A Tribute to Nellie

A Tribute to Nellie

We can spend a decade of our lives—and sometimes two—with our companion animals. But what they leave us lasts a lifetime

August 5, 2019

The children, Juliette and Felix, were 8 and 11 when Nellie entered their lives. Willie, their previous dog, had just passed away and Felix seemed broken-hearted—a fact which helps explain why their mother, Marie-Josée, showed up with a puppy, a short-haired German pointer.

“In our 30 years together, getting Nellie was the only unilateral decision that I’ve ever made. My husband, Pierre, didn’t want another dog. But the house was so quiet, empty and a bit sad without a dog’s energy. I did it for the family. And, more than anything, I decided to get Nellie for my son because I knew he needed to have a dog.”

Juliette and Nellie, enjoying a boat ride.

Nellie didn’t turn out to be the easiest dog in town. She ate everything in sight. She ripped into countless Sunday brunches and birthday cakes.

She snacked on stolen pizzas in all shapes and sizes. Defying the odds, she would demolish entire boxes of chocolate, swallow kilos of cheese and work her way through a fine collection of leather belts. She had a preference for quality when it came to leather belts—needless to say, almost always dad’s favourites!

She devoured absolutely everything, but more than anything she loved cherry tomatoes which throughout her life she wolfed down in industrial quantities.

Come hell or high water, Marie-Josée and the children stood by their Nellie. They took her side through thick and thin, to the annoyance of Pierre who oscillated between a feeling of dull irritation and fits of total exasperation. What was this beast whose sole goal in life was to push the family to the brink?

The fisher proudly shows her catch of the day.

But Nellie, nicknamed “the rock fisher,” could also spend hours on end diving into the lake at the cottage to retrieve enormous stones that she would ceremoniously deposit at the end of the dock, like a proud pirate sharing her loot. And, whenever Marie-Josée prepared to leave on a trip, Nellie would curl up desperately in Marie-Josée’s open suitcase on the bedroom floor, hoping to stow away unnoticed rather than be left behind.

Then, one day last year, after eleven years of life lived to its fullest—in the city, the country, on mountain walks, and on the receiving end of three Pawsies’ unlimited love—Nellie died. For Marie-Josée, a woman used to sharing life’s events, big and small, on her Facebook page, writing about her dog’s death was inconceivable. She shared her grief sparingly, mourning with her family and alone in silence.

Towards the end of summer, Juliette called her mother at the office.

“Mum, you’ll never believe it. Dad’s found something incredible!”

At the very end of the garden, in the spot which Nellie had always made her own, a plant was serenely reaching up to the sky… a tomato plant! But more surprising than that, Juliette had come across her father fencing off the miraculous plant to protect it from marauding squirrels and racoons.

Nellie, older, looks at the forest on the edge of a lake.

Some people say that life is cyclical. Anaxagoras and other ancient Greek thinkers believed that “everything is in everything.” But for Marie-Josée, Pierre, Juliette and Felix there are no words—their carefully protected tomato plant says it all.

R.I.P. Nellie

Write to us if you would like to commemorate the life of a loved companion animal.The Pawsie editorial team might select your story and share it in this space.

Credits: personal collection

Cover: The family dog happily jogs in the lake.

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