Wednesday, July 13, 2011

I just lost my best friend.

He just turned 11. It could have been today, it could have been a week ago, but he just turned 11. Since he was a stray we had to guess his birthday and we came up with early July, 2000.

My sweet Nicholas died yesterday, July 12, 2011, and I am beside myself with sadness. This amazing pup wandered into my life back in November of 2000. It was my first year of teaching and I taught in South Fort Worth in a low income neighborhood. Stray dogs were commonplace. Nicholas wandered up to the school yard one day and the custodian had put him in a little chain link fence until he could call animal control. I told him not to call them, that I was going to take him home with me. So, he let him out and Nicholas got to spend the rest of the afternoon in my classroom with my students and I.

Since it was November, and not far away from the Christmas season I named him Nicholas, after St. Nicholas. It suited him and from this name we derived many, many nicknames. Among them were:
Nicky, Nicky-noodle, Nicky-loo, Noodle-butt, Nicky-doodle, Doodle-butt, Fatty, Sir Eats-a-lot, Chunky, Lovey, Tooter, Toots... Nicholas was always a trouble maker. He and Sampson were partners in crime as pups. They ate cabinet doors, tore up carpet, chewed on furniture, and destroyed anything within reach on the tops of counters. I spent hundreds of dollars on trying to get him trained when he was young.. and well it never worked. He eventually grew out of his hyper puppy mischievousness and settled in to his middle aged trouble-making. He had talents. He could sit, shake, lay down, roll over, bark, and be quiet. But, most noteworthy of his talents was probably his ability to open the trash compactor. He figured out how to step on the pedal (which pops it open a little), and then he would use his paw to pull it out on the side so he could dig in. He has made some unreal messes. Seriously.

This is the clothes drying rack that we put in front of the baby gate, since he jumped the gates (that were put in to keep him out, not the kids..). It was obviously NO match for him. He did this a year and a half ago... he took this trash can- emptying, counter top clearing, and cabinet re-arranging business VERY seriously as you can see.  Everything on the floor was pulled out of the trash compactor- you can see it there in the far right upper corner. Wouldn't you love to come home to this?

He was such a smart dog. He always knew what he was doing and that he shouldn't do it, but to him it was worth it!

This is the living room floor. Everything in here was carried (in, his mouth, I'm assuming) over the baby gate and into the living room where he tore it up and chewed on it. By the way, all Tupperware you see was inside of a closed cabinet when we left

He has eaten a cake that was put on TOP of the refrigerator, so it was off of the counter and out of his reach. His determined self  wanted it so badly he got on top of the counter and ate it off of the top of the fridge. Well played, sir. We were no match for him.

He ate a bag of chocolates and we had to feed him peroxide to make him throw up. AWFUL, but at least he wasn't poisoned. He's had garbage gut more times than I can imagine. I'm not sure if this comes from him spending his first few months of life on the streets and eating whatever he could scrounge up, or him just being gluttonous.

Since he played hard, he also rested hard. As he got older he loved sleeping even more. His favorite spot was at the foot of our bed, or curled up in my closet. He was an integral factor in helping us get Brooke out of our bed and into her big girl bed (just a few weeks ago). She was comforted in knowing that Nicky was sleeping on the bed with her, and he loved being able to. *tear*

Even though he was ON the couch, he often preferred more cushion and would plant himself on top of pillows, on the couch....

Most of the time when the kids nap and I get to go into my sewing/craft room, he would come in there and keep me company. He usually would just go in there to sleep, but he wanted to be near me. I haven't gone in there to work since he's passed, and the thought of it brings me to tears. I will miss having my silent buddy in there with me while I work away.

Nicholas was such a patient pal. He would let the kids lay on him, hug on him, tug on him, and even try to ride him. Brooke was always very gentle, but Benjamin has been a little more rambunctious and Nicholas has taken it in stride. I'm so sad that Benjamin can't walk over to him and give him his big bear hug or lay his head on him and look up at me with his big eyes. The kids LOVE Nicholas and I'm so glad I have pictures to show them when they are older of their beloved furry friend.

Brooke wanted to put the slippers on Nicky's feet to "keep them warm".


Benjamin. was. here. (and left his blanket as a calling card!)

Nicky was trying to get some time away from the toddler chaos... but Benjamin found him and had to give him a hug, as he always loved doing.

We had just returned from a family vacation. We embarked on our annual trek from Texas to Indiana for a family reunion. Corey took the week off, like we did last year, and we drove. We stopped in Branson, MO for a couple of days to play and then another two days in Central Indiana to visit my grandma, and an aunt and uncle. From there we went on up to NE Indiana where we were for the long weekend family reunion. While we were gone we had a family friend come over a couple times a day to let the dogs out and feed them. Nicholas normally would be in a kennel during the day, but we tried our very best to put everything up, out of his reach since we know his track record. We got texts here and there saying that "a Beanie baby died", some pictures and papers were shredded, a seed packet was destroyed, and a carpet was eaten. The carpet is what killed him.

Nicholas wasn't himself when we got home. He refused food all together, but was still drinking and peeing. It was very concerning that he wouldn't eat. Anything. Then he started throwing up. Several times a day. I called the vet and got him in and told him that I had found carpet fibers in his vomit. He gave him a shot of a medicine for the nausea/vomiting and sent us home with pills for the same thing and told us to give him 2 Tbsp of Vaseline to help coat his intestines and move things along. He wanted to be conservative in his treatment of this blockage and avoid cutting him open if possible. He said that Nicholas didn't act like the other dogs that he's seen with severe blockages b/c he wasn't in shock and he didn't act like his belly was super tender when you applied pressure to it. We followed his orders and nothing happened. We did the same the next day and again nothing. He also started drinking less water, so the vet told us to come in early the next morning (Thursday). The kids and I brought him in and dropped him off, not knowing it was the last time we would see our sweet baby. <----- I'm having SUCH a hard time with this. I wish I would have petted him more, hugged him tighter, and given him another kiss. I just had no idea. None. And, I feel horrible. The doctor ended up giving him an IV and pushing fluids as well as doing some other things to try to get things moving. Saturday he called to say that Nicholas seemed to be doing better and had actually eaten a can of food, but still hadn't pooped. However, it had been nearly a week since he had eaten after all. We didn't hear from the vet on Sunday and Monday morning he called to say that although Nicholas had taken a step forward on Saturday, he had taken two steps backwards on Sunday. He had started throwing up again, not wanting to drink, and there were carpet fibers in his vomit. He was going to give more fluids and laxatone and give him the day to see what happened. If nothing occurred, he would do surgery Tuesday morning. I got a call early in the morning to say that he would be undergoing surgery later in the morning and he would let me know how things went. Never, ever did I expect to answer the phone and hear the words, "he died on the table". I immediately started saying, "NO NO NO!!!!" That wasn't supposed to happen!! NOOOO!. I asked him through my tears if  Corey could call him back to finish the conversation and got off of the phone with him.

Nicholas was 11 years old and apparently his heart and body just couldn't handle the anesthesia and surgery. His heart stopped beating a few times during surgery and he had to stop to get the heartbeat back. He had carpet from his stomach clear through to his large intestines and a piece of plastic was at the end of it, preventing it from clearing out. He could tell the plastic had been moving down, but not well enough, and not quickly enough. The doctor was stitching him up when his assistant said that she couldn't hear the heartbeat and they weren't able to get it back again. My sweet Nicholas died there on the table.

I try to take comfort in knowing that he died peacefully and while he was sleeping. I try to remind myself that I gave him a hell of a great 10 years and that I was blessed with 10 years of having him in my life. That doesn't help the pain and void that I feel in my heart though.

This was taken in the couple of days we were home after our vacation and before he went to the animal hospital. It was as if Benjamin knew that Nicky wasn't feeling well and he wanted to comfort him. He put toys on top of him and gave him hugs.

It was so sad seeing him this way. At least now we know he is healed. We just miss him and wish he could have been healed here on earth and here to spend more time with us.

Farewell my sweet, precious, mischievous boy. You will be missed more than you ever can know. Thank you for all of the memories and for making me a better person. Our life together started in Fort Worth, took us to Wisconsin and back again to Texas. We have been through many trials and tribulations together and we weathered them all. In my darkest days you always made me smile. On my best days you rejoiced with me. When Corey was overseas you and the other dogs kept me company and protected me from loneliness. You and Sampson inspired me to rescue other doggies like your brother Petey and sister Phoebe. They are still here and miss you like crazy as well. I'm so, so sorry you aren't here with us to watch the kids grow up and to grow old with them. I'm glad they got to meet you and give you hugs, kisses, and use you like a playground. I will cherish the pictures and memories of you forever and always. Have fun up there and enjoy playing with your brothers Sampson and Cerberus. They will show you the ropes!
I love you Nicholas Brannum.


  1. Oh Tracy. This was so hard to read but so well written. I feel so sad for your family and the loss that you have suffered. Our dog is a big part of our family and you have expressed how much of a true family member Nicholas was. Thank you for sharing and helping me, once again, put things back into proper perspective.

    Ginger Owens

  2. I'm so sorry Tracy. My heart breaks for you! Many tears were shed reading your story but it's good to know there are people out there like you that find the pups like Nicholas. He definitely was loved and he knew it. Sending lots of prayers for peace!


  3. Tracy, I'm so sad for your loss. I remember how much all of your dogs were a part of your family before you had Brooke, and then Benjamin. He really seemed like such a special dog; thank you for sharing him with us.

  4. I am so sorry for this loss. He had such a good life with your family, compared to what it could have been. Thank you for sharing this great story and hopefully very soon when you think of him a smile will form instead of tears.

  5. I heart you Tracy Brannum! I'm so sorry for your loss. You love your furry friends so much and I know you miss him. Remember the good times with Nicholas, he'll always be a part of your family.

  6. Thank you all so much for your supoort. It means so much to me!

  7. So sorry, Tracy. Dogs are so great. I'm glad that you had so many great years with him!


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