Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Thinking of Nick

A few months before Marge would make her way up to New York from Georgia and ultimately wind up coming home with me, there was another dog who had won my heart like no other had done before.

I volunteered at our local no-kill shelter since the summer of 2007 up until its unfortunate close at the end of 2008. After my previous life filled with horses suddenly became merely a memory, a figment of my past (something that STILL causes me grief, but that's for another posts), I needed a new way to fill my life with animals.

Dogs came and went at the shelter quickly, most to good homes and happy endings. I fell in love with many of them, wondered what they had been through in their lives, why they had wound up here. Though I formed attachments to them, I never got too close, since most of them left rather quickly, anyway. It wasn't a bad setup - after my massive losses in the equine world, I was in no hurry to get myself emotionally wrapped in any animal of any species (except for my wonderful boyfriend, Louie, who came into the picture around that time).

All of this became null and void when I found myself making great friends with a Shepherd mix from less-than-desirable beginnings in his life. Nicholas, or Nicky, as I often called him, came into the shelter right before Christmas of 2007. Though I was not there when he was brought in, I was told that his previous owner had kept Nick outside in the yard for the entire first two years of his life, and that it would be impossible to get too near him. And, for three days, or so the story goes, no one could get near him. He barked and lunged and spun in his cage when ever someone got to close - he did not know how to trust.

A little while later, I'm not exactly sure when, Nicky had calmed down enough to be able to walk with the volunteers. He became an absolute model citizen - well, except for his fear of men, which was probably explained by his bad situation earlier in life. I remember taking him on endless walks, and I remember how he'd get the zoomies any time I'd try to jog with him. I used to sit beside him, locked into his cage with him, with absolutely no fear in the world - there was not a mean bone in this dog's body. He just wanted love.

I remember the time he got loose from the leash and ran up to an innocent bystander barking like a lunatic - a story I kept to myself out of fear that I wouldn't be allowed to walk him anymore. On the other hand, I remember seeing people out on the street and having Nick pass them with ease - if only I knew then what I know now about reactivity and fearfulness, I could have helped him so much more. But, he grew on his own and really was a lovely dog.

Yet, no one wanted him. His stint at the shelter was about 8 months long - he soon became the dog who had been there the longest. He saw the least number of potential adopters. Why? Probably because he was a big old black and tan Shepherd mix, two or three years of age, and simply wasn't as eye-catching as the young wiggly puppies or purebred dogs who filled the nearby kennels.

One day, my sister and I got it into our heads that we could convince my parents to bring him home. Looking back, I feel like we schemed like two 5-year-olds who wanted something they couldn't have - and, as you probably have figured out by now, it didn't work. My dad was more open to the suggestion, but my mom was afraid of Nicholas, despite the fact that he adored her. his dislike for cats complicated the issue even further - how was I going to bring a boisterous, barking dog into a 10-year-old cat's quiet home? It was not meant to be, and, for a little while, I was VERY upset.

I came to terms with the fact that he wouldn't be coming home with me, and, as if by luck, that's when Marge came into the shelter. In fact, I think he left for his own home within one week of Marge coming home with me.

I could not bring myself to say goodbye to him when I heard the news he was going to his new home. I didn't want to be there when he left. I would not go into the play pen with him to play, because I knew I would break down into a thousand tears. So, I silently wished him luck in his new home, gazed down at his beautiful, smiling face for one last time, and knew that it would be farewell.

Before the shelter closed, I heard that he was doing very well in his new home - that his reactivity problems had virtually disappeared, he was able to attend family barbecues and events mingle with dogs and people that would have scared him during his stay at the shelter. Some of the employees even got to see him again, too. I sure wish I could have seen him.

Though I am obviously happy with how things worked out, as I got to bring home a wonderful little black dog named Marge who pours her heart into everything she does with me, I do admit to fantasizing about what could have been. What would Nicky have been like in my home? What if I could have adopted both him and Marge? I suppose the only answer to that is that everything happens for a reason, and those scenarios will never play out anyway except in the confines of my nostalgic mind.

I hope that Nicky is out there, still enjoying what ever home he wound up in. I hold out hope that one day I will see him again. He won't remember me, I'm sure, but it would be so nice to see the smiling Shepherd who was probably the first dog I ever really felt close to. Thank you, Nicky, for being such a good friend through all of that time we were together.


Diana January 6, 2010 at 4:55 AM  

What a great story. Maybe it didnt turn out the way you had hoped but Im sure you really helped that dog. Thanks for helping in the shelter. Diana

Sara January 6, 2010 at 6:38 AM  

Oh, I hope you do get to see Nicky again, and see that he is living a good life.

All dogs deserve that chance.

Looks like Nicky led you down a new path in life. If dogs only knew how much they influence and change our lives.

Cyndi and Stumpy January 6, 2010 at 6:39 AM  

You have to know that you gave Nicky a better life. You are a part of that, forever!

The Thundering Herd January 6, 2010 at 6:45 AM  

You gave Nick the ultimate - a chance. By working with him, you helped teach him how to act in this world and that gave him a chance to live a full and exciting life. In a regular shelter, he would never have been given that chance.

And if you had taken Nick, Marge would not be with you.

It all happens for a reason. And Nick thanks you for that.

Frankie Furter and Ernie January 6, 2010 at 8:57 AM  

That is a fine TAIL. It ended happily ever after. SIGH

Cheryl, Indiana, Shingo and Molly January 6, 2010 at 9:27 AM  

Beautiful story. I know what you mean about some shelter dogs stealing your heart. Happens all the time, where I volunteer. It's always great to see them get a good home though, even though I secretly wanted them with me.

Scout and Freyja January 6, 2010 at 9:46 AM  

I know what you mean about falling in love with shelter dogs. One that I particularly loved was Jessie. Happily, I called the shelter one day to find out if they needed any extra help and was told that Jessie had been adopted. Then the worker went on to explain the family to took Jessie home with them. Lo and behond, it was one of my dear friends. Over the years I have been able to watch Jessie get spoiled beyond belief. Nice ending for a shelter dog that no one wanted to adopt for nearly 8 months☺

KB January 6, 2010 at 9:46 AM  

I met a dog at a shelter who sounds much like Nick. She was a dobie-lab mix, and I fell in love. But, she was too dominant, even as a youngster, for our older lab. For his sake, we didn't take her. It was 20 years ago, but I still remember her and hope that she had a good life.

And, like you, if I'd taken her I wouldn't have met my first heart-bonding dog, Acadia. So, every decision has its upsides and downsides.

Marge is lucky girl, and it sounds like Nick got a great family!

NCmountainwoman January 6, 2010 at 11:45 AM  

Lovely story. I think that despite your misgivings, everything really did work out for the best. Nick got a nice home and you got Marge.

SissySees January 6, 2010 at 11:47 AM  

Thank you for that story! How sweet that all of you got happy endings.

Kari in Alaska January 6, 2010 at 1:06 PM  

The thought that he has a loving life with a new family should make it a bit easier when you think back on it.

Fred January 6, 2010 at 2:51 PM  

What a sweet story with a happy ending to boot! I'm glad Nick has a forever home, and you and Marge had a good Christmas (I'm just catching up).

Bijou January 6, 2010 at 3:01 PM  

Hi Sam,

Marge is lucky to have you and Nick was lucky to know you. And don't be silly. Of course he would remember you!


Jules January 6, 2010 at 3:39 PM  

Very nice post about what was/is obviously a special dog.

Two French Bulldogs January 6, 2010 at 3:51 PM  

Ahhh, we like your story about Nicky...
Benny & Lily

Gus, Louie and Callie January 6, 2010 at 4:43 PM  

What a great story. At least Nick found a forever home even though you couldn't have him...

Big Sloppy Kisses
Gus, Louie and Callie

NAK and The Residents of The Khottage Now With Khattledog January 6, 2010 at 5:50 PM  

What a great post!

My mom understands on several levels fur several reasons!

With all the transports she does, she makes special khonnekhtions with some of her passengers - they are the ones that make her khry when they pull away - but she knows they are going on to better lives!

As fur the feeling of 'what if' WELL, the furst time Mom went to the SPCA, I was not the reason she stopped by...THAT dog wasn't there anymore but I was...

Just what would all of our lives be like without 'Khyra' in it?

My mom shudders at the thought!

'Nick' is furry proud of what woo did fur him AND thankful woo were there!

Tank woo fur sharing all of this - I'm sure the emotions woo tapped into were furry deep!


Cinnamon and Mint January 6, 2010 at 7:08 PM  

Hi Sam. Thanks for sharing such a touching story. I hope Nick is doing well with his family and you will have a chance to see him again.

Muttsandaklutz January 6, 2010 at 10:14 PM  

That brought a tear to my eye. What a lovely tribute to Nick. He sounds like a very special boy and that you are both better off for having known and loved each other.

Lorenza January 6, 2010 at 11:12 PM  

Thanks for sharing your story with Nick!
I hope he is doing well too!
Kisses and hugs

Kathy Mocharnuk January 7, 2010 at 11:43 AM  

BEAUTIFUL STORY, I have not had a foster dog in awhile-because it was getting harder and harder to place them, LOL, so I needed a foster break, but when I did it was soooo hard to let them go with their new families, and I think of some of them in particular, a red/white border collie Roxie that was here for 5 months, she was wonderful, but she was the same age as my other two border collies-they were all one year old and three one year old border collie girls was a LOT of training and energy, LOL. See I still feel bad I had to let her find her new home, even though she has done terrific and they love her to death and I am sure it was a better home for her-she had a very outgoing personality and she tended to push Breeze out of things, so it was best for Breeze too, she would not be the dog she is if I had kept Roxy. I am so glad you were there for Nicky to help get him ready for his new family, all that you and the other people at the shelter did sounds like it got him ready to be able to blossom in his new home. I think we all get the dogs we get for a reason, and Marge was meant to be with you and Nicky must have had a job to do with his new family--but boy it is hard not to think WHAT IF???

Sue January 7, 2010 at 12:46 PM  

This was a hard one to read. Shortly after we adopted Bentley, I saw a picture in the newspaper of a dog in the local shelter. Every week they posted a picture of a dog and a cat for adoption.

This little guy, his name was Alex, looked enough like Bentley to be his twin. I wanted him, but we had two dogs in a townhouse with no fenced yard. We just couldn't do it. I think about Alex a lot and wonder what happened to him. I choose to believe he found a wonderful family and lived a happy life.

We can't save them all, we just do the best we can.

PoochesForPeace January 8, 2010 at 2:00 PM  

That brought tears to my eyes. Shelter dogs touch my heart. I'm glad he got a new home though, and you gave Marge a start to a great life too!

Anonymous January 10, 2010 at 8:38 AM  

What an amazing entry. You are such a good writer. My amatuer writing shows up here:

If you don't mind me linking your blog unto mine let me know. Marge is so adorable.

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