Thursday, May 26, 2022

A dog's long, lively life : Nicky lives on as a fearless, loving Yorkie

Nick is surrounded by flowers on his 16th birthday. Even though he was virtually blind and had
painful spinal and rear leg issues, he was still game for a walk, a snuggle, a kiss for his people.


Nothing like a Yorkie kiss, and Nicky was a generous
kisser, here with his appreciative mama, Cookie.

FOR THE first time in 17 years, I sit at the computer with no doggie at my feet. Nicky has crossed the Rainbow Bridge. He is deeply missed.
His favorite blue bed sits under the desk. He'd wander over for a little lie-down when he heard me there (he had a half-dozen beds around the house, one in each room.)  He'd nestle down and snooze. He liked it when I touched his nose with my bare toe, to signal "I'm here. Love you, little guy."
Lately, he'd been sleeping more. Since his twin sister Nora died two years ago at not quite 15, Nicky declined.  He paced, wandered the house, looked for her. We kept the bed they shared and one of her little coats for him to sniff. He often did, and cuddled with familiar toys and blankets.  He whimpered, he mourned. He cried, yes cried.    I asked three vets about his behavior. They assured me that dogs grieve, to give him time.
Puppies Nora, left, and Nicky, learned to swim
when months old, here drying off in Davis, Calif.
GRADUALLY, HE rebounded from his sister's departure, but his body was failing.  Like old people, he had meds: Rimadyl for osteoporosis and painful spine and back legs, Cosequin to help him move and support his weary joints; fish oil with his kibble; treats fortified with calcium and glucosamine; doggie Xanax for car rides, which had become increasingly difficult. He'd pace and whine in the car. Our once idyllic road trips were no longer the fun they'd been before his anxiety.
His back legs were shaky when he woke up and it took him a couple hours to move without stumbling or collapsing.  He was virtually blind and took his cues from us on walks, around corners, on steps in parks and gardens. 
Bruce Keller, Nora, Cookie and Nicky at Lake Tahoe.
He stopped jumping up on the couch and needed our help getting up and down the stairs, but he still took walks with us twice and day and even ran the last half-block home, leaving us huffing and puffing to keep up. He knew to stop at our house. By magic doggie braille he'd strut through the front door and bound into the house.
NICKY DIED this past weekend, in friends' backyard. I regret that I was not with him but must believe he knows how we love and miss him.
Nick personified the Yorkie profile -- smart, loyal, playful, fearless.  He survived many accidents: a rattlesnake bite, a run-in with a grizzly bear, leaps from second-story decks in two different homes after squirrels and birds. When he was four, he was run over by a 
Keller with Nick, Nora near our California home.  

speeding gravel truck resulting in a serious hematoma on his intrepid Yorkie head. Thanks to our fabulous Montana veterinarian, Rex, he lived to tell the tale.  
He jumped out of the moving Explorer three times, in pursuit of horses, turkeys and deer. 
Cookie sails with Nora and Nick, Mission Bay.
WHEN HE  and Nora were two years old, he took on three off-leash pit bulls who attacked me and his twin sister.  She was nearly killed and was hospitalized for weeks.  I needed two skin grafts on my arm, but Nicky escaped with a bite on his right ear. The nurse and doctor who rescued us in an Arizona park were drawn to the scene by my screams and the sight of Nicky atop the growling dogs, who'd pinned Nora and me down.
Recently, he recovered from serious pancreatitis with the help of a couple antibiotics and our TLC.
Nicky, left, and Nora, at Santa Barbara pier.
endearing, adorable little friends traveled thousands of miles with us. They rode trains, sailed in boats, snoozed in their beds in rental cars visiting San Francisco, New Orleans, Atlanta, New York, Santa Barbara, Portland, Seattle, Chicago, Phoenix, Las Vegas, Denver, Minneapolis, Billings and Ashland, Oregon, for our annual treks to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. They took trams to the mountain tops of Palm Desert and Breckenridge.
Nick and Nora logged more than 50,000 airline miles with us in 16 years of travel. When I approached the airlines for doggie frequent flier miles, they thanked me for my "humorous appeal." I wasn't kidding, but alas, no points for the pups.
Favorite times with them were at our country place in Montana where they scampered in 
Nora, left, and Nick, always on alert, ever curious.
  the woods, luxuriated with us under the aspen trees and chased after squirrels, mice and rabbits (catching only voles, of which we had an excess. They were a formidable tag team in their prime.)
They loved our walks on the beach, too, chasing seagulls, sometimes soaking themselves as the tide came in. 
They snoozed beneath tables at my writing workshops, endearing themselves to all.
THE BONDS we humans form with our pets are like no others.  The cliche "unconditional love" is true.  Nick and Nora never quarreled with us.  There were no disagreements, hurtful remarks, and the occasional disobedience and scolding were quickly forgiven and forgotten by both parties.
The Yorkies traversed both east and west coasts, here
in La Jolla, California, sporting fresh haircuts with Cookie. 
Reminders of  him and his sister are everywhere. I put my cereal bowl on the floor for Nicky to lick. I saved part of my chicken breast for him, then caught myself.  The freezer is full of little Tupperware dishes of "Nicky Stew," a special enticement I made
from hamburger, chicken liver, rice, broth and his prescription canned food. This morning I found treats in my shirt pocket, doggie bags in my jacket.  His leashes hang by the doors.  His bed is still on ours.  Others are throughout the house, including the one I'm resting my feet on. It will be the last to go.
 NICKY LIVED in the now.  He taught me kindness, forgiveness, anticipation. As he aged, he did so with peace, a wise, endearing, patient old pal who seemed to know nothing lasts forever.  He  loved being with us, and his adopted aunties -- Sue, in Yorkshire, England, and "Auntie Nannie" in San Diego.  Nannie took care of him many times, keeping a careful log of his antics and activities, loving him deeply as we did and do.
Our last Christmas card with both pups -- Nick, left, and
 Nora, in the lilacs of High Chaparral, near Nye, Montana

She wrote a lovely poem to honor him.
WHEN MY baby brother Patrick died in February, then a friend's ancient pet passed in April, this superstitious Irish girl had a feeling that Nicky would be "the third," -- he might not be with us much longer. We'd hoped to get him back to Montana, to bury him there.  It was not to be. So I grab another tissue, placing his tiny box next to Nora's. Nine pounds of joy now ashes.
The cremation people told me he wouldn't want me to be sad. I'm hanging on to that. He taught me how to live a better life, how to age with acceptance, how to die with grace.
 The house is quiet now. In the sorrow and silence, it comforts me to find Nicky and Nora in my heart.
(Compassionate cremation arrangements for Nicky were made by a lovely couple who helped me choose his favorite blankets, consoled me and gently took him from my shaky hands:

Queen Elizabeth is center stage, at 96,
surrounded by members of the Royal Family.
UP NEXT: We celebrate Queen Elizabeth II's long reign on the throne of England -- a remarkable 70 years.  Cookie saw her coronation as a tot and has followed "The Royals" through her long career as a journalist and travel writer, even meeting members of the family at various state functions. Come along to London with us, during a four-day holiday to celebrate this remarkable woman, now 96. Meanwhile, remember to explore, learn and live and catch us weekly for a fresh spin on family, travel, nature, the arts and more: Do share the links!


  1. Cookie. So so sorry for your loss
    Letting go when you love deeply, its the hardest thing to do. I send you light and lots of love

  2. Pittsburg Pet LoversMay 27, 2022 at 8:13 AM

    Such a touching, heartfelt tribute to your little Yorkie friends. They are the best doggies. We are teary-eyed.

  3. Yonkers Yorkie LoversMay 27, 2022 at 8:42 AM

    What a tribute. What a pup. Nothing like a Yorkie for indomitable spirit. Sending healing thoughts and encouraging happy memories of amazing Nicky.

  4. A wonderful tribute for a pup that was so loved and so loving. Cookie and Keller: I will never forget Nicky and Nora. They were and will be my forever pups. Just as I will never forget you two. Thank you so much for letting me read this. There are tears in my eyes and running down my cheeks.

  5. Wow. What a dog. What a life. So moved by this story.

  6. So very sorry Cookster & Bruce. What dear traveling companions you’ve had over the years. I know they will be greatly missed.
    God give you peace.🙏🏽💕

  7. How you loved those two beautiful Yorkies, and shared with us!

  8. Chicago Dog LoversMay 29, 2022 at 9:24 PM

    Feeling the sadness, sending love.

  9. Houston Yorkie LoversMay 31, 2022 at 5:40 PM

    Beautiful doggies and parents. Condolences and love.

  10. Great dog story. Can't wait for QEIII.