Nico, A Great Golden Retriever

by Dee Hudson Photography

These are very sad days in the Hudson household, for our furry and loyal companion passed away early yesterday morning. The house feels empty, which is a testament to what an important presence he has been in our home for the past twelve years. I tear–up off and on all day, as I dearly miss him. Then I smile as I remember him and all his adventures with our family. This blog entry will be my tribute to a very special soul that came into our lives and brought us great joy and memories.

Puppy

Young Nico looks ready for a nap. 2003

I know I am biased, but there are very few creatures more precious and adorable than a Golden Retriever puppy. Our guy was a Christmas puppy. He was born in November 2003 and was ready to go home with his new family in December. Our three boys did not suspect “who” their Christmas gift was going to be that year, as we packed them into the mini–van and sped toward Michigan to bring our precious new family member home. Amazingly, my husband and I kept our exciting surprise from the kids until we were almost there.

Puppies chew on fingers

My son, Ben, offers his fingers as chew toys for the puppies.

In our home, we love our pets dearly. The moment they become ours, they are cherished and become members of the family. Every day we spent time with Nico — there were walks, games of fetch in the backyard, car rides, obedience classes, loving pets to the head and tummy and family vacations.

An obedience–trained dog makes the best pet. Not only did Nico love the training and attention, but the discipline he learned made him a wonderful dog to us and to our entire neighborhood. Who doesn’t like a dog that will not jump up on you in greeting? How about a dog that will resist plated food on the floor during a living room picnic? Nothing is better than a dog that will sit in position until you tell him he can break his stay. Yes, as a smart boy, he learned many tricks. I think my favorite obedience memory was his rapid response  to the command “Down.” At this single word, no dog flattened to the ground in an instant like Nico. His legs would splay out like a frog and he would gaze up, expectantly awaiting the next command.

One year old Golden Retriever

Nico at 1 year old

I am an “outdoor girl” and it was in nature that Nico and I spent a lot of time together. There were many walks together through the forest preserves of DuPage County — especially the mile–long trails around Hidden Lake. He and I loved being in the backyard and we would stay outside long hours together. He would often keep me company as I worked in my garden.

Golden Retrieve Dog face

What a beautiful boy!

Nico was wonderful at so many things, but I have to admit that he was a terrible swimmer. Everyone said so. How does a dog not know how to dog–paddle? I cannot explain it, but he could not keep his front legs under water, so he swam badly, with lots of splashing. Despite his poor swimming technique, he spent hours in and on the lake at the family vacation home in northern Wisconsin. He regularly road in the pontoon boat, with his head hanging over the edge and his long tongue lolling out of his mouth. Nico even insisted (with lots of barks) on riding in the paddle boat with his family.

Golden Retriever Head Shot

Nico at the lake

The Northwoods was definitely a favorite place for both humans and dogs. Nico ran free on acres of land and fetched sticks from the lake for hours. In the photo below, Nico waits for his human family to join him for a walk to the lake.

Golden Retriever in the Woods

Notice Nico’s curly fur below his tail? I affectionately refer to these curls as his “butt–locks!” Every six months these curls and his fast–growing chest hair required a trim. Nico also developed his “hobbit feet” if we did not trim all the fur between his toes.

This is a hike along Bearskin Trail. Nico says, “The muddier, the better.” What is the lesson learned here? Always, always carry clean–up towels in the car!

A muddy Golden Retreiver

A romping, muddy hike along Bearskin Trail in northern Wisconsin.

In the summer of 2014, my son bought a German Shepherd puppy. Let the fun begin! Nico and Loki played for hours. Young Loki was great company and kept Nico young, while Nico taught Loki how to be a great dog. They played chase and struggled over sticks and bones — bacon–flavored Nylabones tasted the best!

A German Shepherd puppy plays with an adult Golden Retriever

Nico and Loki

What a great dog! He was a wonderful companion to all of us for years. So, four months ago when Nico’s esophagus could no longer move dry food down to his stomach like it used to, we blended his meals to powder and added water so that it would slide down his throat — with gravity’s help. When two large meals were too much to eat at one time, we gave him four small meals throughout the day. When food would no longer stay down on its own, we gave him medicine that kept it down. When he struggled to stand and walk outside, we double–teamed him to help him out. When he breathed his last breath on this earth, we were there to stroke him and keep him company. This was the least we could do for the dog that had been our loyal and faithful companion for all these years._MG_6551

Below is a favorite image I captured of Nico gazing out over a Birch Lake sunrise in northern Wisconsin. This is how I will picture him now . . . always at peace. Farewell to our faithful canine friend — you will be missed.

Dog Gazes at Sunrise

Nico, November 9, 2003-February 21, 2016

A special thanks to Dr. Grover, the Friendly Vet, for working with Nico through all these years. I could not recommend a better veterinarian!!

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