On Friday, April 12th, at 4:31pm, I said goodbye to my dog Nico. She’s been my best friend, my companion, my muse, and my emotional support for the past 13 years. She was with me throughout my senior year of undergrad in Central Illinois, to the suburbs of Chicago, to my time as a grad student in New York City. From the forest preserves of DuPage County to the wild rooftop parties in Brooklyn, through times of unemployment and family issues, through a girlfriend, through friends who come and go — Nico has always been by my side. Nico was my constant.
The vets from Franklin Avenue Animal Hospital were kind enough to come to my apartment on her last day; I wanted her to be euthanized in the comforts of her own home, instead of an unfamiliar veterinary clinic. They gave her two injections, and she passed away in my arms as Nico’s (the singer) “Chelsea Girl” played in the background. Her ashes and a cast of her paw print arrived on my birthday.
I couldn’t stand to see Nico suffer anymore: she was barely eating, she stopped greeting me at the door each day after work, and she had trouble walking or even getting up. I told myself once she couldn’t walk and/or once she stopped eating, it was time. I dreaded those signs very much, but I knew it was inevitable. Beginning in the summer of 2018 when she was first cleared of cancer, I counted every month she was alive with me as a miracle. When her cancer re-emerged and progressively got worse, I felt every week with her alive was a miracle. Since December, I’d clean and change the bandages around her tumor, spending anywhere from $200 to $300 a week on medication, painkillers, and medical supplies. I did my damnedest to keep her alive and relatively healthy and happy. Coupled with the stress at work, with money, with my brother, worrying about my beloved dog led to too many sleepless nights and bouts of depression. I was exhausted. She was in pain. She and I both knew it was the end. Deciding she had to die and setting a date when she was going to die was the hardest choice I ever had to make — next to possibly pulling the plug on a parent or something. It’s the cruelest yet most merciful act I gave to Nico, and I remember repeatedly whispering to her “I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I love you,” into her ear as the procedure was done.
By the time I’m writing this, it’s been over a month since I let her go. The pain and the tears over her death have definitely subsided, but I miss her so much everyday. It’s odd to come home to an empty apartment each night, and I’ve been attempting to preoccupy myself by gardening or hanging out with friends. Still, when night rolls around and there is nothing left to do, I feel so alone and so uncreative. I figured writing again would help cope with that creative void and whatever emotions I have left with Nico’s passing, but there’s no mistake how much I miss having that companionship. I know it’s way too early to adopt another dog, and I enjoy the freedom from pet-ownership responsibility. I know I can never replace Nico herself, but a part of me wishes I could have that unconditional companion again. It’ll take time to readjust and fill that void — both the loss of Nico and the creative endeavors she inspired — but I still have the good memories of her: the walks to the dog park on beautiful afternoons, the way she’d stick her head out the window on car rides, the time she ate an entire pizza from the countertop when I went downstairs to get the mail. Those memories will outlast the painful ones leading up to her death.
Nico lived her life for me (and I for her). Her existence was meant to please her owner, to make me happy. As sad as I am about her death, how can I betray her fundamental intentions as a dog if she were alive to see me today? I can’t wallow in it, but I’ll fucking miss her everyday for the rest of my life.
So if you’re reading this and you have a special pet in your life, remember to always love and spoil them. Hug and cuddle with them each day. Take stupid pictures and videos. Never be vicious. Never abandon them. Show them the unconditional love they show you each moment they come to the door, because one day — since time and health are so cruel and absolute — they won’t.
Always and forever, Nico.