My sidekick is gone. After two months of treatment, I had to say goodbye. Nayela was a loving companion always in the background of my life. I didn’t photograph her often because she always awaited me in one of her spots. She would sometimes be in videos while I was hiking streams or in photos as part of a group. She was a comforting presence who knew my routine and followed me throughout my day. She was always nearby when I was home. If I was going out for errands and dressed differently, she knew and would run outside to lay in the little garage where she could hear my truck returning. Nayela didn’t show her dog smile often, but when she did, I returned to her after I had left to go somewhere.
Nayela found me during my first month living in Colombia. Someone had thrown her out in the street, and she was hiding under my patio chair when I heard her little whimper. She had left a harsh life on the Colombian streets and never wanted to return. I often think that is why she never left my side in the eleven and half years she was in my life. Her loyalty was unlike my other dogs. She never wanted the doggie love from everyone like most dogs do, she wanted me, and that was all she wanted. I felt she could read my mind, making me uncomfortable because I couldn’t believe she knew what was happening before I did it. I feel guilty while writing this because I often took her for granted. She would be at my feet while at my desk, and I would accept her presence but not acknowledge her. She never went a night without sleeping as close to me as possible, her body against my bed frame. I would have to step over her if I got up at night. When I would do Yoga, she knew my routine so well she would be upstairs waiting outside my bedroom door before I even arrived!
Nayela developed a nervous personality as she grew older. I couldn’t bring her to the veterinarian’s office because she was so fearful of everything, even me brushing her. When I had her groomed a few years back, she had a bad experience, and her personality changed as she grew more introverted. My sweet girl had dreadlocks! When I went on vacation last year, my caregiver said she stayed underneath his bed for two weeks. She would eat her food if he placed it under the bed next to her. My guests at my Glamping Hotel asked if she was mine if she happened to be outside, and they saw her. I would explain that she lived to be with me and she wasn’t social. She was sweet; if she was in a spot near people because I was there, she enjoyed the attention. She never sought it out, but she would greet people she knew. She also loved going on hikes with me and anyone who came along. She would run free and wade in the streams. I think that is the most social she would ever be during her last years.
She developed a mass in the back of her throat. We found it because she had stopped eating, and I thought she had an abscessed tooth. I am very fortunate to have veterinarians that come to my home. When they cleaned her teeth, they found the mass and explained that they could do an exam to see if it was cancerous. It didn’t come back as cancer, just inflammation. I was ecstatic because she seemed to get better quickly and was eating as before for two weeks. Then the medication they injected wore off, and she wouldn’t take her medicines by mouth. She started hiding in the little garage when it was time to eat, even though I tried every soft food to entice her. She ignored it all. The veterinarians came to examine her again, and the growth hadn’t changed. I took this as a sign of hope for her recovery. We tried new medicines, and she was again injected and was great for two weeks. This time when she started acting sick, it was more severe. She would sit in her spots hunched over. I began to accept the truth that this was an illness that wasn’t curable and suspected it had to do with the growth in her throat.
When my beloved dog Marley passed two years ago, I had waited too long to put him to sleep, and he suffered because of my decision. I didn’t want this to happen again. I wanted Nayela to enjoy her last days with us feeling normal and enjoying her time by my side. Her doctors came again and looked in her throat. Her growth was much more significant and obstructed her breathing, eating, and life. I didn’t have good options to save her as the change was in a tough spot to remove. They couldn’t guarantee that they could get everything. She would have to be hospitalized for over a week because she wouldn’t take medicines by mouth. It would kill her to be away from me and probably delay the inevitable. The only solution was to allow her some more time with me, living happily with an injection to keep her comfortable.
When her last day approached, I realized that her loss would affect me profoundly. I didn’t understand how much until now that she was gone. I have trouble going to sleep without her nearby. I sit at my desk as I write, wishing I could feel her next to my feet. When I go to Yoga, I have tears running down my face because she isn’t in her corner watching and waiting for me to finish. I have always felt significant loss from the death of a beloved animal, but this time I feel so much more. Maybe it is because she arrived in my life when I moved to Colombia after my daughter died, and she joined the dogs I brought from the United States. I believe she was a guardian angel who hovered nearby me. Now she is with Marley, her closest dog friend of all. Nayela was the quiet fur child in my fur family. She was content being on the sidelines as long as she could see and be with me. Her name means love in American Indian. She lived her name to the fullest of her ability. Another chapter is gone on my journey to Colombia. All the original animals I had are in doggie heaven. One day maybe another street dog will enter my life that can bring me new memories. After all, saving the life of an animal is the most important thing any of us can do.