This is a story about the love of a good dog, but mostly it’s about life

Hi, readers. Below is a touching guest blog by my husband, Sweetums, about the death of our dogs in December 2020. I wrote about the death of my Trusty Sidedog Lucy in a column here. Here is Sweetums’ ode to his beloved German Shepherd, Neeko. – Kelly Kazek

By Wil Elrick

This is sort of a memorial to my much-loved German Shepherd, Neeko. This is sort of a story about change and how we don’t even realize it happens. Mostly, this is a story about life.

I could sit and write a thousand different wonderful memories about my dog and I could even write some bad ones. I think for the moment, though, I’ll keep those stories close and share the basics. Sneaky Neeko was my 13-year-old German Shepherd, which is ancient for a big dog. She helped me through some of the rockiest and happiest times of my life. She was a wagging rock when I needed it, and she was a great day full of play when that was what I needed.

I watched her age relatively gracefully until hip dysplasia turned my once-powerful, furry wrestling partner into a frail little ol’ lady, but, man, did her spirit and personality keep rockin’. Then there was an incident in the middle of the night, and I knew that no matter how much fight she had, her body was not going to cooperate much longer.

So, after repeated vet visits and prescriptions for pain, I began to think about her end of life. I thought over and over about the horrible part of having to go to the vet’s office for our last trip and then having the vet take care of cremating her. I could then scatter her ashes in various places that she loved.

Then, Kelly’s “trusty side-dog” began acting funny and took a little trip to vet for a check-up which turned out to be horrible news. She was in liver failure and had tumors. Time went by, as it has a tendency to do, and no matter how much care we provided the dogs, they were getting sicker so now we were looking at not just one, but two end of life situations for our beloved companions. Kelly said: “I want to bury Lucy in the back under a tree” and asked if I would make her a little coffin. Of course, I agreed.

It was still in my head that I was going to have Neeko cremated, though, because that is what I want for myself. It then hit me, is that what Neeko would want? We may have been a merged-together family, but she spent so much time and had so many adventures with Lucy and they had been together so long, who was I to separate them now? Plus, neither Kelly nor I have plans to leave our little farm and there was plenty of room. So, I took three days and built coffins for each of them and hand-dug graves for them in a shady spot in view of the house. I also cooked them some ribeye steaks.

Here is the most important part of this story. Growing up on a farm, I was much more involved in the circle of life of things going on around me. I never would have even dreamed of cremating my wonderful dog back then. There was place where all our pets had been buried and that is where she would have gone with my family or me taking care of the burial. As I moved away from the farm, this wasn’t possible any longer and when the sad day came for other dogs to pass on (they never last long enough) everything was basically handled by the vet, and I was pretty much detached from it. Looking back, I find myself totally baffled that this detachment had grown and I didn’t even realize it. This is just a sad reality that many people have to face because of modern life and living in cities or suburbs, etc.

The time I spent preparing the final resting spot for our dogs was some of the hardest emotional time I have experienced while at the same time being some of the most rewarding. The feeling of responsibility that came over me to care for what I loved until the very end was strong. After all the joy they had brought to my life, doing these final preparations felt so small and insignificant but it brought me so much closer to them spiritually than I have ever been with any of my other pets. The tears that fell from my eyes while engraving their names on their boxes would easily have filled an aquarium, but the sadness I felt was mixed with an inner warmth that I still cannot explain. While I knew the loss would be so great, the peace I found was immeasurable.

Our dogs passed away at home on the farm on a Monday and we did not leave their sides until they were at rest, together under a tree that will blossom in spring and remind us of the joy they brought us.

You can see a video below of Neeko greeting Sweetums when he came home from work. Lucy is the little beagle trying to get Sweetums’ attention. We miss them so much.

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