Goodbye to Nellie

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!


  1. Ashley says

    That’s so sad! At my house, we always have a lot of cats outside. This past year there was a kitten that really took to me. Every day I fed her and when she wasn’t there I ran around until I found her. One day, I still couldn’t find her for a week and I asked my grandma about her. My cousin decided that they needed some cats to catch mice at his house, mine was easy to catch because she was waiting for me to come home from school. Back at his house, he let out his dogs, and they ripped my cat to shreds. How I cried! I’m so sorry about Nellie!

  2. Carole says

    I’m sitting here with tears in my eyes. What a wonderful tribute to your Nellie. I’m so sorry for your loss, and having been there (with way too many animals over the past couple of years), I do know the pain you’re feeling.

    You’re right, no one prepares us for how hard that ‘choice’ can be, though I’m not sure anyone could. It’s a very personal experience, different with each animal.

    I had hoped to never have to make that choice, hoping that all of my animals would die peacefully in their sleep. Unrealistic probably, because at some point difficult choices come along. It’s just a part of life.

    Unfortunately my husband and I faced the decision a few years ago, and sadly, several times since.

    That said, watching a beloved pet die at home is a more difficult experience. I can attest to that.

    When we bring animals into our home, we take that responsibility seriously. It’s not about caring for them when it’s convenient, but about in sickness and in health. We strive to give them the best life possible, and sadly, that often includes giving them the best and most comfortable end possible.

    Time does heal, but some part of you will always miss, and remember. You’ll never forget that ‘special’ animal that comes into your life.

    And yes, I did have one of those. A cat named Bill. She (yes, she) was with me for seventeen years (half of my life at that time).

    She’s been gone for sixteen years now, but I still think of her often, with happier memories now.

    My husband and I have owned many cats, we currently have three (one quite elderly). One of those three is a young, one time feral, who has attached himself to me heart and soul. A part of me feels that Bill had something to do with this. At least I like to think so. :-)

  3. Heather says

    I am so very sorry for your loss. Thank you for sharing Nellie’s story. It sounds like she was extra special and her 2nd chance life was rich and comfortable in spite of the pain.

  4. Life, Crafts and Whatever says

    I’m so sorry for your loss, but I promise you that she knew she was loved. We had to put my dog down last October, and I still miss him every day. At first, I just thought of all the times that he wanted in bed with me and I wouldn’t let him, or the times that I should have played with him more. But now I just remember the good things, and you will too. Here is the post I wrote about my Jasper.

  5. Tara E says

    I am so sorry…as a fellow pug lover and owner my heart goes out to you. You might find some comfort in Cynthia Rylant’s book Dog Heaven, it is just a sweet story about where our loved furry ones go.

  6. Angela says

    I am so sorry to read about Nellie. Pets sure become family. Actually, pets are sometimes better than family! 😉 Your tribute to her was very sweet.

    I have a furbaby of my own – a golden retriever. She is the sweetest girl; well-behaved, was easy to train, calm, etc. I even take her to school with me (I’m a teacher). She’ll only be four later this month, but already I dread the day I’ll have to say goodbye. I still think of her as my puppy.

  7. Debra says

    I am sorry to hear about Nellie, but she was so lucky to have you. I had to have my 14 year old siamese cat “Moon” put down earlier this year. *hugs*

  8. Grammy Goodwill says

    I’m so sorry to hear about your sweet Nellie. I can tell how special she was to you. I had the most wonderful cat Spunky. I had to put him to sleep. It’s been almost 2 years, and I still miss him. Pets fill a special place in our hearts.

  9. Susan says

    I’m so sorry to hear about your loss, but so happy to hear Nellie’s story. It sounds as though she was as happy as she could be with you and Roxie. I know from losing my first “baby”, my Boxer, Kam, how difficult the loss is. It is true that with time you remember more of the happy memories and less of the pain. The loss will always be with you, but I think it just reminds me of how much Kam was a part of my life. Kam was a sweet, gentle soul, like your Nellie. Maybe they’re gnawing on bones together telling stories of the great owners they had.

  10. Dree says

    What a sweet pup and a nice tribute. I have had to put down two wonderful cats, and it is so hard–but yes, once the decision is made you can also see how right it is.

  11. Erin Spain says

    I’m so sorry for your loss, I know how hard it is. Our pets really do become family, and it is so hard to say goodbye to them. I know that you gave Nellie the opportunity to know what love felt like, and to live a happy life. You were a blessing to each other!

    -Erin @ DIY On the Cheap

  12. Ann says

    such a beautiful tribute to your beloved Nellie.
    it takes such love to help a pet go to heaven. we must not think of our needs,but love our pet enough to let them go..and with dignity. I have had to make that choice several times..and each time,i had the same questions. but,as the grief eases,we realize we made the right choice. may your beautfiful memories bring you comfort.
    with your choice,you showed her the ultimate gift of love.

  13. Beth says

    I’m so sorry about your Nellie. It is a funny thing about rescue pets. They KNOW who loves them..and Nellie KNEW you loved her. Enough to put her needs above your own. THAT Is true love. My Rookie (lab border collie cross) was VERY abused when we got him. He can be SUCH a pill…little noises set him off and he just panics. I know he will be the one I miss the most..just cause I had to do so much for him. (he also went missing for FOUR MONTHS…i got a new puppy..and you guessed it! 4 days later, I got him back!)

  14. Holly Lefevre says

    Oh Amy, she is adorable. I am so sorry. I am just coming up one one year since I had to make the same decision for my dog…it still hurts, but I know I did the right thing, Nellie was one lucky pup to have you!

  15. Blasphemous Homemaker says

    I’m very sorry for the loss of your cutie fuzzy companion. Much love your way.

  16. Anonymous says

    Sorry for your loss of Nellie. What a great dog she must have been. We used to have a Keeshond dog. One time my husband went to visit his parents in another state for several days. The first day, the dog was OK. The next day she started acting strange. When I would sit on the sofa, she would get up on the sofa and sit right next to me. Everywhere I went, she would follow and get right against me. Then I sat in the recliner chair that my husband always sat in. She came and stood next to my legs but I still didn’t know what was wrong. Finally she went over to a stack of magazines that my husband had beside the chair. She took both front feet and started pawing the magazines. Then I realized what was wrong with her. She was worried because my husband didn’t come home the night before.

  17. Lou says

    I’m so sorry for your loss. As a pet lover & owner, I understand the grief when you lose a pet.
    Best wishes,

  18. Anonymous says

    So sorry to hear of your loss. Your story of Nellie reminded of my first dog, Puff the Magic Dragon, a pug. She was a special part of my life, and I gave her the final gift when she could no longer enjoy her life. She is waiting at the rainbow bridge with other wonderful dogs who also have been part of my life. I have special memories of them all.

  19. Heather says

    I feel your pain!!! I had to have my dog put to sleep in October last year. I had him for 13 years and he was already fully grown when I got him, I have no idea how old he really was. He was a Corgi mix and I had gotten him from the animal shelter. His story is a lot like Nellie’s. I never had to do any house training with him because he was already housed trained when I got him. In his older years he started having accidents in the house and I chalked it up to him being jealous of my husband and I starting to have kids (we had our first 3 years ago). But, looking back I can now see that is when his kidneys started to shut down. When I realized he was really sick, he didn’t even have the strength to walk to go to the door or even to stand up and eat his food. This was 2 weeks after our second daughter was born. I made the extremely hard decision to have him put to sleep. I laid my head on him as they injected the medication and I could feel instant his life left his little body.
    I am still tore up over that little dog, I am crying as I type this. It will be a while before I even have it in me to get another dog.
    I am sorry for the loss of Nellie, she looks like a beautiful little dog and she looks like she was well loved.

  20. Mallrat says

    I’m so very sorry for your loss. I too am a Pug Momma, I have two and I also have a greyhound and Rat Terrier mix. I’ve been in your spot too many times where I’m the one to make the decision. I know the guilty feelings cause I too had them, I think anyone in that position does. But it was a selfless decision you made to think of your baby and not you. I think staying with them is the best gift you can give them, I always do as hard as it is .. I figure for all they’ve given me the very least I can do is be there with them holding them at the end. There is nothing like the love of a dog .. and Pugs really have a special place they are so full of personality :) Thanks for sharing your story .. I know it wasn’t easy. Nellie was a beautiful baby, I’m wanting to get me a black pug next they are the cutest !!

  21. Megan says

    I am so sorry for your loss. I am lucky that my big (100 lb!) mutt is not quite 3, but still sometimes think that eventually the time to make that decision will come for me too. Try to remember the good times and the good life that you helped give her while she was with you. Thank you for sharing your story of Nellie, I’m sure it will help many others that are going through a hard time.

  22. Christina Whitehead says

    I never got to meet Nellie, although I had the pleasure of meeting Roxie (and Walker, of course.) So thank you for posting this lovely tribute to her life. I’m so glad you and Nellie found each other.

    I do understand completely how you feel. It’s been about five years since Dave and I had to put our 14 year old cat Phaedra to sleep, and we’ve never gotten over how awful it was to make that decision, although she was very sick and there’s no doubt it was the right thing to do. She was the most amazing cat with more personality than most people – before Dave I dated a guy who, when we broke up, told me he would have a harder time getting over losing Phaedra. We held her when she was put to sleep, and it’s definitely the most awful moment of my life, and one that I’ll never forget.

  23. Vicki says

    I am so sorry for your loss. I have been in our position and made the same realizations. No matter how you prepare yourself before you arrive at the Vet– you are not prepared for the loss.
    As a pug owner too(Maizy) I know that you have many funny stories and wonderful memories. They are such special friends.

  24. Lisa Nelsen-Woods says

    Dearest Amy, I am so so sorry for your loss. I have tears in my eyes as I type because your writing is honest. I believe Nellie told you in her own way it was time to move to a better place where she can run and play again and wait for you to meet her once again.

    Blitzkrieg often sat on my lap or side of my desk while I read blogs. I like to think he saw Nellie on your blog and recognized her when he passed over The Bridge. I bet they are telling each other where the best sun spots are and have friendly competitions to determine which one of them snores the loudest. Hugs.

  25. Katie says

    Oh Amy… I’m such an animal lover, and am sobbing at my desk reading your story. What an amazing thing you did for Nellie’s life… you saved her!

    I’ve only ever grew up with cats, so I can’t even begin to imagine what its like to put a dog to sleep. Now that I’m a dog owner, I now get the bond that humans have with dogs… its like no other. It killed me to make the decision to put our family cat of 17 years to sleep the day before christmas back in 2006. Everyone in my family was being selfish and wanted to just ignore the fact that our family cat only had a dime size worth of air left in her fluid filled lungs. Pets are truly part of the family. Thank you for sharing your story and tribute.

  26. Maureen Hayes says

    I am one the people who should never read these posts, becaus I love animals so much that I hurt for you in your loss of Nellie. I enjoyed hearing about her and the joy you brought to each other though. I know how hard it is to make the decision to have to put a beloved pet to sleep, but trust me, you made Nellie’s life very good. Think of where she came from, and then even when she was in the shelter, so was stuck in a cage. With you she knew true love, compassion and caring. That sweet little angel hung in there just for you. I know you must still be grieving and sad, but try to remember the happy times and the good you brought to each other.

    I will pray for you that in time the happy memories will outweigh the sadness! Colleen is an angel and that portrait is lovely. She did that for you despite all the pain she is going through herself right now with the loss of Marlon and her medical debts. Another way Nellie has brought a miracle into your life even after her passing.


  27. Anne Marie@Married to the Empire says

    I’m so sorry for your loss. What a blessing you were to each other, though. You gave her the best life possible with extra loving care at the end. (And I get it. My cat Calvin had kidney disease, which gave him frequent bladder infections. There came a point at which I was cleaning up after him almost daily. It was my privilege to take care of him.) It’s so unbelievably painful to make the decision to have a pet put down. And staying with them through it is awful, but I think it would have been a billion times worse not to stay. But it’s the right decision. They let us know when it’s time. Your sweet Nellie is no longer in pain. She’s finally healed.

  28. BJewelryBox says

    It’s so sad and I’m so sorry… I feel your pain. I had to do the same with my cat, Crizzy. I had her in my life for 18 years. She developed cancer and fought as hard as she could for 2 months. But it got to the point where the meds were not working anymore, so I had to let her go. Like you, I stayed in the room…said my goodbyes and cried my heart out. This was 2 years ago, and it still gets to me when I think about her or talk about her. She was like my child and I was so used to her being around for so long. But that’s what our pets do. They become family members and capture our hearts, and I think we should feel blessed to have had them in our lives. You gave Nellie a loving home and a wonderful life, and letting her go really was the best thing to do for her. I know it isn’t fair…it’s hard and it sux. But at least you were the one that was blessed with loving her and her loving you. Again, I’m sorry for your loss. The painting of Nellie is beautiful and yes, very awesome too. Many heartfelt hugs to you.

  29. Lauras Crafty Life says

    So sorry for your loss. I had to put my cat to sleep 2 years ago. She was my first pet I had as an adult. She was only 7 years old but basically had liver failure. It was horrible having to make the decision to put her down. I stayed in the room with her also. It was so hard, but the right thing to do. *Hugs* to you!

  30. Shannon Madigan says

    Amy, I am so sorry for that hole in your heart right now… I’m hoping it will fill in with the lovely memories you have of Nellie. Hugs.

  31. michele says

    What a beautiful story. Thank you for allowing me to get to know Nellie. I especially love the picture of her in the sunflower costume. Hugs for you

  32. ShirleyC says

    What a sweet little picture! So sorry for your loss. We went through that in Oct. 2010. When we got back from a cruise, our pom of 16 years couldn’t walk. We knew it was a matter of time as she’d been having a few problems. Many poms have week knees.
    We finally got another dog last year. You did the right thing not letting her suffer any longer.
    There will always be a void in your heart, but time does help.

  33. Jennifer says

    Your story is so dear to me, because my little sweetest-dog-ever Trixie has cancer. She has already outlived her oncologist’s predictions, but I know what I am facing and dread it, even as I enjoy every day with her. I love the portrait you have of Nellie.

  34. Clunette Chicks says

    Thank you for sharing Nellie. We had to make that decision on July 18th with our amazing German Shorthaired Pointer Jack. 9-1/2 years old, cancer. There aren’t any words that come close to the heartache we feel (and guilt!!) when this time comes. I cried for you and your family, my family and myself as I read this…yet I also felt so much love and joy and marveled at the capacity we have to feel all those emotions at once. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

  35. cookie jar says

    Hi, I am very touched by your post about Nellie. I think that every pet is special, I am on my third. My first dog, called Maggie was very very special to me. I asked for a pet to my mom for many years until I got her as a birthday gift (the best of all I had in my life). I had to put her to sleep also and I still remember the day I made my decision and the months that followed it. We know that is a good decision we make for the pet, but still, as you said,we feel very guilty. But today I am older and I think that the best thing we can do is to give to our pet much love and good care. Not only food and water. I have now a bichon frisee who is treated as a son. I just moved to a smaller town (I lived in São Paulo my entire life) and now I have a huge backyard full of space for him and my lil girl. I am trying to adopt a Labrador from a homeless boy who lives in São Paulo and I am counting with a special friend who rescues Labs from streets. I am very anxious to have Johnny around here. I hope your pain pass quickly and I am sure you are a good woman full of good intentions who took care of Nellie better than you could take! So forgive yourself,open your heart and soul. I bet she is in a very special place watching you now and being thankful for all the love you gave her. She knows she was a very lucky dog to have you around! =) Peace!

  36. Nicole {WonkyWonderful} says

    I’m sorry you recently lost your precious pug. Her story bought me to tears (and I’m not the teary type). I can tell by the pictures that she was a beautiful soul. How wonderful that she was able to spend at least the second half of her life in your loving home. I also have a senior citizen pug named Cheese and cannot even imagine how hard it will be to make that final decision. Thanks for sharing your story :)

  37. Holly Arizona says

    I am sorry sorry for your loss. I can tell from her pictures that she was such a sweetheart. Sadly I’ve lost many animals but two of them hit me the hardest. My dog, Teagan, and my cat, Magic. Teagan was still just a baby. Not even a year old . She was the sweetest dog I have ever known and changed my life in so many ways and magic.. I had her for over 13 years. She helped me through all the hard times and everyone loved her. She was my little black fur ball. I think she was the hardest. I was so used to seeing her little face everyday. Again I am so sorry for your loss. There’s a special place for her in heaven I’m sure of it. <3

  38. Vivian says

    This is a beautiful storie of love…Nellie now resting and playing in peace very grateful for had a such wonderful soul that took care of her and most important ¨gave her so much love”. Be at peace and lots of love and light to you and Nellie.