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Nikki, 1990-2007

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Nikki

April 11, 2007
Northport, Michigan

We said good-by last night to our little Nikki, the best dog and sweetest girl in the world.  She was 17 and was with us from the age of three, logging 14 years in the bookstore, along with travel from northern Ontario to the Florida Everglades. She loved the beach at Grand Marais and never tired of exploring the woods, creek, meadow and the plain old yard at our Leelanau County home.

The first three years of her life are shrouded in mystery--we can only speculate that some man in a billed cap was mean to her--but the first time I saw that little face at the Champaign County Humane Society, I knew she was my dog.  David was dubious at first, but in time she wormed her way into his heart, too.  She came into our lives, into Leelanau County, and into the original Dog Ears Books in 1993.

Shy, gentle, unassuming and as unpretentious as a glass of water, Nikki was an athlete of surprising agility and grace.  Dog was not born who could outrun her, and her jumps and leaps were joy made visible.  She and her best dog friend, Belle, had many rich and happy hours together in woods and field, swamp and pond in their younger days.

Despite her shyness, Nikki made friends easily.  She was a dog irresistible even to confirmed "cat people," while children arriving in Northport on the way to summer cottages would beg their parents to stop first at Dog Ears so they could make sure Nikki was still there.

Nikki participated in two Northport dog parades and won the prize for "Best Historical Reference" in the 1999 parade, "Treasures of King Mutt," when she appeared as Neffer-Nikki, inventor of pup-pyrus.  Several people voiced the opinion that she should have been "Miss Congeniality" the year before.

Her muzzle turned grey with the years.  She lost her hearing.  She had to swallow a pill every other day to prevent urinary incontinence (symptom of her kidney disease) and a baby aspirin for pain.  But Nikki was a dog.  She might be uncomfortable, but she never complained.  All she asked was to be with us.

Her last week was a hard one.  She needed to go outdoors almost every hour.  Sometimes she didn't wake up in time.  When she did wake up, she struggled in the cold and snow of this wintry spring.  There were times, indoors or out, when her legs wouldn't hold her up at all.

But there were gifts, too.  Never before comfortable being held “like a baby," she relaxed into it those last few days.  On my lap, in the car or at home in front of the fire, she would doze contentedly or just lie looking up at me, turning her head to look at David whenever he was near.  I got to know every whisker on her chin, every swirl in the fur on her face, more intimately than ever before.  We held her, petted her, cleaned up after her, and kept her with us night and day.

On Tuesday, April 10, Nikki had her last day at the bookshop.  Friends stopped in to spend time with her, and she had a lot of attention.  She and David and I shared dinner. (We fed her bites by hand.)  Then she and I had our last walk in the sunshine, up Claudia's drive and back, and David and I took pictures of each other with her before we all "went for a ride," through the sunshine, down to Lake Leelanau.  She rode in my lap, looking at David.  She never was a dog for looking out the car window, except on the way home from a trip when we turned into our own driveway.

Her--our--wonderful veterinarian, Jerry Harrison, made our last "pack time" as easy as it could have been.  We were all on the floor together, David holding me, me holding Nikki and feeding her treats, Jerry giving her first a sedative and then the IV drug that let her go.  She lay her head down on my leg, and David and I kept petting her and telling her what a good dog she was.  It was very peaceful.  Afterward Jerry left us alone with her, and we stayed to pet her, to talk to her and about her, and to admire her soft ears, her sweet little mouse feet, her dear grey muzzle.

It hurts to realize that she's gone forever.  We miss our little constant companion terribly.  But it was better for her to go the way she did than some other, scary, ungentle, painful way.  And I can't help thinking what a wonderful world this would be if every human being could have as good a life and as good a death as our dear Nikki.

May today there be peace within us.  May someday there be peace and love throughout the world.

Pamela

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