Another Profoundly #Sad Weekend- Remembering Our #RatTerrier Nick

Baby Nick

Stan and I had one of the worst weekends. Nick isn’t with us any longer. We had to make the decision to euthanize him Saturday morning.

Most people don’t know that after Katie died, Nick was diagnosed with the canine version of dementia. Over the past year he had adapted well; better than anyone could have expected. As we watched little pieces of him get locked away from his own self, the best of him prevailed in what was left. It progressed enough that it was taking his balance and he was losing some of his mobility. He mainly lost interest in grooming, but he still loved to eat and he drank water like it was the finest liquid on the planet.

Nick Pup

Often, he went into fouge states where he wasn’t there with you. But, then some time would pass and he would be with you again; his eyes would come back to life and you would know he had returned. He would often turn in circles counterclockwise until you could get him to focus on something else. It’s a common happenings with dementia. We had to be with him all the time to make sure he didn’t fall, get caught in something, or hurt himself, but his life continued mostly as it always had. If something changed, we made adjustments so he could be successful.

That’s what you do with someone you love. Stan being home because of Covid-19 made all this much easier and never any kind of burden. In the end Stan had to carry him around, between floors and on the many stairs, most of the time. Through it all he remembered us and sought comfort from that and the things we could do together.

A few days ago his breathing seemed different, he was coughing much more than usual and he seemed weaker. Saturday it was concerning enough for us to make an appointment with our vet right away. We knew something wasn’t right. It seemed like a very bad cold and we were afraid liquid was building in his lungs. They ran tests and scans and found it was not a cold or his allergies. Since his extensive tests last spring Nick had a developed tumor. It was spreading through his airways and it was advanced. There wasn’t anything that we could do for him, except make sure he wasn’t going to know the agony that was to come.

I don’t want you to think about his death because that was just a tiny sliver of a moment in his over sixteen year collection of memories, and I promise you they were the best memories someone could have.

Nick & George playing

When we adopted him, he had been saved from a shelter in TN. We looked and looked for right fit for our family and in the end he chose us. He came right up to us as if to say, “are you my dads, can we get out of here?” They were surprised because he was known for having emotional issues; he could be aloof and could be aggressive. He was terrified of anything with a long handle. We would learn later from an x-ray that he had been hit and a bone had fused back without being properly set. They thought he was 13 months old at the shelter, but when we took him to the vet they said he was no more than 8 months. He had never been socialized and with rat terriers that is very important from the beginning. The photo at the top of the post is from this period.

We had a little trepidation about introducing him to George, our short haired Turkish Angora, knowing all this. That turned out to be completely unfounded. They became fast friends and the best playmates you could imagine. He seemed to understand that George was smaller and that he needed to play with that thought in mind. Watching them play together was pure joy!

We had to be much more careful with Nick and other people. To put it bluntly, Nick didn’t like other human beings, even our friends. He only had eyes for the two of us. We tried many times to socialize him, but that always would end with him “herding” other people by biting them on there ankles. This made interaction with other humans interesting when we were out on walk with him, because everyone wanted to pet him and cuddle him and hug him and Nick wanted to keep everyone away from us. Small children always wanted to pet the “dalmatian,” because of Nick’s spots. We learned very early on to protect children from him. Nick just didn’t like people. I don’t blame him at all.

Katie & Nick

We always felt Nick was meant for us. He was devoted to us like no another being I’ve ever met. Farmington has a problem with people letting their dogs run loose, but Nick saved me from three different attacks by other dogs. Three! They were all twice his size! To watch him in defensive action was amazing!

As he and George grew we wanted to expand our family, so we adopted Katie. If you could have seen his face when she came home with us; he thought we were the best parents ever for adding to the pack! The meeting with George and Katie didn’t go so well. In the end Nick chose Katie over George, but they all lived harmoniously for a decade before George died. What didn’t work we changed to keep the harmony going.

Nick & Katie

Nick loved running together with Katie. He was so fast he could outrun her on any short run! He loved to lay in the summer sun. He loved smelling everything outside. He loved finding rats, especially dead headless rats! He was very, very good at it. When you would take one out of his mouth by saying “leave it” or “drop it,” he would look at you and say,”but it’s what we do daddy, I’m a rat terrier!” He was wild and fierce and one of the most complicated beings I’ve ever known.

He had the most expressive face and his deep brown eyes were like layers of backlit amber. When he smiled he beamed with happiness. His spots were like a moving, elegant abstract painting. His undercoat was as soft as cotton candy. His tail had not been docked, so we had the honor of seeing him wag his curly, “piggly,” wiggly tail every day. That was happiness given physical form if I’ve ever seen it. On days like today, with new fallen snow, seeing him outside was a special delight because he was like a kid in a candy store. One time he dipped his head in the snow and when he pulled his head back up he looked like Max had in The Grinch That Stole Christmas, adorned with a Santa beard and hat. He adored spending every waking moment with us, even if we weren’t doing anything. We will miss him to our core. We miss them all.

Now that they are all gone we’ll be starting a new era. I’ve only ever known three times in my life when I didn’t have companion animals. They were brief, but some of the most transformative parts of my life. I expect this time will be no different. We are preparing for our retirement now and within several years that will massively intensify as Stan’s retirement date grows closer. I am certain we will adopt again, but what form our family takes and when we’ll adopt isn’t something that is going to happen very soon. We’ll know when it’s the right time just like Nick knew we were his dads as soon as we stood before him.

Author: Kyle

Kyle Leach is an Artist, Poet, Blogger, Gardener, Museum Curator, & Community Activist.

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