Nikki came into my life as she was nearly two years old and I feel extremely blessed that I could rescue her from her abusive owners. I didn’t know at the time that she would equally play a huge part in my life, ultimately rescuing me as much as I rescued her. I was unaware that she was coming from a violent home and all I knew about was the apartment situation that would lead to the separation from her prior owners. Soon enough, the same day, her dramatic past began to unravel and I got a glimpse into some of the struggles this poor little baby had endure. From being chained and staked in the backyard, to a prior broken leg from abuse, her fear of water from almost drowning at the hands of her owners, her food aggression and her fear for humans. I won’t go into too many details to relive this horror, which I mostly found out through her behavior or through the jokes of her previous owners. Needless to say it was also the last time that they ever got to see Nikki. I always felt very lucky to have been the one able to turn her little precious life around and give her a reason to live. Besides having the heart of a lion which I will describe later, she also looked like a lion as I first saw her. A good brushing, which was yielding numerous brushes filled of hair later, (it would have made the softest pillow stuffing ever and I wish I would have kept it), she emerged as a different dog and looked nothing like the Chow Chow mix she was suppose to be. She looked like a Shiba Inu mix, a starved one that was reduced to nothing more than skin and bones after shedding the matted fur mess. She was visibly malnourished.
Her eating could hardly be described as eating. She was scarfing her food down in such a hurry, forgetting to chew, obviously being afraid that somebody would take it away. In return it caused her to choke and gasp for air. It was during that time that I considered learning the Heimlich maneuver, just in case. Reaching down to pet her, I was hoping to talk some comforting sense into her, but it only caused her to duck. She was afraid that the hand that was coming down would hit her, which I’m sure had happened too many times. Over the years I made a game out of it to take away her fear and associate the hand with a new meaning. Fun and playtime…”The claw”. It took years to rehabilitate her and years before she took herself not so seriously, finally allowing herself to play. It was then that the Shiba 500 (playful little outbursts of energy, running around like crazy while smiling from ear to ear….and yes I’m still talking about Nikki, she had the biggest smile I ever saw on a dog ) was born. It was an extraordinary day and I remember how happy I was as she dropped her fear and revealed her true nature. Her beautiful soul emerged and for the first time there was no fear in her eyes.
Nikki and I had a special bond, a bond words simply can’t describe. She literally was my fur baby and meant everything to me. She was my child and she lives on within my heart. I didn’t think that I could have loved her any more as I did, and despite that she couldn’t physically communicate with me, I understood everything she was trying to convey. Her gratefulness for saving her was obvious in all of her actions, all you had to do is look at her little face. I have always considered myself an animal lover, but it was Nikki who taught me to see more, to see the living soul mirrored in her eyes. I despised people referring to her as nothing more than an animal, a pet, I simply couldn’t relate. She was so much more, she was a beautiful living soul, full of spunk and emotions.
After Sparky’s death her little heart was broken and our relationship became even closer. I was all that she had left and while Sparky was alive, I might have not believed that our bond could get any stronger. But it did. Nikki became a hiker at the age of 12 and I once heard that 1 dog year is equivalent to 7 human years. There is much controversy discussing this topic which includes the consideration of various breeds etc, but if there is truth to it, Nikki would have been 84 years old as she took up hiking. A true testament that it is never too late to start doing what you love. At the age of 84 she found a new passion (she probably always had it and I feel guilty of not introducing her to it earlier while coming up with various excuses of not being able to handle two dogs by myself, working so much back then and still now, to etc. etc.) a passion that would help her cope with the loss of her companion and soulmate, Sparky.
Preparing for a hike was tricky and I had to be careful as the adrenaline and her sheer excitement of going for a hike would often lead to overexertion. In her senior years Nikki had developed arthritis and her own excitement and willpower often exceeded what her little body could handle. It was crazy how she would pick up on the tiniest of clues before a hike. She definitely knew the backpack and me grabbing it would result in the Shiba 500, running around like crazy, wiping out, hitting a slippery patch on the hardwood floor or leaping through the air almost knocking me over were all results if I wasn’t sneaky enough. All things her old little, aged body couldn’t put away so easily anymore. Her leash was no difference or putting on her harness, even the sound of the car could trigger the excitement, followed by what I can only express as that shit grinning, tongue out smile that appeared on her face in anticipation. She didn’t know her own strength and I often felt that it was sheer adrenaline and her willpower, the passion for what she loved and the heart of a lion full of courage that propelled her forward. Looking back, I realize that Nikki was one of my greatest teachers. I have no doubt that without any spoken words, she has taught me more than I ever learned from some who could speak. I might have rescued her from her abusive owners but in the end I’m not so sure of who ended up rescuing who. Let’s just call it even.
It’s been 2 1/2 years since Nikki has been gone and I’m not sure if I will ever get over her loss. I’m reluctant to say that I felt as if I lost a child. Despite two miscarriages I never experienced losing a child that lived with me for several years and I can’t truly compare it to make such a statement. Still it is the closest form that I can describe her loss and my life remains forever changed. People have encouraged me to get another dog and while I believe that a new dog could ease the pain and help me make new memories, I also know that nobody will ever take her place. It is the uncertainty and the changes that lie ahead that have prevented me from taking on the responsibility of getting a dog right now. Nikki will always have a special place in my heart and I held on to her as long as I could. Her wings were ready but it was my soul that wasn’t prepared to let her go for selfish reasons. In the end I had to do what any animal lover would have done to spare her additional pain and a life that had no future. And still, no day goes by that she isn’t on my mind. I wish she was here and the thought of being reunited with Sparky brings me only little comfort. I have to remind myself that her beautiful soul is with me forever, pain free to roam and play once more until we can meet again. In the meantime there is an empty hole within my heart as I have no choice but to roam without her.
Nikki has taught me that it is never too late. To pursue your passion as it is the rhythm of everything that matters in life. Do it with passion or don’t do it at all. If you have to do something you don’t like and the passion is lacking, change your stars and pursue what matters. Work towards your goals and take that first step no matter how tiny it is. Just do it anyways. Nikki has taught me to look beyond and recognize a soul within every living being. To drop its formal name of calling it an animal, but to see the spirit and the soul that lies within. Nikki showed me perseverance by pushing beyond the pain as nothing in life is free. To be a warrior and realize that the harder the struggle, the sweeter the victory. It takes life shattering incidents to mold us into the people we are meant to be, otherwise we just don’t learn. I believe that it was Nikki who initiated the first stage of what would lead me to my spiritual awakening. The other element of importance was that the timing was right. I simply became aware and was willing to listen and see the signs that have always been there, unnoticed until then.
Coming soon…stage one of spiritual enlightenment and spiritual awakening. I believe now….