RIP Sweet Nellie
"If there ever comes a day when we can't be together, keep me in your heart. I'll stay there forever." ~ Winnie the Pooh
This photo says everything about how Nellie felt about life. Her joyful smile, her beaming pride, the look of love she's giving her sanctuary mom off camera - this photo captures Nellie through and through.
Whatever Nellie's life was like before she ended up an animal control, all signs point to it not being good at all. The day we rescued her, she cowered in the corner of her kennel, and was so terrified that she just shut down. She had to be carried out of the building because walking was the furthest thing from her mind. But we figured that it was just the environment, and like most dogs who are that level of scared, she'd relax and realize she was okay shortly. But nope. It turns out, Nellie had never seen the world. Nellie was terrified of the outdoors, of the indoors, of new people and everything in between. She had to learn how to be a part of a world she had never known.
I called Irene and asked her if she could step up to foster this terrified dog, explaining we needed someone who could be patient and understanding about her needs. Irene did not hesitate for a moment. As a founding board member of Young at Heart, Irene had seen her fair share of senior dogs and cats that needed extra TLC upon rescue, but Nellie was something different. Irene was up to the challenge.
Irene immediately got to helping Nellie learn about the world. Patience was key. For example, Nellie's first walk was not a walk. It was a "dog pancake" on the ground with her eyes shut tight and then needing to be carried back into the house. Wash, rinse, repeat. Everything was new and scary for Nellie, but never did she try to bite or flee. She just shut down on the spot. But Irene was determined and loving and patient, and soon enough Nellie was going for short little walks. And then Nellie was going for car rides. And then Nellie was visiting the pet supply store. And on, and on. It took almost a year before Nellie acted like a normal dog, but there she finally was - beaming proudly with her tail up wherever she went, and looking to Irene to make sure she was ok. Nellie had learned that life was good!
About the time we started discussing whether or not Nellie was finally ready to find a very special adopter, she was diagnosed with Melanoma. And so instead of being placed for adoption, Nellie became part of our sanctuary program for pets with medical issues that are too complex to be placed for adoption. We felt that it was the absolute best thing for Nellie. She started oral treatment for the cancer, and beat the vet's time frame for living with Melanoma by a mile. Then she was diagnosed with renal disease, and beat the vet's time frame for that by miles upon miles. And most recently, she was diagnosed with lymphoma, and even beat the vet's time frame for that, too. And through it all, she would run and play and snuggle and enjoy life to its fullest, never letting a little bit of a medical challenge bring her down. But time is a battle we simply cannot win, and in recent months, it was obvious that Nellie's clock was winding down quickly. After five wonderful years with us, at the age of 14 years or so, she let Irene know this week that it was time for goodbye.
What a wonderful life she has had with Irene and Young at Heart these past five years. Nellie has won the hearts of everyone who has met her. Those who have met her in her later years cannot imagine the shut down dog she once was. She got to go to work with Irene, went on many vacations, romps with dog friends, long walks through the forest preserve, and was completely spoiled as a good dog should be. Her best friend was Vinny, a Young at Heart alum, a teeny tiny little chihuahua sidekick who she loved with all of her heart, and looked after and played every so gently with. She was kind and gentle to foster dogs and cats that came through her home, but little Vinny was her BFF. Nellie's heart was truly one of gold, and Irene was the key to unlocking it. What a truly amazing gift Nellie was to all of us.
Irene, thank you for giving Nellie what she never had in her former life before coming to Young at Heart. Thank you for loving her with your whole heart, and showing her that the world is full of good people and love and kindness. Our hearts are with you and Vinny. Sweet dreams, sweet Nellie. You will be in our hearts forever. You were a good, good girl and a very loved dog.
Photo by Roxanne Marie Photography