On May 21st I had to make the decision to put my pug Nellie to sleep, at 13 1/2 years old. If stories about pets make you sad or you are very sensitive, you might not want to read . . . but I would like to tell her story because I want everyone to know how amazing she was. And maybe I’m just hoping that she can touch you even a fraction of the way she did me. A lot of us have special animals, and Nellie was no exception. Here is more about my precious little piggie.
I got my first pug Roxie in October of 2002. I love Roxie to death, but she is a huge pain in the butt and has been since day one – it’s just the way she is. When I first got Roxie, she was used to being around other dogs, so when I took her home with me I made it a point to continue a lot of play dates and time with other dogs. Then came the time I moved to a new apartment and she started chewing on the furniture because she was bored. I realized it was time to get Roxie a little friend.
I started browsing local animal shelters for pugs, and found a picture of a scared little black dog in a cage in Cherokee County, Georgia. She looked so sad, and I knew the instant that I saw her picture I wanted her. That dog was Nellie. I wrote a very passionate letter (which is easy for pug owners to do). The lady wrote me back and said that even though there were other people who wanted her – other people who had written before me – she just felt that Nellie was for me.
I met that woman at a PetSmart in her county, and I brought Roxie along with me. They sniffed each other and it seemed like it was going to work out okay. During the introduction, the woman explained to me that Nellie had come to her abused, starved and with severe ear mites and fleas. It turns out that she had lived on a farm and was not fed regularly (if at all). Nellie ended up getting turned in to the shelter because she was stealing eggs from the henhouse to eat. That was the best decision those people ever made, that much I know, because that is how Nellie came to me.
I adopted Nellie that day, got her on meds and cleaned her up. When I first got her, her tail was down between her legs . . . and it stayed that way for months. I remember the day it went up and wagged a little bit. I knew that she was really happy. Nellie and Roxie had developed a bond as well, though they would fight sometimes, like all sisters do.
As far as living with Nellie, she was the sweetest dog I had ever met. So gentle and kind, never wanting to do anything bad. My little pal Roxie had occasional “accidents” though she had been crate trained by the book . . . but not Nellie. She didn’t have accidents, and did everything to please me. She was a quiet soul, soft spoken and friendly, yet very tough. This little girl was a tank.
Unfortunately that didn’t stop the medical problems. She always had issues, including recurring cases of ear mites due to the care she had been given as a pup. It was hard to keep the ears clean, so frequent trips to the vet were always in order. She also had severe hip dysplasia, so severe that she ended up getting a surgery on one of her hips. My mom took care of her during that time because I had to work, and it took its toll on little Nells. It also didn’t help her, and for $3,000 it seemed like she had even more pain in the hips. She was about 8 years old and was walking like a robot.
In January of this year I quit my job to go freelance, and it was natural that I start taking care of Nellie 24/7. It was easy, because my work is on the computer – if I needed to take her out and wait 20 minutes for her to get the strength to get up on her legs, I could. I’d just bring my computer outside. When she couldn’t walk, I’d carry her. When she’d pee (and frequently get it on herself), I would clean her. Anything she needed I did, and I got used to it. All of the sudden it was second nature to deal with Nellie. I would get her situated (as long as it took) and then get her back into her bed to fall asleep.
It was when I was in Oklahoma City on my way back to Atlanta this May that I realized she couldn’t even walk from the place to go potty to the front door – and it wasn’t very far. I knew it was time. She could barely walk. Going to the bathroom was an issue. She seemed to be in pain. Keeping her alive was more for me than it was for her.
No one ever prepares you for how awful it is to put a pet to sleep. I just kept thinking – I spent the whole time I had her trying to save her and make her healthy . . . and how I have to make the choice to kill her? I know it’s not the right way to say it, but it’s how I felt. I chose to be in the room with her, and I’m glad I did, but it’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. A pet’s passing is very peaceful when you make the choice, but it’s still hard. I felt a lot of guilt afterwards for many weeks. That I had done it too soon. That it wasn’t fair because she was such a good dog. That I hadn’t petted her enough when she was alive. And then there were times that I felt that I would give every dollar in my bank account just to hold her one more time. Like I said, it was very hard.
I’m better now, though I still miss her.
I wanted to share one last thing with you. My friend Colleen from Mural Maker surprised me with this amazing portrait of Nellie that she painted herself. Isn’t it awesome? I cried when I got it. If you need a pet portrait, Colleen is your woman. You can e-mail her here.
Do you or did you ever have a special pet in your life? I’d love to hear about him or her. Thank you for reading my story about Nellie. It means a lot!