White Dog and the rest of the White Dog Army were finishing a Memorial Breakfast to Nuka of her favorite morning foods…doughnuts and bacon. All of us felt not just her presence but also Quinn’s. It made us happy to sense that they were joyfully reunited but it also saddened us that we had lost so much in just a bit over two months. All of the pups knew how profoundly it had affected me having to leave my baby girl shrouded in Quinn’s blanket on the cold, dark porch overnight until we could take her remains to the mortuary when they opened in the morning.
“Let me write the Tribute,” White Dog gently suggested. “And the others can help. But I was there for every step of Nuka’s life with us and I would be honored.” I nodded, tears streaming anew, in pride and love of my pack.
She began telling the others, since no one but her remained that knew the beginning.
“Nuka, then named Angel, had a hard life before she joined us. She was neglected and tied up outside and suffered ear infections until she went deaf. When she was finally rescued, she was adopted and returned several times because of her deafness and bad attitude.
“Momma and I first saw her on a Pet Finder game of feeding virtual rescue pups. We feed her and followed her for months and no one ever expressed interest in her. When we decided we were ready to open our hearts to another recruit, Quinn and I insisted momma and dad bring Angel to a place where she would never be returned…here.
“We drove to Texas to meet the transport; she came from Florida. A shaved to the skin little lion was taken from the car and placed in momma’s arms. The first thing she did was growl. We got pages and pages of warnings of how difficult she was and how the surgical shave was a result of her refusing grooming and being so matted they had no choice.
“Angel, to which we added the name Nuka which means Little Sister, slept on Pumpkin’s backseat during the long ride home. Quinn and I hopped out excited to show Another White Dog her new home but she refused to leave the back seat. Dad went in to help her out and she stood on the seat snarling and snapping; dad was kind of afraid. Finally he and Michael managed to wrap her in a blanket and carry her inside. In momma’s arms she calmed down but ran to hide when she was put on the floor. It took several days of slow gentle approach and the mentoring of Quinn and I before Nuka Angel began to be comfortable.
“We quickly discovered that Nuka was a stubborn girl with a mind of her own. She had a hard time trusting, maybe she had opened herself up so often before only to be rejected that this time we all had to earn her trust. Slowly we did. She loved Quinn and he treated her with the gentlest love. She, in turn, became The Other White Dog’s fierce protector.
“Dad threw away the warning notes she came with. She didn’t hate grooming. She loved his spa days with the warm sudsy baths and being wrapped in a towel. She became less embarrassed about her skin tags and naked skin as she reveled in the fun of being a fashionista with a wardrobe or sweaters and coats. She wasn’t a cuddler…yet…but she started to enjoy hanging out with all of us. And then Puff came home and suddenly Nuka had another sister, Still Another White Dog.
“Puff was so sick from heart worm when she first came and Nuka was the caregiver who would watch her and sit with her. The two of them walked together and napped against each others’ backs, but Nuka always spent the night in the closet in Quinn’s bed. Puff trusted Nuka long before she felt comfortable with momma and Michael.
“Then life sped up and suddenly YoYoMa joined us and Nuka learned to deal with sometimes getting knocked over by the blind boy. She curbed Yet Another White Dog’s boy games as he tried to engage Quinn who was at the beginning of getting ill. Nuka let YoYo know in no uncertain terms that if SHE caught him trying to wrestle with her Quinn, that the big goofy boy would have HER to contend with. He got the message.
“She became Quinn’s best protector and guardian and we all knew we could count on her to bring Quinn back to the door when he was outside and got confused; that she would settle against him and help him sleep; that she would make sure no one stole his treats.
“Nuka was a little jealous at first when Oso arrived and became Quinn’s mini-me. I think she feared being replaced and worried that she would no longer be wanted by her special friend. Of course, the opposite happened. She and Oso and Quinn became a trio and shared nearly everything.
“She was an earnest member of the White Dog Army and made incredible strides in becoming social, but her mission was taking care of Quinn and as he got sicker she often asked to stay home with him rather than enjoy WDA adventures.
“She was not a young girl and age started to take its toll on her. She began developing cataracts and then developed pancreatitis. Clearly it pained her to not be able to provide as much care to Quinn. Another White Dog and The Other White Dog were content to spend most days curled together resting while momma read or sang to them.
“When Quinn asked to leave, Nuka did not understand his enthusiastic departure. She mourned for her partner and despaired that he had abandoned her and she gave up her will to live. And really, this past two months has been a matter of our sweet sister dying of a broken heart; of wanting to be reunited with her best buddy. Medicine could not cure her. The WDA could not tempt her back. All of momma’s power of love could not change our Beautiful Ugly Duckling’s need to find her Quinn.
“But she remained stubborn and determined until the end, Nuka, the fighter, took the hard road asking to be allowed to follow her path naturally instead of being helped to cross. She was courageous and brave…and I believe she knew the power of our love would light her way and carry her burden.
“And now she is with Quinn and both are free of pain. Let us not focus on the fact that two of the Army are not with us here, but rather that the White Dog Army now has a team on the ground on the other side of the rainbow bridge. She brought so much to us all and we, I like to believe, gave her what she had never experienced before us…a home, security, acceptance, and unconditional love. And we will always be bound by that.”
I held White Dog against me and she looked up to lick my tears. There was nothing I could add. Except to share Nuka’s song (Make Me an Angel Who Drove Here from Florida)....