I woke up around 8am this Saturday morning to a text message from my sister that almost instantly made me cry. She told me our family dog, a tiny chihuahua mix named Nicky, had died about an hour earlier.
Most chihuahuas are yappy and annoying, but Nicky was the most likable and friendly chihuahua I had ever known. She didn't mind being left alone. Some days she would hardly see much of anybody, but seemed to get on fine. All she really ever wanted from anybody was warmth. If you sat on a couch next to her, she would leave her blanket to get to the adjacent couch and make herself at home on your lap. If she didn't find you comfortable anymore or if you got up, she would scurry back onto her blanket.
Nicky had been given to my parents by an employee, who had five chihuahua pups. They got her for my brother, who named her Nicholas. Several years had passed before they realized Nicholas was, in fact, a girl. They shortened it to the androgynous Nicky, which made sense, but was only unfortunate in the way that it was similar to one of our aunt's names, Nikki.
My dad took the best care of her, and always made sure she had comfy towels, blankets, and beds to lay on. He had a wooden home built in the garage for her to stay warm in the winter. In her last year, she even had this house.
Four years ago, she met her best pal and my dog, Biscuit. By the time they had met, she was already an old lady who was stuck in her old, simple ways. Meanwhile, Biscuit was very much still a puppy; still spry, rambunctious and full of energy. They spent a lot of time together and ended up developing a sweet relationship where he was sort of like an annoying younger brother. Biscuit would lick her vigorously and bother her, which she would tolerate until she got sick of it and started yapping for him to knock it off. It was always ok for Biscuit to annoy Nicky, but when other dogs were around, Biscuit would vehemently defend Nicky, not letting other dogs get near her. Whenever anybody gave Nicky attention, Biscuit would get between them, desperately vying for their pets. Nicky never did anything like that, but she made it known she enjoyed your affection and being close to you.
My parents had never raised a dog before, so they didn't know that some dogs require teeth brushing. As a result, Nicky eventually had to get many of her teeth removed a few years ago. But this never stopped her from eating anything. Til the very end, Nicky ate voraciously, noisily, and well. Living in a supermarket, she was given absolutely anything and everything to eat, and was only ever aggressive and protective when it came to her food. Biscuit learned to be respectful of this, and never ate off her plate when he was done with his. She was, however, free to munch off his plate if she finished hers first. Also, I had taught Biscuit to do tricks, which we usually have him do before giving him treats. Nicky didn't know how to do anything, so she got them for free.
One funny memory I have of her was when my friend and I lived together in the house. We learned that she was not nearly as stupid as she looks. She looked very derpy in her old age because her tongue always stuck out and she was always licking the air. I had a couple of Dum Dums lying on the living room table. Somehow, she had gotten a hold of one and managed to unwrap it. My friend found her with a Dum Dum stick strategically lodged between her paws, gleefully licking it away.
Since by late last year, Nicky had developed glaucoma and was around 15 years old, my dad estimated she only had one or two years left. We knew her time was coming to an end, but it was much shorter than we anticipated. When I asked my sister and brother earlier this month if they could take care of her, I thought we had more time to deliberate over it. It was a very fortunate series of events that led my dad to taking Nicky down and my sister taking care of her during Nicky's last week. No matter how sad I get thinking about her untimely death, I will always be reassured that in her final moments, she had company.
It was also fortunate that my dad hadn't left SoCal at the time he planned, so he was able to drive Nicky back up to give her a proper burial in the home where she lived for most of her life.
There were a lot of things that went wrong about my dad's burial plans that made the whole experience more lighthearted. For example, my dad had asked my uncle to dig a hole on a hill in the backyard, but my carefree uncle dug a hole in the wrong spot about 50 feet away on very flat ground. Worse, the "casket" box my dad had someone build for Nicky was at least double the size it needed to be, so we had to spend time digging a deeper hole.
I thought it was important for Biscuit to see and smell Nicky one last time. Whenever I brought Biscuit to the market or house with me, he would always dart inside to look for Nicky and lick her repeatedly because he missed her. I'm not sure if he was able to entirely comprehend the situation, but I think a little part of him did.
But another part of me was doubtful because he still behaved like it was any other day.
I found it so funny and endearing that my dad wanted to bury her with Joss paper usually reserved for burning at funerals for humans. When I asked my dad about it incredulously, he responded with incredulity back, "So in her next life, she'll have money!"
We picked flowers from the front yard for her.
I don't know many people who would participate in, let alone initiate this kind of thing. But this is the type of person my dad is.
I am grateful for the opportunity to mourn our beloved Nicky.
Thank you for being in our lives.