Age comes to us all
We’re born to die, according to my late Baptist deacon father. That’s a true, if bleak, statement. I’d add this: If we’re very lucky, we grow old before we die. That goes for dogs as well as humans.
Miss Nicky, aka She Who Rules, is happily waddling into the autumn of her life. We adore this little dog, who was born to love and shed.
You can’t put a price on love, but our love for Nic isn’t cheap. There’s her annual physical, parasite and blood tests, to make sure her liver is lively. Add flea medicine, heartworm medicine, anti-seizure medicine, arthritis medicine, gallbladder medicine and Cushing’s disease medicine. Plus occasional antihistamines and antibiotics, when she gnaws her tail bald. (She does this about twice a year; I tell Widdle she’s molting. He is not amused.)
That doesn’t include nail trims, special dog food, organic treats and boarding fees when we can bear to tear ourselves away from her for a few days.
Yes, our world revolves around Nicky. Recently a telemarketer called and asked to speak to “the head of the household.”
“She’s eating kibble at the moment,” Widdle said, politely and truthfully.
Most pet owners will do anything to keep Fido healthy and happy. As humans, we must. They’re helpless. And they trust us.
Seven years ago, we adopted Nicky from a rescue in Florence, S.C. after I saw her photo online at petfinders.com, a nationwide database of shelters and rescues. You enter your preferred breed, gender, size and location, and get photos and bios of dozens of homeless pets.
We were willing to drive up to 100 miles; Widdle didn’t want a male; and I wanted a dog that was under 20 pounds and housebroken. I selected three dogs at one rescue and emailed to set up a visit.
The rescue director responded: “Complete the attached questionnaire. Submit vet references and neighbor references, plus photos of your fenced-in yard. Also send photos of where the dog will sleep. We do not place dogs that can’t sleep inside.”
I don’t test well, and this felt like a terrifying test. But photos of one little dog kept me going: She was small, bowlegged and a little plump, with huge worried eyes.
We provided the required info, were approved and showed up at the appointed hour. The rescue was in a rambling suburban bungalow. The rescue lady had long gray hair and was just as gruff in person as she was in emails.
We stayed on the porch and a volunteer carried out the first dog. When she was placed in my lap, she squinted shyly up at me and then looked away. I could feel her heart beating.
I looked at Widdle and croaked, “This one.”
“There are two others,” he said gently.
“This one,” I repeated. I knew it like I knew my eyes were blue.
I handed over a check for $150 and still consider it the best money I’ve ever spent. The rescue lady shocked me by giving me a heartfelt hug. “You saved two lives,” she said. “Her, and the dog that will take her place here.”
Heading home, she fell asleep in my arms. Widdle named her Nicky before she woke up. Today we seldom call her that. She’s Babygirl or Sneezy or Sweetness, as in: “Whooz Mommy’s babygirl?! I kiss your sneezy nose! Oooohhh, I kiss your tummy! Your sweet fat li’l tummy!”
Nicky—a little stiffer and a lot grayer now—yawns at my nonsense. Just another day in the life of She Who Rules.
Julie R. Smith, who passionately promotes pet rescue when not tickling Nicky, can be reached at email@example.com.