Chelle Summer

Remembering Nestle

Michelle Rusk

Because of circumstances beyond my control and that I am not letting define how I remember my yellow lab Nestle, I didn't know about her death until several months after it happened. I hadn't seen her in a year because she was living with my former husband. She truly was his dog and I knew that he needed her more than I did. And in the several months between when she died– although I didn't know it– and when I found out, I had a funny feeling she wasn't here anymore. I found myself talking to her through prayer and wishing her well. She was nearly fifteen and had more lives than anyone I know, but I just wish I'd been given a chance to say goodbye.

In the same breath, I know that where Nestle is at– barking up a storm in heaven and driving Mom crazy– it's all about love and she is happy, no longer hindered by a body that was giving out on her. And that had survived what felt like twenty lives.

I always told the story that we had gone to Albuquerque's westside animal shelter in November 2003 to find Chaco a sister. Joe picked out Nestle– who looked like an innocent young dog just sitting in her kennel while everyone else around her barked. He was convinced she was the perfect dog because she didn't bark. Yes, we know how that went.

Later, as he stood in line to do all the adoption paperwork, I went back to the kennel to see her. There she was barking with all the other dogs and I knew then we were in for quite a road.

From the moment she arrived, Nestle quickly made her mark in more ways than one. That first weekend we had our holiday party and as I was cleaning the house and prepping for it, she decided to use the house as her bathroom and then stole coffee grounds out of the trash can. From there she ran out the front door, nearly getting hit by a car.

In the years to come, she would steal the Thanksgiving turkey off the counter and eat it, be attacked by Chaco so badly that she nearly died (and spent several months recovering at the vet although she tried to bite the vet every time she saw him after although he was the one who saved her life), and barked endlessly.

Our friend Joe the dog trainer worked with her on the barking but the shock collar didn't deter her. She kept right on barking. Nor could you hug another human around her– she instantly started to bark as if she wanted in on the action. And she loved to swim although I would never have hired her a as lifeguard after she tried to swim over our first German Shepherd Daisy several times. It was easy to figure out why Daisy never wanted to get back in the swimming pool again.

Still, she was the most loving dog one could have, willing to be brushed, was the one to come close if you were crying, and unless you were the vet, she was always happy to see you.

Nestle lived a full life, probably more full than most humans. Three of what I call my "original four" dogs are in heaven now, hanging out with my parents who knew them, and Gidget who came after Daisy died.

What's hardest of all to believe is that thirteen years with her flew by and she's no longer here. But that's what happens when we're busy living life, time passes and suddenly was time for Nestle to move on past a body that was being destroyed by the evil hemangioarcoma cancer.

Yet in my head I can still hear her barking.