One of the legacies I cherish that my Mom handed down to us girls was to be kind to animals, to stray cats, dogs, and birds. When she was 5 and living in the one-room family home in south Texas, she would carry home kittens and puppies as she found them. And later, we always had a dog in our household—we even took Easter pictures sitting beside my first friend, a Lab-Husky mix, Peewee.
In pushes from my mother on the other side, I have gotten my latest pups from the Rocky Mountain Cocker Rescue. It was 2013 or so that a volunteer from RMCR drove Nikki to meet me. A blind and deaf blonde party mix cocker spaniel, Nikki was 10 or 11 then. I immediately fell in love and she adopted me as her human until she passed this week. My first impression of her was that she was so sweet and loving; nothing fazed her—even when she conked her little head gently learning the new furniture boundaries.
Sometimes I would maneuver the living room furniture by moving the trunk here or there, and the ottoman back again. She could find the pet stairs no matter and she could jump up on the bed or couch just like she had working eyes. She would run along side Schroeder for the tennis ball and bark if Lena tried to slide a bite out of Nikki’s bowl.
Nikki showed me what friendship was about when she would get in bed beside me and just stay there, never mind my tossing and tugging at the blankets. If there was a place to go, she was first at the door. She loved to go with me to Dairy Queen drive through and the long trip to get groomed and see family in Conejos County. Just last week, she decided she wanted to be directly in my lap and by golly if she didn’t jump to that spot and sat with me like that for an hour or more. When I’d stop stroking her, she would reach out with her paw for “More please, more.”
After she was groomed, her coat was always so smooth and soft. Esther Sowards in Manassa groomed and styled Nikki every other month. At home, Nikki pranced like a delicate ‘wee folk” from the Irish Isles or a princess on parade; she was happy to be back home. Nikki enjoyed the birds I rescued too and both cockatiels would fly to her and talk to her. A very good close-up listener, she tilted her head to better understand their tweets. When I cooked, she would stand right beside me for a treat that might fall. She always stood the closest to me for her treats to try to give herself an edge, I think.
In the back yard she could walk to the very end of the property and touch the gate and still find her way back to the deck and door. When I sat outside on the deck to catch the moon or stars, she would follow my scent and sit beside me and enjoy the pats on her head. Her sense of direction was lost though on her last visit through the yard that she completed in overlapping circles as she headed where she thought she heard my whistle.
Everyone should have a fresh face like Nikki’s to come home to. She would gently bob up and down when she knew pizza arrived. Then, she’d line up with her brother and sister to get a soft piece of pizza. Here comes the pizza now; so, I think the aroma will find her in heaven. I miss her already. Thanks to the generosity of Rocky Mountain Cocker Rescue volunteers, the Conour Crematory in Monte Vista received her body yesterday and will call me when I can bring her back home.
Still, I think she is seeing the Cockatiels and Monarchs in heaven with my Mom who brings all the puppies and kittens she ever walked home with. So I pass it on, the adage from my mom: love all God’s creatures!
--Nelda Curtiss is a retired college professor who enjoys writing and fine arts. Contact her at [email protected]