Love, Loss, and the Best Dog Ever! • Faulkner Group
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Love, Loss, and the Best Dog Ever!

Many years ago, my young daughter decided she wanted a pet, a dog to be specific. We discussed breeds and sizes and most importantly, we discussed her rather sever allergies to pets. We were forced to look at hypoallergenic breeds such as Bichon Frise, a French term meaning; “small dog that could not defend itself or others from a hamster.”

Because I was vehemently opposed to dogs I not-so-lovingly referred to as “yippers”, we went in search of a potential puppy that might not kill my daughter with allergic reactions, and still meet my criteria for a “real” dog.  Against everyone’s advice, we wandered into a pet store in the local mall. And what to our wandering eyes should appear, but a small litter of Golden Retriever puppies!

Amy was in love instantly but, hey, if you don’t fall in love with a Golden puppy, you are likely not human.  She picked up, as I remember, a puppy or two and began to bond with one particular pup, the runt of the litter. Of course, she was adorable and won everyone’s heart. There was, however, that little issue of massive amounts of hair and pet dander, certain to cause my daughter to have allergic reactions.

Right there in the store, it was evident that the entire family was developing an attachment to this fur ball.  I needed a plan to save my daughter, while, at the same time, saving myself from giving in to the irresistible charm of this puppy.  So, because parents are wise and quite smart, and because children are not so wise and not nearly as smart, I developed a plan sure to convince Amy that a few moments with this dog and she would be on life support.  I instructed her to cuddle with the dog, snuggle her nose into the dog’s fur, get that doggy dander all over herself.  Then, because of that wisdom borne of age and dizzying intellect, I said’ “now, we will walk around the mall and do some shopping.  If, by the time we are done you have red blotches on your skin and are having trouble breathing, we will agree that this dog simply will not work.”  She agreed… so, when we got our new puppy home later than afternoon along with the associated small fortune on new pet owner necessities, she was instantly a part of the family. So much for my brilliant plan and superior intellect.

I don’t recall who came up with the name “Nikki”, but I’ve always assumed it was Amy. You see, Nikki was our family pet, but Nikki was, from day one, Amy’s dog.  She was Amy’s companion.  Amy loved her dog.  We all did but somehow in that strange human-to-animal connection, Amy and Nikki bonded in a way that can only be described as beautiful.

Nikki was the best dog ever.  I know, I did the research.  She was friendly but loyal.  Adoring of children and adults.  She was so smart and had a wonderful “sister” in Amy who taught her so many things.  Nikki loved to chew stuffed animals to pieces. At Christmas, Nikki would get several stuffed toys to destroy.  She did so in a few moments each Christmas morning.  Interestingly, Amy had a truckload of stuffed animals in her room and on her bed.  Most days, while we were all away at work or school, Nikki would have free reign of the house.  Almost always, at some point in her day of protecting the house, she would end up in Amy’s room, resting on her bed.  We feared that this would lead to the certain destruction of Amy’s entire stuffed critter collection.  Somehow, for reasons that only Nikki knows, Amy’s stuffed animals were never touched, even if she had already destroyed her won, Nikki somhow knew that the others were not hers, special to Amy, and not to be mauled.  She was a wonderful dog.  The best dog ever. 

Nikki was the family pet and we all loved her.  Jeremy has a close relationship with Nikki too, but she was always Amy’s girl.  As the family got older and kids took on new addresses, Amy assumed the responsibility of daily care for Nikki.  Nikki was her dog.

As the years passed, Nikki showed signs of age. At some point Amy decided that Nikki needed a friend and brought home another Golden puppy. Nikki rapidly and lovingly became big sister and mentor to the new kid on the block, Molly. Very soon, Nikki and Molly became inseparable.  Even though Nikki was aging, she was active and more than sassy enough to keep the new puppy in line, even after the Molly eclipsed Nikki in size and strength.  Nikki’s face was turning white with age, but she was still very much on the go and always, the best dog ever.

A few years later, Nikki developed some ailment that was causing seizures.  The frequency increased and Nikki’s quality of life was suffering.  On one sad afternoon at the vet, I told Amy and Jeremy that her condition was deteriorating, the economics of trying all the available options, in hope of curing Nikki’s problem, would be overwhelming and that we needed to get prepared to say goodbye to our beloved pet.  Amy persisted, so did Jeremy.  They listened to the Vet about some pharmaceutical options that might relieve the seizures, improve her quality of life, and give us more time with Nikki.  Convinced we were postponing the inevitable, at great expense, I argued for compassionately saying goodbye to Nikki.  Amy and Jeremy won, and we tried the meds.  Slowly, over the next days and weeks, Nikki began to return to her old self, except for the age and impact of the seizures on her stamina, she was almost the old Nikki once again.

Amy would take her walking and even running around with Molly, chasing a tennis ball around a field near her home.  Nikki was old but she still had some gumption.  Even so, the weeks and months that followed saw Nikki slow considerably.  It became much more difficult for her to get up from laying down and to make matters worse, she had developed a cancerous tumor on her ear.  The needed procedure was iffy at best and the result of trying to “save” our beloved dog could kill her in her aged and weakened state.  She survived.

Following a wanderlust and a desire to be closer to her mom, Amy made a move to California and the dogs, her kids, went with her.  It was a new adventure for all and especially for Amy.  Her faithful and loving Nikki loaded in her car for the journey, determined to go where Amy went and be where Amy was.

Sadly, shortly after the move, Nikki’s seizures returned.  Unlike the seizures of the past, these were pretty much constant.  The family, this time led by Amy, made the decision to give Nikki her rest and to free her from the struggles of these past few years. 

With a mobile Vet on the way, Amy and her mom sat with Nikki on a blanket and Molly nearby, celebrating the joy that Nikki brought our family, and especially a young girl who had grown into an amazing young woman, all the while with her beloved Nikki at her side.

Against her father’s staunch warnings about canine nutrition, Amy periodically would give her girls ice cream.  So today, as the Vet approached, Amy sat with her ailing companion and gave her one last dish of ice cream.  From the photo’s I saw, she lapped it up as best she could.  Then we said goodbye to the best dog ever.

Thank you Nikki. You gave us all so much. We will ever forget you.

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