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Courtesy Post Disclaimer

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So my old girl, tonight I write in homage to you, something I've been starting to write over and over again for a very long time. The problem that I have is that my heart breaks every time I start to write it, resulting in complete loss of vision and hand steadiness. Because it’s a love story, one such that unless someone has owned a dog as special as you, would ever understand or appreciate. You see this story is of a man and his dog that goes beyond the norm that someone might write. And while that might sound juvenile, because there have been “man and his dog” stories going back as far as, well, probably as far as there have been men with dogs, my arrogance in defense of this one is unwavering. Because you, Nico, are an exception to all rules of all stories like this. Better start at the beginning, about how, where, why and when we first met.


When Elizabeth (she’s the one that you know as “Mommy”) and I decided it was time to increase our household from the two of us to the two of us and four legs, we couldn’t decide who those four legs should belong to. So we were walking thru Boston Common and we came upon a magnificent creature, an animal who’s size and presence caught us off guard: an animal, who we learned, was of a noble and proud Japanese breed, the Akita. We immediately became enamored with this animal, so we decided to further investigate them. We found out that they were the official warrior dogs of Japan, head strong, singularly independent and needing a family who would take them from step one thru step whatever and make them not just a pet, but a family unit. This was not your basic dog that you would take home, housebreak, teach a few tricks and whatever. This was a breed who would die defending you, even if you never proved worthy of that sacrifice.


So we first got Bandit, named as such because of the black mask on his face, from the now defunct New England Akita Rescue group. He was a rescue from an abusive breeder who kept him and his five other siblings in a crate that was so small, when the ASPCA and the NH State Police were called in to raid the place they had to put down three of the six pups. But Bandit survived. and so we signed the adoption papers, agreed to all the requirements of adopting a breed designated by just about every insurance company as “dangerous”, and brought him home.


For the next nine months, no matter what I did, Bandit wanted no part of me. The bastard that had first mistreated him so badly was a big and tall guy like myself, so this pup would have nothing to do with me. So Elizabeth and I decided it was time to get another dog, one that would hopefully bond with me and show Bandit that I could be trusted. And so into our lives you came. And your story in the beginning was even worse.


A family out for a walk in the Myles Standish State Park in MA heard a whimpering off in the woods away from the path, so they went to investigate the source of these cries. What they found there was you, tied to a tree, all skin and bones where someone devoid of all sense of decency and humanity had left you to die a horrible death either by starvation or attacks from other animals. They took you home, where you proceeded to attack their cat, insuring a very short stay at your rescuers and your very quick departure to NEAR, where we had gotten Bandit from in the first place.


As it turns out, a month or so after this, we were at a pet convention at the now closed Bayside Expo Center in Dorchester, and this is where we met you for the first time. You were in a crate, ready for adoption, and when we saw you, we knew: This was the puppy we needed to make our family complete. We negotiated the new deal with NEAR, and they told us to come down to their farm next week to pick you up. So we followed their instructions, and next week we went down to get you.


The NEAR farm where they were keeping you was just your average farm, where you might see normal livestock such as anywhere else you might go to in southern New England. It could have housed cows, horses, whatever. But they had nothing but Akita’s, and when we got there we watched you playing with the biggest Akita I’ve ever seen, a beast that weighed in at over 125 pounds with a head the size of a Halloween pumpkin. But there you were, chasing that big SOB around the open stable with no fear, just true playfulness. It just reaffirmed the fact that you were the new pup for us.


But bringing you home to meet Bandit was a whole new experience we weren’t, at that time, ready to really understand. The two of you went at each other like the most bitter of enemies, at a point where we had to keep you separated on leashes. Bandit even bit you so badly in the chest we had to take you to the Vet to have you stitched up. This was the Akita nature; one dog, one family, nothing else, and we knew we had our work cut out for us.


So slowly, we got you two to become friends. And to this day, even though you’ve had an occasional fight over food and such, you’ve become brother and sister. And now you watch over each other like two hearts from the same body. I don’t know what Bandit is going to do without you, that’s another chapter of a story I’ll write at a later date.


And now for the past 12 years, we’ve been fortunate enough to have the two of you share our lives together. There are so many stories I could tell, about you and all the things we’ve gone through. From pulling a live bird out of the air, like you must have done when you were chained to the tree just to survive, to digging under the fence when we first moved to Bergenfield because our neighbors put their cat out on a leash and you must have thought, wow, appetizer. Though to this day we've never become close with those folks for obvious reasons, who cares: you were just thinking of your days tied to a tree and survival, and you did at the time what you thought was the right thing to do. No one, except them, would think differently.


But now, you’re showing the painful signs of old age we all will deal with eventually: not walking unencumbered through Van Saun Park, not being able to climb the steps from the back yard, not hanging out with me downstairs in our music room listening to insanely loud music that we both love. Maybe you really didn’t love it, but you just wanted to be with me, and that made it all the more special. But you never moved away from loud rock n’ roll, which reinforced my feelings that you were truly my dog.


So now my love, we’re coming to the end of our road together. I know I must soon make the most horrible decision I’ve ever had to, but one that must be done out of my complete and total devotion to you. To see you suffer much longer is an injustice to you, one who has given us so much and never, ever asked anything in return except the love that you have given us reciprocated. I take some solace in knowing my faith teaches me that when my time comes, you will be waiting for me, healthy and pain free, to be with you on the other side wherever that may be.


But not tonight, and hopefully not tomorrow. For right now as I watch you sleep, I know you’re not hurting, and I need to keep you with us for as long as we can, no matter how selfish that is. I can’t deal with that yet, so please forgive me for my inability at this time to not do what I know I must. Having you here is all I can think of right now. I’ll deal with what I have to when I truly in my heart know I have to. But not tonight, and hopefully not tomorrow.


With permission:

Rick Young

Big East Akita Rescue, 1001 Fischer Blvd. PMB 136, Toms River, NJ 08753. (609)-388-7004. All rights reserved.