I remember with fondness the first dog I ever owned, a beautiful black German Shepherd that I named Nishka. Her exotic name suited her looks – she was pure black – unusual for her breed, but she was all Shepherd, that was for sure. Nishka was my first ‘official’ animal companion. I’d looked after my grandmother’s dog, Angel, when I was growing up, but Angel wasn’t mine, and it wasn’t my feet that Angel slept on at night.
I’d always wanted my own dog, so as soon as I left home, I went and got myself one. I loved her right after she waddled up to me at the kennel and sat at my feet – she’d made her choice, and I’d made mine. Nishka was my symbol of freedom as a young adult to do what I pleased and take responsibility for another life besides my own. I got my licence soon after, and Nishka and I set off to travel around the country, state by state -working and living where we could. I took care of the living arrangements and the food, while Nishka took care of security and health and wellbeing. There wasn’t a guy who was willing to come within cooee of me with Nishka around, without her permission. I got to enjoy a life without fear, and the regularity of some very enjoyable early morning runs along the beach.
Nishka and I did everything together, we travelled, we camped out, we had fun and got a little older. There weren’t many tough times, we were still young and immortal, and life was sweet.
We moved around a lot, but we finally settled on the coast when my brother got a house on the beach. I couldn’t resist – more days to laze in the sunshine and run in the sand. I bought a pushbike and Nishka loped beside me as I rode to the shops. I rollerskated down the main drag in the Summer with Nishka, darting in and out of the palm trees along the boulevard while the Japanese tourists snapped away. We enjoyed our celebrity for a while until I returned to work in the Winter, and we stayed indoors. The beach runs were limited to two or three a week as I became immersed in my new routine. I bought myself a big double bed and Nishka took up residence on ‘her half’ when I was at work, and on my feet when I was in it. Life was still good, although it had changed. We had become more sedentary, and I’m sure that Nishka missed her regular beach sessions. I had promised her we’d make a new start the following Summer.
Three weeks shy of the new Summer I returned from work to find my brother in tears. He had left the side gate open by mistake, and Nishka had gotten out, probably looking for me for a run. He had found her body in front of our house. She had been hit by a car, and been left for dead. My life had changed in an instant, and would never be the same. I had lost my best friend and my first love. My one true companion who would never do me wrong.
We buried Nishka in the backyard. I sat by her grave every afternoon for weeks, missing her and wishing that I could change the past and make the pain go away. Eventually I quit my job and moved away. I couldn’t take the sadness anymore. After a long while I moved on emotionally too, but I have never forgotten her. Nishka taught me the value of life, and the fickleness of death. I try not to waste my life too much these days.
I have been fortunate enough to have known some beautiful animal companions in my life, and each one has had their own unique personality. Each loss that I have suffered is another little piece gone from my heart. Nishka was a part of my life story, and she always will be. I hope we will see each other again one day. It would be nice to go for that run on the beach that I promised her all those years ago.