I recently lost my 14 year old Nikki last month after a short illness that I suspect was hemangiosarcoma. Nikki was a very special girl. She was intelligent, beautiful, friendly and charismatic. Hundreds, if not thousands, of times strangers came up to her saying "You dog is so beautiful", "What is her name?", "Can I pet your dog?", "Can I give your her a treat". I always laughed to myself knowing how good she had it and that she had no idea how lucky she was.
While Nik was a "10" in many ways, her hips were a "0". One was replaced when she was 5 and the other when she 7. I brought her in to the vet with a slight limp shortly before her 5th birthday. While I went to my usual office, my usual vet was out so we were seen by someone else. He took Nik back for X-rays and came back maybe 15 minutes later. He said something like "I'm afraid you and Nikki have some challenges ahead. She has significant arthritis in both hips. However, I've seen a lot of GSDs with bad hips but I've seen very few with personalities like Nikki." Even after just 15 minutes she had another admirer.
She had her hip replaced early that November but over Thanksgiving wound up in the ICU with a high fever. While she was there I got regular calls from the attending emergency vets. One day a doctor called told me that she had wanted to go in to Nik's crate to comfort her, but she had a personal rule about crawling into crates with unknown GSDs due to their unpredictability. But she took one look into Nik's eyes and knew it was OK and so for the first time in twenty years of being a vet she got into a crate with an ill GSD to comfort her. And, of course, she was right about Nik.
Similarly I learned just a few weeks ago that Nik was one of only four dogs in her surgeon's 40+ years of orthopedic surgery not to be crated he night before her surgery. Instead she slept on a comforter in his office. Again I am certain Nik never for a moment suspected she was getting special treatment because she always got special treatment.
My favorite Nikki story that actually doesn't involve any medical issue is about when I decided to teach her a lesson about taking food that wasn't hers. Years ago I had a habit of eating animal crackers with my morning coffee. Even then I was a bit absentminded which usually resulted in Nikki finishing my cookies for me when I failed to put them away. One day I was drinking my coffee and eating my cookies on my bed while Nik laid at the foot of my bed playing with a toy. My bedroom is attached to a bathroom and so I got up as I usually did to take a shower, leaving the bag of cookies on my bed. But instead of closing the door I left it open a crack. I then turned on the shower without getting in. The second she heard the shower she dropped the toy (just an act anyway), jumped up on my bed and grabbed the bag of cookies. As she was jumping off my bed with her prize, I jumped out of the bathroom, pointed at her and shouted "No!". She stopped, caught in the act. But the look wasn't one of remorse about having misbehaved or one of regret at not getting to eat the cookies after all. The look was "I can't believe you outsmarted me." She never did it again having learned to her dismay that I was a bit brighter than I looked.
Nik's favorite holiday was Halloween. She thought the idea of a bunch of kids dressing up to visit her was a terrific idea. But despite Nik being a high drive working line GSD, the idea of people being a threat apparently never occurred to her and so throughout her fourteen years she never barked at anyone (who wasn't on a skateboard, motorcycle, etc.). So kids who didn't know her would often patiently wait for her to bark instead of knocking or ringing the doorbell. But Nik was never going to bark, so either I would walk by and see her wagging her tail or they would finally get the idea and ring the doorbell. Ironically she was buried on what would have been her 15th Halloween.
Nik also understood mirrors and would sometimes use them to keep track of activity in rooms she couldn't get into (like a lot of high drive GSDs she was a bit OCD).
Nikki survived two hip replacements, the ICU trip after the first hip replacement, emergency bloat surgery, a near pit bull attack (I jumped in front of the dog and was bitten instead), a minor stroke (full recovery) and a spinal injury (partial recovery) to live over 14 years. She was born with an enthusiasm for life I don't believe I've ever seen before or since. And, as her orthopedic surgeon pointed out to me when I told him of her passing, other than her medical challenges, she never experienced the bad side of life.
When I decided that she was not going to get better and I had to let her go, I recalled what I had heard so many times about a dying pet, that "You'll know when it's time" and "They will tell you they want to go". My two previous GSDs had died naturally, so this was my first experience with euthanasia. While I sat with her waiting for the vet to come to my house to put her down I looked into her face (Nik had always had a very expressive face) and instead of "Please let me go", I saw "When will this go away?". I didn't think of it then, but later it dawned on me that naturally that was her attitude. She had suffered before, but it was always just a matter of time until it passed and she was better. I'm sure the thought that this time was different never occurred to her. But it was and that is why I find myself at the Loving Memory page of this website.
Nikki was a very special girl and the world is a lesser place for having lost her. Certainly my life will never be the same. While I think this very lengthy entry is intended mostly as therapy for me, I do thank anyone who has taken the time to read it and hope that you enjoyed this snapshot into her life.
Penny GSD mix (11/17/69-05/23/83)
Mandy GSD (01/06/87-09/02/00)
Nikki GSD (08/14/00-10/30/14) CGC