I worried about leaving her alone at night, but kept a baby monitor at my bedside so I could hear her during the night. It was stressful, but each night when I went to bed I had my buddy, Nick, to give me love and comfort. I’d lie beside him with my arm around him and thank God for having created such wonderful companions as dogs, and especially for bringing me Nick.

Nick was a healthy boy but when he was about three he started having seizures. When he had the first one I thought he was dying and I panicked. I thought he wasn’t breathing and tried to resuscitate him. After a few minutes that seemed like hours, he got up and was fine. I was relieved and puzzled. The seizures continued, but occurred only about once a month. After consulting several vets and researching seizures in dogs, I decided to try not putting him on medication and treating him naturally. I stopped using chemicals on the lawn and in the house, switched to all natural dog food, and tried to keep his life stress-free. I also tried to not let him sense it when I was stressed and instead gave him extra hugs and smiles. His seizures decreased to about four a year, with one always occurring in December. I always felt it was from his remembering being abandoned that December of 2002.

As Nick aged his seizures lessened and became mild and our sensitivity to them grew. When he felt a seizure coming on, he’d come to me with pleading eyes and put his head in my lap. I’d lie down on the floor behind him, hold his head in my arms and give him reassurance that he was okay. After a few minutes he’d get up and be ready to play.

Last April Mom had a stroke that caused her to be hospitalized. At about the same time Nick started showing signs of stress, no doubt from a tumor that had been growing for several years and had become very large. A trip to the vet indicated that he was okay so I concentrated on Mom’s rapid decline. Twenty days after she was hospitalized, at the age of 100, she died peacefully in hospice. I was devastated. I hadn’t realized how close we had become. I felt more like a parent to her than her daughter and she was an integral part of my life just as Nick was. I cried every day for four months.

When I finally started feeling better, Nick began to really slow down and show signs of discomfort. He didn’t want to chase the ball any more and needed help getting onto the bed and couch. Sometimes he would lie in the bedroom by himself and just look at me. The evening of September 6, he came to me from the bedroom, looked at me with pleading eyes and put his head in my lap. I knew then it was time to let him go before he really suffered. So, the next day we went to the vet and said our goodbyes. That night as I lied in bed alone I finished his song. “The other night, Nick, as I was dreaming, I dreamt I held you in my arms. When I awoke, Nick, I was mistaken, and I hung my head and I cried.” And cried and cried. Thanks for the love and memories, Nick. You were the greatest Christmas gift ever, and I’ll love and cherish you forever.

Your Adoring Friend, Lynn

02-42 Nick