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Remembering "our gentleman Pomeranian"

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By Robert Villanueva

Habits are reminders of how we expect things to be. We develop habits by training ourselves to perform certain actions in a certain environment under certain conditions.

One day a couple weeks ago, when I got home from work, I retrieved two dog dishes to feed my two canine companions, Nanook and Tybalt. The problem was it had been a week and a half since I needed only one.

Just after 4 p.m. Monday, July 9, my girlfriend, Rebecca Ricks, and I had to say goodbye to our 17-year-old Pomeranian, Nanook. His health had deteriorated suddenly, and the veterinarian told us his body was shutting down. We made the difficult decision to have the veterinarian end Nanook’s suffering when his pain became constant.

To be perfectly honest, I was not sure I could write this column. The loss of a loved one, a family member, is such a personal thing. But I’ve shared stories about Nanook and Tybalt in some of my columns and felt I should share this as well.

Nanook came to us, at age 5, from a family who couldn’t keep him. When we first got him, he was extremely skittish.

It took three or four years, but Nanook completely lost that skittishness and blended into our family, which included Macbeth, our hyper, everybody-is-my-friend canine companion.

When Rebecca or I would head to the back door with their leashes to take them on a bathroom break, Macbeth excitedly and happily ran around in circles. Nanook would walk to the back door, sit perfectly poised and raise his chin in anticipation of us attaching the leash to the ring on his collar at the front of his neck.

Because this was his general demeanor — dignified and amenable — we called him “our gentleman Pomeranian.”

That did not mean Nanook wasn’t protective. One of our favorite memories involved an annual camping and fishing trip we made to Land Between the Lakes years ago. With Macbeth and Nanook in the back seat, we drove from fishing spot to fishing spot.

At one boat ramp a gaggle of geese waddled near the parking area as we arrived. Rebecca had been snacking on some crackers and decided to step outside and feed the geese. Apparently, Rebecca wasn’t feeding them enough or fast enough, and the geese backed her up against the car, closing in like an angry feathered mob and pecking at her. As I got out of the car to try to intervene, I could hear Nanook’s furious protests from the back seat.

When I finally opened the back car door to find something to repel the geese, Nanook took the opportunity to spring from the back seat, out the door and into the crowd of fowl thugs. He scared every one of them off and even chased one all the way down to the lake.

At night, Nanook slept on our bed near our feet. He wouldn’t have it any other way.

When we got our ball of energy, Tybalt, just a couple years ago, Nanook quickly adapted to his playfulness. Even at his age, Nanook held his own.

For about the past three years, Nanook suffered from severe arthritis in his hind legs. He got around just fine and could even run, but we had to carry him up the stairs each night to put him on the bed as we got ready to retire for the day. Tybalt would jump up on the bed as we settled in, playful and happy, eventually jumping off the bed to find a comfortable spot somewhere else in the room.

On the day Nanook was euthanized — and for several days afterward — Tybalt didn’t understand when we climbed into bed without Nanook. He would splay himself across Rebecca’s torso, look at our bedroom door and bark.

Sometimes Rebecca and I catch ourselves doing something for two dogs. Tybalt still occasionally looks at the bedroom door at the end of the day and barks.

Habits are reminders of how we expect things to be.

Robert Villanueva can be reached at (270) 505-1743 or rvillanueva@thenewsenterprise.com.