We knew it was coming, but that didn't make it easier. I thought that after losing 3 parents in the past two years, I knew horrible grief and this would be somehow different. I knew that she had lived longer than any dog I had ever known. I knew that she had been spoiled beyond belief and had the best life a dog could ever want. My brain knew all of that, but my heart did not.
Her AKC paperwork shows her name as Nike, The Duchess of Air. Named by my children, who at 11 & 13 when she came to us, were just falling in love with the sport of running. To us, she was simply Nike. The runt of a litter of puppies from Indiana, found on the internet (I was high tech even in 1996) and fitting into my hand the day we brought her home. I thought a lot of that day yesterday, how she whimpered all the way home...how we stopped along the way to walk her, how she didn't stop shaking for about 3 days and mostly how she was immediately loved.
Nike in her prime (sorry kids)!
She was a beautiful beagle, mostly brown and so well-behaved from the day we got her. My daughter said a few days ago that she wasn't her pet, she felt more like a sibling...and I think that was true for all of us. She was family, for 16 years. She was family when my kids were growing up. She was family after they left home. She was family through all of our ups and our downs, always the one to love unconditionally and to know just the right time to curl up in your lap and give you a moment of peace.
We had hoped that she would pass away in her sleep. The past year we have seen her failing. The past four weeks have been really sad. She woke one morning to front legs that seemed weak and would barely support her, yet she still managed to stagger around the house. There have been days where she wouldn't eat or drink and days where we hand fed her bits of salmon. For the first time in a year, she wanted to be held again and I carried her around like a baby. She lost half her body weight in four weeks and yet she didn't give up. She wasn't in pain, so we tried to let her go on her own...but, when we carried her outside Tuesday morning and she fell over and couldn't get up...we just couldn't let it go on. Later that day, she was walking around again...but, we knew it was time.
Nike-Yesterday, in her favorite spot.
We made arrangements to take her in at 4:30 yesterday afternoon. So, I tried to give her a really good day. I held her most of the day. We went outside and I laid her on a blanket in a sunbeam so she could feel the warmth of the sun and smell the grass. I fed her as many tiny biscuits as she wanted and one last bowl (bites) of salmon. We talked about all of the things that we had done over the years and I wept like a baby all day long. Losing Nike isn't at all like losing my mother...but, it was Nike that I held on to when I cried after losing my mom. It was Nike that curled up next to me for days on end a few years back when my son got off track and tried to drive us insane for a couple years. It was Nike who was my only friend when I moved to a new town and empty-nested at the same time. It was Nike who meant I was never truly alone. She was as much a part of this family as the rest of us and today, we grieve and are so thankful for having her in our lives for all these years. She was the "family dog" and while having Zoe (who at 9 months shows no signs of being nearly as well-behaved as her big sister) helps...she will be loved, but she will never be the dog of my children or the dog that shared all the memories of them growing up.
The wonderful place where we board our dogs when we travel is located about 20 miles from our home, in the woods. It was a place that Nike loved and a place where she was loved. They have a pet cemetery and yesterday they were coming to pick her up at the vet to bury her there. We will visit in a few days. I hope she is running after squirrels and rabbits, nose high in the air and giving that beautiful beagle howl as loud as she can. Goodbye, sweet friend.