Last year around this time, I wrote a post about our first baby, our beloved dog Utah who we recently had to put down. And although she may not get mentioned as much and although she may not be "Ms Personality", our other dog Nago has been an integral part of this family since we adopted her at Christmastime 1999 while stationed in Okinawa Japan. This December Nago will turn 12 years old.
Nago has been through a lot in her life. She was obviously abused and/or abandoned when we first saw her at the animal shelter. Unfortunately, a lot of dogs and cats get left on the island when a military family cannot afford to take their pet home to the states with them (although it has been 11 years since we were there and hopefully that has changed). Joe and I were toying around with the idea of getting a second dog as a playmate for Utah but we ultimately left the shelter that day deciding that we would wait until we got back home. I then found out through a friend that the shelter was so overcrowded, they were going to have to euthanize a bunch of the dogs and cats on Christmas Eve. I called just to make sure that the cute one year old black lab we saw had been adopted for surely she had, but to my despair she was still there and scheduled to be put down the following day. I called Joe at work sobbing to him, "We have to save her! It's the only thing I want for Christmas". Being a) a newlywed and b) a complete sucker when I cry, Joe gave in and we adopted her.
But it wasn't that simple. For weeks Utah and Nago actually fought with each other, trying to determine who would be the alpha dog between the two. We almost had to take her back to the shelter but while waiting for a foster home, the two dogs finally worked things out and became friendly with each other.
She had such issues, there were several times when she would sneak out the front door of our apartment and take off down the stairs and out on the street. Joe had to chase her down through the town of Kin with Okinawa nationals staring at him in curiosity. I am sure to them watching a young American Marine trying to catch a dog that didn't want to be caught was pretty funny and on one particular occasion, Joe was extremely close to giving up and just letting her go.
To top things off, when we took her to the vet we found out she had heartworm. The treatment was not only expensive but not an easy thing for her or us to go through. We had been warned that once they gave her the medicine to kill the worms, we would have to keep her calm and quiet for weeks because if all the worms died and dislodged from her heart at the same time, she could have a massive heart attack and die. Nice. Have you ever tried to keep a 1 year old labrador retriever calm and quiet? She even started to figure out that we were sneaking sedatives in her treats and started spitting them out. Ultimately however, we made it through.
To this day, after giving her nothing but love for the last 11 years, Nago is still scared of certain noises. She freaks out whenever we take out a suitcase to leave for the weekend and when we take her to the vet, she barks so incessantly I have started requesting a muzzle for her while we are there. I shudder to think what she went through before we adopted her. Yes she may have been overshadowed by all of Utah's adorable quirks, but Nago is a survivor. She has been a loving and deserving companion.
How cute is Jake (at 17 months) climbing all over the dog? Nago has always been great with the kids:
So again, why I am telling you all this? Well Nago has a mass on her hind leg that I first noticed back around the 4th of July. We had it checked out and a fine needle aspirate came back negative and although they could not guarantee that this meant no cancer, because of her advanced age we decided to wait. However, over the last few months the mass has continued to grow and so next Wednesday she will go in for surgery to have it removed and biopsied. Hopefully it can be removed with clean margins, the biopsy comes back negative and she recovers nicely. If we don't get good news, we have already decided we would not pursue more aggressive treatment like chemo, radiation or amputation. We have to hope for the best but be prepared for the worst.
And so I thought with her 12th birthday approaching, (which is pretty darn amazing for a large breed dog that has been through as much as she has), that it seemed fitting to celebrate her life and the good fortune we have had to have her in our life as our companion for the last 11 years. She may come across as scary when she continuously barks so loud, but to us she will always be our sweet Nago.