Nemo’s Last Ride

5 June 2013


I need to say goodbye to a dearly beloved…. Please bear with me as I eulogize a being with no DNA connection to my human family tree but who was nonetheless ever so special. 

At 2 PM today, my sweet little dog Nemo was euthanized… and my heart is breaking.

I remember the day Nemo and I first met at the Chicago Humane Society back in 2004. I was looking for a dog for my then step daughter (hate that word “step”) who had never had a pet before. Having always had pets myself, I wanted to teach her how to care and take responsibility for living creatures  other than herself.

As we wandered around looking for likely prospects, she was attracted to an exuberant Jack Russell that had so much energy I knew I couldn’t manage him and I knew she wouldn’t take up the slack.

Standing in front of a previously unnoticed cage, I was ready to give up and go. But something made me turn around —  and there he was…. laying with his nose pressed against the wire door…. looking soooooooooooooo sad. I immediately realized he was a Shih tzu (one of my favorite breeds) and the look in his eyes touched my heart. The attendant opened  the cage, I hugged him and knew immediately that he was the right one. They told me his name was “Buddy” and, at four years old, had been surrendered by his owners when they moved to a senior apartment where dogs were not allowed.

I signed the papers and brought my new “baby” home, in the process changing his name to “Nemo” (based on my daughter’s choice from the character in her favorite movie).

Ever since that day, Nemo has been a loyal and devoted companion — proving over and over again what a good choice I made. Over the past nine years, he has slept by my bedside, kept vigil at my front door, travelled with me on short trips to the grocery store and long road trips to “hell and beyond.” My housemate/cousin David fell in love with him and I even wrote about some of our adventures in my book — Gather at the Table — in tribute to his patience, adaptability and endurance. He survived a bad marriage, a worse divorce, snow storms that left us in darkness, hard times when he had to eat homemade dog food and separations when he had to board with friends while my life was in flux. (Everyone loved him!) In my present location, a rural community far from my hometown (Chicago) where I know no one, Nemo has been my most special friend.

Nemo’s decline started some months ago. It began with a loss of hearing and progressed to arthritis that made it hard for him to pull his little body up the stairs to the bedroom. There was a bout of Lyme disease and then… this…. a complete system failure that left him totally listless and unwilling to take any food or water — even when offered by hand.

The decision to “put Nemo down” was agonizing. In his last few days, he cried out in pain from spasms yet still tried to follow me around on wobbly legs. I carried him like a little baby so he could be close to me in his usual places — at my feet near the computer when writing, in the kitchen during cooking time and outside on the patio while I pulled weeds. After two weeks of suffering, I just couldn’t be so cruel as to make him stay when it was time for him to go.

I have parted with pets before but this one is the worst…. surely because Nemo was with me the longest…. and because I have never had to oversee a DNR for anyone other than my mother, who passed away in 2005 of the same ailment (kidney failure). (She knew Nemo for two years and loved him as much as me.)

Over the last 40 years, I have lost: Big Head (mongrel) and Muffin (giant Schnauzer) who both ran away; Glenfield (Great Dane) who was surrendered to a shelter because he was so destructive; Kiimu (Great Dane) who died of a broken heart when I had to leave him with friends in South Africa as I went off to France; Rasta (Westie), ravaged by the dog next door in Johannesburg; Ming and Poo (Shih tzus), migrated from Jamaica and stolen in Chicago; Oba (German shephard) and Bamba (giant poodle) who had to be surrendered to the humane society when I couldn’t care for them (both were adopted).

In the present situation, I have no doubt I did the right thing — the humane, unselfish and moral thing. The people at the SPCA consoled me by repeating that sentiment over and over again as I embraced Nemo on my lap and cried my heart out as he was injected with a sedative prior to the “hot shot” that ended his existence.

I am only consoled with the knowledge that Nemo will be well taken care of in the next world where there is no pain… where my mother… and so many others I love…. await … and that they, in turn, will welcome me when my own time comes.

Goodbye to my dear little sweetheart! You were greatly loved and will be hugely missed.

6 Responses to “Nemo’s Last Ride”

  1. Sharon,
    What a beautiful eulogy for a beautiful soul. We are so happy we got to know the little munchkin; he brought us joy and love. Nemo will be missed. John and I are glad we got to know him, albeit, for a short time, but he will remain in our hearts and minds FOREVER. Thank you for bringing Nemo into our lives.
    It was easy to fall in love with such a sweet entity. Rest in peace Nemo… someday we’ll play again.
    Love -Sharon and John

  2. chmjr2 said

    It seems to me that we never have a happy ending with our cherished pets. But I guess that could be said of many things. I read your blog, then held and hugged my best friend Chip, a Cocker Spaniel. I am very sorry for your loss. As time slips by the ache will be replaced by the warmth of happy memories.

  3. prysma said

    I’m a friend of Neil’s, and he told me about what happened. I can only tell you that there are people you don’t know who hurt in sympathy every time they hear about another person who has lost a beloved family member. Furry kids enrich our lives so very much, and they’re there every day, unlike most humans, and never judge, also unlike most humans. One of the most painful events I know of is that time when the only loving thing left you can do for them is set them free from a failing body. But I have no doubt that they’re grateful, wherever they go to wait for us. Be well.

  4. So very sorry for the empty spot that little Nemo is leaving in your life. We had to put our 11 year-old Golden Retriever, Gunner, down last summer and our hearts are still broken. But what lucky dogs we had, that their humans had the the courage and loved them enough to help them peacefully over the bridge. We have another golden baby boy now, but the Gunner spot in our hearts will be forever reserved for the 11 years of joy we shared with him, as you had with your little Nemo. Sending you warm hugs and condolences.

    Gunnersmama (friend of Niall Mor)

  5. I am so sorry for your loss, Sharon. I have never had to make that painful decision to euthanize a beloved pet, but my brothers and sisters have, and I know it can be heart-wrenching. You love them as much as any human member of your family, and they love you with a love that’s often more pure and faithful than that of many humans. I’ve always believed that God’s Providence looks out for animals we’ve loved. I’ll bet Nemo is lying on a nice sunny porch somewhere looking at a nice grassy meadow populated with fat, slow-moving squirrels to chase. By his side are bowls of fresh water and kibble, and he knows his Mama will be home soon.

  6. I couldn’t read this without my own tears added to yours. Our little Shih Tzu i sleeping in a chair nearby. They are such wonderful dogs, more human than nay other animals I have ever loved, and I have loved a lot. My love, sympathy, and deep condolences to you. I never met Nemo, but I weep for him, too. May you hold him in love for the rest of your days.

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