Sept 4, 2010

One day in Feb. 2008, my best friend, an active and playful German shepherd named Alec, suddenly became paralyzed. He was seven years old and had inter-vertebral disc disease. Although the veterinary neurologists did everything they could surgically, they told me it was very unlikely he would ever walk again. But after a year…he did. It was some kind of miracle. Well, not really. It was consistent physical therapy and time. And love and luck and patience.

After Alec became paralyzed, our lives turned upside down and inside out, and I started the original version of this blog (Alec’s Story, Pt. 1) to keep my friends and family updated during his rehabilitation and recovery from surgery. It was a happy story for awhile, inspirational even.

Because despite his poor prognosis, Alec kept improving, slowly but surely, until one fine day — a year after he became paralyzed —  he walked around the block for the first time without his doggie wheelchair. He stopped using it altogether four months later. Although he limped and needed to wear a special shoe to protect his paw on walks, Alec got around amazingly well. Besides this lingering disability, I thought Alec was perfectly healthy.

I was wrong. Not long after he started walking again, Alec was diagnosed with a nasty, malignant, and very aggressive kind of cancer called hemangiosarcoma. I did everything I could, determined to beat the odds again. I would not give up hope. But I couldn’t save him. Alec died on July 31, 2010, only two and a half months after the confirmed diagnosis. He was nine years and 10 months old. On top of the sheer pain of losing him and a sorrow that stole my senses, I could not understand why this had to happen to my sweet boy, after all he had been through, after everything he had overcome to walk again after being paralyzed. Thus began my forced march through grief.

I know there is no answer to my question: why? The answer is, “that’s life.” This is where this section ends and the blog starts. Because I started this blog as a way to deal with my grief, which is indescribable at this point. But before Alec died, I told him our relationship wouldn’t end, that our story would continue. I even told him I would start a new blog and name it Alec’s Story, Part 2. So that’s what I did.

Some people might think a blog about grief is a terribly depressing idea, but that may be because our culture is largely silent about death. Death is a part of life and one of the few truly universal experiences. For anyone who has experienced a profound loss and found it difficult to “bounce back,” I believe being open about the grief experience can help. I have only begun this journey. Thanks for joining me.


Thanks for stopping by.

15 responses to “About

  1. Rachel

    Bless you, I am in tears….good tears at how you never failed Alec. You were truly God’s hands to him here on earth and he could not have asked for anything more. And I admire your bravery in taking on another dog who was in such need so soon. May God bless and sustain you through whatever may come.

  2. CJ

    Even now after all the time I know your heart still hurts..
    I have had nine GSDs.
    My current rescue is Kodiak. He is wounded emotionally from abuse. He was removed from a bad owner around 5 months of age.
    We got him at just over 7 mo after the case had been tried. He is goofy and walks backwards sometimes, (emotional not neuro) but he is safe and well fed and loved.

    My last GSD loss was AKC Navada’s Desert Smoke aka Smokey. He was 34 inches at the front shoulder and 135 pounds. No fat!
    My husband was bathing him in preparation for his reg check up at the vet the following morning.. He was totally healthy when he went downstairs for his bath. After he was rinsed and he came out of the shower he shook to dry himself. Smokey began to yelp and make a screaming sound. I ran downstairs and found he and my husband on the floor together as my husband tried to determine what was hurting him. I calmed him and checked him. His rear legs were not moving at all. The vet had us give him Rimadyl and advised keeping him quiet till the appt the following day to see if there would be any improvement.
    He was quiet through the night, but he never walked again. He was 10 1/2 and was put down the following day after we were told he had spinal spurs that had severed his spinal cord. There was no feeling in his legs but when the vet examined his spine above the area of injury, he whimpered in pain. He had no symptoms until that moment when he shook the water off..despite his age he was bouncy and healthy. The vet felt there was zero chance of recovery and we could not bear to ask him to endure the pain.
    No matter how much we love them they are ours for too little time but the love they share and the joy they bring make it worth the pain.

    • CJ, I am so very sorry to hear about your Smokey. How terrifying that must have been, and so sudden. It does hurt so much, but I think the best therapy is to allow ourselves to love again and give another animal a chance at a happy life. Best wishes to you and Kodiak — how lucky he is to have been rescued by you!

  3. Kim Hare

    Hello I have a corgi in Eddies Wheels I have had simialr experiences with Leslie however I am pretty aggressive especially when it comes to my “kids”. My corgi has recently had issues urinating in his wheels. He has DM but I know its the wheels. Would you mind sending me a picture of the seat your therapist made for him?

    • Hi Kim,

      Yes, I was “aggressive” (well, “assertive” is probably more accurate) about Alec too but I was still completely frustrated and disappointed in my dealings with Eddie’s Wheels. I don’t have Alec’s cart anymore; I gave it to a friend whose dog needed it. His dog unfortunately just died, but I can ask him to take a photo of the seat if he still has the cart and has not yet donated it. Perhaps you have resolved the issue by now…I hope so! Best wishes to you and your dog.

  4. Carolin von petzholdt

    Hi Nicole,

    thank you for this beautiful website and for your story. My heart goes out to you. I know how painful it is to loose a soulmate.
    Alec was a beautiful dog. German Shepherds are very smart and loving. My family owned one back in the days in Germany. His name was Astra.
    I move to USA 2007. In 2010 I found Dino. It was love on first sight. Since then we were together all these years. We went together through thick and thin, good times and bad time.
    Two weeks ago, my beautiful, baby, best friend and exotic companion just pass away on May 19th, 2016. It was all the sudden. I am still grieving about the lost and can’t understand why he had to go so fast and traumatic. He was all i got. That morning when I woke up, i didn’t know it was our last day together.
    We had a heart to heart, soul to soul relationship. He and me were one. There’s now this big hole in my life and in my heart and i can’t seam to fill it. Life seams like it has lost it’s purpose.
    I was glad to find your blog and see that’s healthy to feel this way. Living without DINO is so hard. I miss him so much, everyday. My thoughts are always around him. People don’t understand and they are saying “it only a bird, get a new one”. It’s not the same. I cut those people away. They are insensitive and don’t understand, because they never lived alone.
    They have no idea what he meant to me.
    I rise him, love him, care for him we were imprinted on each other. He was the most beautiful, smartest and amazing thing that had happen to me in my life. He was closer to me than my actual family in Germany. Now he’s gone forever and i miss him so much more.

    You can read more about him on his Facebook page.

    • Carolin, thank you so much for your kind words and for sharing your story about your special Dino. I relate to pretty much everything you wrote. I felt I had lost my purpose too but I regained it through opening my heart to love again — something I wasn’t sure I could do after losing Alec. Thankfully I was wrong. I hope you have rediscovered your purpose too and that you still feel Dino’s love shining on you every single day. Hugs, Nicole

  5. Eric Snodgrass

    My pup, Kona. Well he isn’t quite a pup but he will always be my pup, just went through his 3rd spinal surgery. He got through all 3 surgeries just fine, except now after the 3rd surgery he is unable to walk, stand up on his own and urinate on his own. I am adjusting and doing everything in my will power for him. He still has deep pain sensation in his back feet so that is a huge plus!

    Your story is incredible, in all aspects. Sometimes its hard to understand there truly are other people that exist who love their animals as much as I love mine. I doubted this for a long time but I truly believe its true after reading your story. Kona is everything to me, he is my entire world. And I always feel weird telling most people this as they always resort to the fact that he is, “just a dog”. But he isn’t, he has changed my life beyond words and beyond belief.

    So thank you for opening up and speaking about your experiences. I would like to chat with you personally if you are available and read this.


    – Eric

    • Hi Eric, it is wonderful to read about how much you love your pup Kona. Though not everyone gets it, I have learned through this experience that there are many kindred spirits out there who understand what is it like to so deeply love an animal, and it makes me feel like I am part of a tribe of sorts. The people who don’t get it, well we just have to brush them off and feel sorry for what they are missing! Thank you for being such a tenacious and devoted guardian to Kona. How lucky he is to have someone like you caring for him. It has been some time since you left this comment and I am truly hoping he has continued to improve (that’s wonderful that he has deep pain sensation!) and that you are both doing well.

  6. Stacy byers

    Your words written years ago are comforting me in my own grief in losing my very special sheppard. I felt no one really understood until i found your blog.

    Thank you.

  7. I can’t begin to tell you how much your blog has helped me through the grief of losing my “soul cat”, Tilly..it’s comforting to know someone else feels the loss at such a deep level. Your love for Alec shines through in every word you’ve written about your beloved friend..thank you and bless you..

  8. I can’t begin to tell you how much your blog helped me work through the grief of losing my “soul cat” Tilly. It’s comforting to know others feel the loss on such a deep level, and your love for Alec shines through with every word. Bless you for writing this..and just think of how many people have come to know your beloved boy because of it?!

    • Thank you so much for your kind comment. I am honored if my words helped in any way at all. One of my “life preservers” when it felt like I would drown in my grief was realizing that I wasn’t alone in my feelings or experience, even when things were darkest. I am so sorry for the loss of your special kitty, Tilly. Sending thoughts of strength and comfort.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s