The spirit in a yellow flower

Nike passed in the middle of the first lockdown at 13 years and 11 months. I still have trouble thinking about it, and have as yet, not written about it. A noisy, neurotic, spinning, bi black Sheltie, she shadowed me for most of her life. If I walked down the hall to my office, she’d follow behind. If I went to get something in the kitchen she’d follow me there and back to work, sitting within inches of my feet. Outside, whether walking in the forest or around Rutherford school yard, she would never move more than about 10 feet away from me, if that. 

Her personality was the sweetest and gentlest of all our Shelties and she loved to be scratched behind her ears or have her shoulders massaged and tummy rubbed. 

Dying in a pandemic, for a dog, is not the way I would have hoped or imagined for this lovely wee girl. 

“Wait under the tent,” the vet assistant said to Zack and John. “The vet will be right with you.”

“We want to be with her when she’s put down,” John said. 

“Only clinic personnel are able to come into the clinic,” the vet said.

“But we want to be with her,” Zack added.

“We’ll bring her out to you after we do an exam.”

“She is in too much pain. It’s time,” John said. “My wife told me she needed to be put down.”

Turning, the vet left with Nike, leaving John and Zack unsure of what would follow. Thirty minutes later, she came back with Nike’s lifeless body in her arms. 

“Could you not have done it out here,” Zack asked as the attendant pushed the POS machine at John, confirming the total of 254. 23.”

When Zack and John got home, they tried to lighten the blow that NIKE was alone at the end, with no one that loved her holding a paw as she drifted off to sleep, no one to sing her over the rainbow bridge, no one to whisper in her ear how much she was loved. 

Zack buried her at the top of the hill, beside Jimmyjon. She’d be able to see me working in the garden and survey her domain as she did when she was its guardian and protector. 

It took me awhile to post our loss on Facebook but after I did the comments came in of how sorry and sad people were over our loss. I knew most of them understood. My social media focuses on dogs, grandbaby, gardening and writing. Most of my friends have at least one dog. 

Our staff at the clinic also understood. They are witness to how much our lives and schedule revolve around the dogs! 

Gloria, one of our staff who quit three weeks before the lockdown to attend community college for long term care aid, dropped off a beautiful yellow daisy at the house. She lost her dog the year before and was heartsick at the time. She knew with the pandemic added into the mix, that I would be devastated and taking it hard. 

I never thought much about the flower, I watered it, placed it on the deck to add a splash of colour to the green of tomato and bean plants. I expected it to wither in August and drop leaves, but it kept blooming. I expected it to turn brown and die in September, after all, these kinds of plants aren’t for planting out and keeping. In December, it still had flowers on it and I began to notice it more, bringing it in on cold nights, making sure it had just the right amount of moisture. I also began thinking about how NIKE always knew how I felt, knowing when I needed her to be extra close or talkative. The flower became an extension of her presence. It felt like she was staying with me because of the tough time we were having with COVID and maintaining a business and staff. I felt her reassuring presence each time I looked at that plant. 

In January, there was one flower and three buds. They hung on till February. That’s when I heard that Petra, our favourite sheltie breeder had a litter on the ground and I asked if there would be any available. The top female pick of the litter was mine for the asking. 

In March the last flower faded and fell off the plant and I knew Nike was saying ‘yes’. It was time. I could let her go and she would be waiting, sitting with Dad and Jimmyjon, Brady, Murphy, Tyla and Scampi on a hill, in the sun. 

After we brought Sadie Girl home it was warm enough to put the plant on the shelf again and three flowers opened up their bright yellow petals to the spring sun. Nike had come back, different this time, not so much to keep me sane, but more letting me know that all would be okay, the torch had been passed to the next generation of canine healer and she was good with that. I think Sadie Girl is good with that too! 

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