An Everlasting Love

Earlier this year I was forced to slow myself down and take time for myself. Granted, at first I resented the situation, but now I can be thankful for it. Once I slowed down, although unwillingly, I was able to take notice of some of the things I take for granted. One of the subjects that stands out in my mind is Nigel.

"A dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than he loves himself."
          -- Josh Billings

I had written an earlier article for another magazine (sadly gone) regarding a weekend spent with Arthur, who is Nigel’s son. Arthur definitely gets his devoted attitude (towards me, at least) from Nigel. Nothing against his mother, Nikki – but Nikki is usually her most loving when she wants something – and she almost always has a motive. Nigel is my shadow. He is usually within a 10-foot radius of me at all times in the house. At times, this can be an annoyance, especially during my mealtimes. He has learned to keep away from me, but tends to hover around Victor during our mealtimes. Nikki will still hover around me – she’s strictly concerned with whether or not she gets some food, regardless of the cost. She is the master of “the look”.

Another trait which Arthur has inherited from Nigel is the smile. Arthur’s smile is a tad larger than Nigel’s though, and is displayed frequently when he is called or if he is in trouble. Nigel will thrust his head up in the air and the front of his upper lip curls up, showing me his incisors as he trots toward me. If he is already at my side, he will look upward and lay his head against me and display his front teeth. I can make “goo-goo” sounds and wiggle a finger in the air to make him smile again and again, and eventually he will jump up, wrap his front legs around me and stick his head in my armpit and rub his face up and down my side.

When I first moved to the Dallas area and Victor and I combined our Borzoi, we expected Nikki to take control, and sure enough she did. We were a bit shocked to see Victor’s males defer to Nigel. He’s certainly not the largest Borzoi, standing just 30 inches, which is almost microscopic by Texas standards. He’s also never growled at other dogs or shown any type of aggression whatsoever. We attributed his position to his association with Nikki (her “mate” as it were). Then the Arthurian boys hit puberty – ah, the joys of young testosterone! – our home was overflowing with it. One of the most “uppity” of the pups was Merlyn – he wasn’t afraid to “talk back” to some of his elders, and he would also do the most growling and pushing around when the boys were running together in the yard. I was amazed one day to see Nigel streak across the yard and single out Merlyn from the midst of his brothers and require submission! He did it again later in the week, and Merlyn quit “talking back” to the older dogs. was astonished to witness Nigel actually behaving like a leader, as I am more accustomed to him acting so soft around me.

Nigel is also not the most substantial Borzoi here at the house. Sometimes in the past I’ve described him as “bitchy” as he doesn’t carry that much bone, and has an extreme yet beautiful head. Although these days as he has matured, he’s definitely not all that “bitchy”, carrying a heavy and masculine wolf’s ruff, and hair to spare. But when the most recent litter was whelped here, Nigel displayed some amazingly bitchy behavior traits. He has always been fascinated by puppies. Nikki would actually allow him in the whelping area – she growled at him more around her food than the pups, although all bets would be off with a different dog – they couldn’t even make it through the entrance to the kitchen without a rumbling growl sending them scurrying off.

One day when the Sword-litter pups were about three weeks old, I let Nikki out to do her business in the yard and was getting set to clean up the papers in the whelping box. Nigel had opted to stay in, and was hovering around the box. Much to my surprise, he jumped in, sniffed at the pups, and went to work cleaning an area that Nikki had missed. He also tried to stimulate a pup to do its business before I asked him to leave. He placed himself at the side of the box with a concerned look on his face.We let him persist in his fatherly devotion, as did Nikki. When the pups were moved to their area outside in the yard, Nigel would take up residence near the gate or along the fenceline that runs perpendicular to the house and watch the puppies. If any of the dogs became overly interested in the pups or charged the fence trying to incite a bit of fence-fighting with them, Nigel would put himself between the offending dog and the fence, or he would simply chase them off.

His affection also extends to the toy dogs at the house (Gekko the Chinese Crested and Heather the Brussels Griffon) and the cats. When Victor took some pictures to the Astrohall cluster a couple of summers ago to have Mike McCartney do Nigel’s portrait, he told him of the affinity between Nigel and the toy girls. They were included in the portrait, with little hearts floating above their heads as they gaze enamored at their ebony-colored sweetheart. His love affair with the cats is a little more one-sided. They would rather be left alone. Fat Kitty tires quickly of Nigel’s torrid ear-washing sessions, and after bit will start slapping at him. I’m thankful that she had been declawed before I got her – if she hadn’t been, Nigel’s face would be all scarred up. Bob generally disappears when he trots on into the bedroom – but on occasion, when she’s in one of those loving moods (if you know what I mean) – she will allow Nigel to check her ears. On one occasion though, she and Nigel’s antics put Victor and I into fits of laughter. Nigel started giving her love nibbles all over – he was going up and down her back, on the underside of her neck – over and over. When he got towards the back end, he would “hit the kitty button” at the base of the tail, and UP she would go. Nigel had this look of utter joy in his eyes. We were laughing so hard it hurt!

Nigel knows me too well. He knows many of my daily habits. Victor handles the morning shift at our house. The first to go out are the dogs that have spent the night with us – usually the two Silkens, Josi and Duncan, and then Nikki and Nigel. When Nigel comes back in, he heads straight for the bedroom and will usually climb in bed next to me. When I finally do become somewhat conscious and drag myself out of the bed, Nigel will hop down and wait at the door (he moves a lot quicker than I in the morning). When I open the door, he will dash out then stop in front of the doorway to the hall bathroom and then look at me. Sometimes I don’t know whether to be flattered or embarrassed at this dog’s knowledge of my schedule. Once I have finished with my shower and various other portions of my morning routine, when I open the door, Nigel will be in one of two places. If the door to the computer room/office is open (which is directly across the hallway), he will be ensconced in there, usually facing the bathroom door. If that door is closed, he will be lying directly in front of the bathroom door.

Nigel also seems to be pre-potent for the “mama’s boy” characteristic. His sons Arthur and Stone reside with me and always seem to be earning my approval or affection. Lance also acts that way in his new home, and also like his father, carries on a love affair with the housecat. I hope his sons are prepotent for the "mama's boy" gene as well – it makes for a wonderful feeling when you are on the receiving end of such affection.

"He is your friend, your partner, your defender, your dog. You are his life, his love, his leader. He will be yours, faithful and true, to the last beat of his heart. You owe it to him to be worthy of such devotion."
          -- Unknown

I don’t think I could ever be worthy of Nigel’s love. Some people may not consider animals of being capable of such emotion, but I think they can. They speak a different language than we do is all. I don’t understand the words if someone is speaking to me in Japanese (or any other foreign language for the most part) – but because I don’t understand their language, or perhaps even culture, does not mean I believe them incapable of emotion. Nigel is a constant companion when I am home – he’s been a shoulder to cry on, someone to share joy and excitement with, and a source of comfort and contentment during quiet times. My constant shadow and friend.