Remembering Nicki: Not Just any Dog

It seemed to be a normal day when we awoke, Tuesday, December 16th.  Our Bernese Mountain Dog, Nicki, enthusiastically greeted Ben, my personal trainer.  She ate her breakfast and she even rolled over twice for Treat Time!  I was so taken by her exuberance that I had a thought:  “She could live forever!”

Nicki...not just any dog.
Nicki...not just any dog.

So, it was a huge shock to see her 30 minutes later writhing in pain. Seconds after I reached Nicki, her gums had gone completely white (which I later learned was a sign of internal bleeding).  I called my neighbor, LIsa, who helped me load her into the car, and we rushed to the vet.  He said she needed a blood transfusion, so we loaded her into the car again (not a small feet for a 90-lb. dog!), and tried to get her to the animal hospital.  We hit every light and by the time we got there, my beloved companion, NIcki, had died.

Nicki wasn’t just any dog.

      She was the dog of my heart.

     She was a healer to our family, coming one summer when we were in a very hard   spot...bringing joy back into our house once again.

    She was adorable.  She would stop traffic when she was a puppy.  People would literally get out of their car and ask to take her picture.

   She was hilarious. At Puppy Kindergarten, she was by far the biggest puppy, but she would cower under the metal folding chair--and would only come out to play with the tiniest Lhasa Apso.

We had a lot of adventures. 

Nicki, the loveable puppy!
Nicki, the loveable puppy!

Nicki Meets a German Shepherd

One day I was taking her for a walk, we encountered a very mean looking German Shepherd.  I was bit by one twice as a child, so my fear level rose up. We were on a bridge so Nicki and I stepped off the sidewalk to pass them, and when we got by them, Nicki bolted and yanked me to the ground where I hit my knuckle on the curb.

When I stood up, Nicki was running away and my finger was going sideways instead of forward.

I began to yell for Nicki to come back to me.  She was frozen, unable to move. She would do that when she sensed she’d done something wrong or got confused. We called it “getting her hard drive jumbled.”

Nicki Meets Deer

Later, I attempted to take her on another walk.  We lived in Seattle at the time, and in the dead of winter it didn’t get light until almost 8:30 a.m.  My New Year’s goal was to start walking early in the morning--even if it was dark.

The first morning, off we went.  We got as far as the end of our street when Nicki saw deer across the road.  She wanted to chase them.  The only problem was multiple cars were streaming down the busy road.


 I knew if she got away from me, she would get hit, so I held onto her with all my might.

I was rewarded for my effort of saving her life, by landing in a face-plant in the middle of a ditch.Needless to say, that was the last walk we tried to take in the early morning darkness!

The Day Nicki got Lost

Our biggest walk adventure took place in Santa Rosa.  I felt prompted to take Nicki on a walk we’d never experienced before. When walking, I often let her off leash because she stayed very close...she never once ran away.

We had a deal.  Nicki would plop down to rest (wherever she was), for a couple of minutes, and then run to catch up with me.  That day, however, when I turned around to call her, she was nowhere to be found.

In two minutes, she had completely disappeared:  poof...she was gone.

After searching, crying hysterically, and calling everyone I could think of….and getting no one, Benny, my other faithful companion, and I started walking home. On the way, I had the sense I should call my chiropractor to tell him.

Nicki & Benny
Nicki & Benny

Now, I like my chiropractor, but didn’t think he really needed to know that my dog was missing, so I dismissed the thought.  I found out later, the very yard in which Nicki sat down to rest, was my chiropractor’s house!

So, I called his office so I could get his wife’s phone number to tell her. She assured me, they’d keep their eyes open for her.

Nicki was gone for 5½ hours.  It was one of the longest afternoons of my life.

But, at 6:15 p.m. that night, I got a call from my chiropractor’s wife saying her son had seen Nicki!

Their kids began to follow her while she ran down the middle of a busy street during Santa Rosa rush hour.  Two women in an SUV were also following her trying to catch her.  Then, my chiropractor, still in his suit from work began to follow her too….so Nicki had a parade of people trying to catch her, disrupting traffic and causing a lot of curiosity!

I found her as she rounded the corner to the street leading to my house, once again weaving down the street as she was high-tailing it towards home. She went up to the green belt where I saw my chiropractor dive bombing to try to catch her.  He caught her at the very moment I drove up and yelled out, “Nicki!”

She took one look at me, yanked away from my chiropractor hero, and ran into the car--looking at me with eyes which said, “Am I ever glad to see you.  Can we go home now?”

Can we go home now?
Can we go home now?

I asked her for months to tell me about her adventure, but she just looked at me and smiled!

Nicki & Benny, Inseparable Siblings

Indulge me for a couple of Nicki/Benny stories.

Nicki was very enthusiastic about Treat Time.

Here’s how it worked.  She would start by rolling over and then doing “Leave It.” Nicki would hold a treat on her paw, all the while maintaining total eye contact with me, often until she was drooling in anticipation!

Benny would do his tricks and then I would say, “King of the Mountain.”  Benny would run over and jump onto Nicki’s back, climb to her head, stick his paws over her eyes, and they would both do “Leave It” often while Nicki balanced Benny’s cheerio on her nose.

Benny would jump off and then do High Jump while he traversed back and forth over Nicki’s back.  Treat Time was definitely Nicki’s favorite time of day.

I don’t think Nicki had more than 5 potty accidents in her life, but our puppy, Benny, didn’t catch on nearly as quickly!

I decided to try a bell for Benny to let us know he needed to go outside. The only problem was that Benny was afraid of the bell, so I taught Nicki to use it.  Nicki loved the bell and being rewarded for going potty at 9 years old. She thought she’d died and gone to treat heaven!

I miss Nicki so.  She brought so much joy into my life.  I experienced unconditional love from Nicki...a true gift.

I will be blogging about a side of Nicki that not everyone knew about.  One of her secret talents was called “Angel Alert.”

Farewell Nicki, you are dearly missed!
Farewell Nicki, you are dearly missed!

The day Nicki died, my daughter Bonnie, made this video of her.  A few days later, she made another one with happier music. Feel free to watch either one as you celebrate Nicki and her life lived well!