Stephanie Burgis
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Nika on the couch

This is the hardest journal entry I've ever had to write...which is why I've put off writing it for nearly a week.

Last Wednesday, August 30th, we brought Nika in to her scheduled dermatologist's visit. He had put her on a doubled dose of steroids the week before, because he'd felt there was still a chance after all. But she got worse and worse every day of that week that followed. By Friday August 25th, the muscles in her legs had begun to give out - she was starting to fall down, out of nowhere, and it scared her (and us) a lot. Her skin got worse and worse - she lost nearly all the fur on the bottom half of her body, and most of her stomach and chest was down to the second layer of skin. She loved being in Bristol. Every day she led us purposefully out into the garden to lie outside for hours, sniffing the fresh air from beneath her protective cover. But every day was worse for her health. The whole thing had happened so fast. Just three weeks before, she'd been visibly getting better.

Nika and Steph in Bristol

We took her in to the dermatologist on Wednesday, and he said, "I think we've reached the end of the line." He said if there'd been any chance at all, he would have fought for her. But there was no chance. Not anymore. There was only one kind option. And we knew he was right.

Some preparations had to be made before anything could be done, so we got to have a last 20 minutes with her, cuddling her while she lay on a soft bed with her chin on Patrick's hand. Nurses and other vets came up to us every so often to check on us, offer us tea, pet Nika. Everyone was really kind. When everything was ready, they called us back in to the office.

She lay on her soft bed, which we'd lifted onto the table. Patrick held her from behind while I petted her and looked into her eyes. It was painless and fast.

She was only seven years old. She had so much vitality, so much spark. I never really believed until that final moment that the medicine wouldn't work. I never imagined, even at my most scared, how terrible it would actually feel to lose her.

It hurts so much right now. It hurts so badly to know we couldn't save her, no matter how hard we tried. It hurts every time I forget for a moment, and then have to remember, with a sickening lurch, that she's gone.

What helps - the only thing that helps, so far - is to remember her. Looking through photos of her reminds me of all the wonderful times I had with her and just how much fun she had, always. My brother Ben said once that he didn't know any dog in the world who enjoyed life as much as Nika, and I think that's true. She lived every moment to the fullest, full of curiosity and passion. She loved to discover things she didn't understand. She would cock her head back and forth, her ears swiveling around her head as she tried to figure it out. She loved people - everyone she met was immediately adopted into her family. She brought us so much joy and love and happiness. We didn't know how to purely abandon ourselves to fun until we met Nika, and she showed us.

She gave me, gave us, so much love and joy. She was our baby, our friend, our playmate, our protectress.

Nika, sweetheart, we miss you so much. Sleep well.

Nika in Scotland
June 14, 1999 - August 30, 2006

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