My dearest Niko,
Loving you has changed our lives forever. You enriched the life of a young man who wanted a dog since he was a little boy. You brought great delight and joy to our house. You allowed the adoption of a scared abandoned puppy when you left for a few months. Your mark on this earth is indelible.
You converted me into a dog lover. I, who as a six-year old, ran like the dickens just because I heard the mere clink of a nearby dog collar. In an effort to not pass a mother’s fear to my baby, I tried to get over my fear of dogs while I was pregnant with Marco. It got so I could at least pet a dog if the owner was right there, but that was about it.
When Marco asked if you and he could live with us in 2009, I asked if you were going to live in the yard. He patiently reminded me that you then lived in a third floor flat. At the time, I couldn’t imagine what it would be like to live with a dog, much less within our home. Now, I must get used to living without you.
As a puppy, you liked to chew on things – Marco’s socks, our wooden Balinese Buddha, the baseboards along our stairways, cardboard boxes, post-it note pads. Once, you chewed up my reading glasses because I wouldn’t take you outside with me when I went for a smoke. Eventually, you respected our not-yours command.
You taught me to understand that our Maker had specifics in mind when creating all creatures. You exemplify the qualities of the Egyptian Saluki that you are – regal, loyal, uniquely flexible. You carry yourself as a royal prince, proud and tall. People often comment on your beauty and stature. The crippling disability of lymphoma insults your regal demeanor.
You are so flexible, you can twist yourself into a small ball. You once turned so quickly while running on the tennis court that your paw pads were ripped off.
You demand we scratch your belly and we always comply. I wish you would ask for one more belly rub. One, just one.
You constantly test your boundaries. You patrol our front windows and our backyard fence. You walk the entire perimeter of dog parks. And, whenever we carelessly leave a gate unlatched or the garage door open, you eagerly explore what lies beyond. We always found you close to home but only after you had sufficient time to visit a maze of houses and neighborhood streets. To this day, I have no idea where you ventured for sometimes a couple of hours.
You run like the wind. Oh how you can run! I remember when we let you off leash once on the trails. Your head thrust forward, you legs pumping in long magnificent strides far across Grapevine Lake. Eventually, you heeded Richard’s beckoning, but I can only imagine the freedom pulsing through your veins during those precious minutes. We are haunted by a twinge of guilt whenever we must keep you on leash on the trails.
You have become a calm and guiding spirit for Titus, your little brother whom we adopted when you left for brief time. Your absence demanded we live with another dog. A week after you left, we adopted a black lab scared and abandoned next to the freeway. Titus was rescued because we missed you so much.
Eventually you came back to live with us permanently. You have become such a patient big brother, even when Titus persistently tugs at your collar and insists you play with him. You calm him in many ways. On our walks, he always sidles near you, and waits for you when you fall behind.
Titus smells your sickness. On our most recent walks, he refuses to leave you if you’re too tired to continue. He knows you are leaving us. I feel his sadness and empathize with his helplessness.
I used to fear that you will leave us by escaping through fences and running away. It is ironic that you are leaving us not of your own volition, but because of a greedy illness that consumes from within.
So my fear has now become my prayer for you, Niko my love. As you leave this earth, break through the barrier and run, run the speed for which you are created. Smell the air, chase the deer, follow the sun. Do not look back. Ignore our voices calling you back. You are free. You are Prince Niko. Your kingdom awaits.
Know that our spirits are forever bound. I will listen for your ears flapping at night, and Richard will fondle your collar before we go out for our morning walks. Titus will pine for your constant companionship and know your smell along our morning walk trails. Such is your legacy for those who survive you. We shall miss you sorely.
But your time is eternity now. Be free. Run in our love. Fare thee well, my dearest Niko.