Phoenix was a red merle Australian Shepherd. He was two and half weeks old when I first held him, and 13 years old when I last held him, as the vet helped him pass on.
Nix was the peacekeeper in the pack. He would get between any dogs who were upset with each other, standing there wagging his stubby tail. He loved to play with other dogs, loved his stuffed ducky, loved food (too much), and was one of the most gentle souls I’ve ever met.
He ended up at the vet too many times for eating something he shouldn’t. I had to put childproof locks on the kitchen cabinets – including the ones high up on wall, because he’d jump up on the kitchen counter and open them. He figured out the locks with a week. I had to resort to padlocks.
We trained for a while in obedience, but he wasn’t happy doing it, so we switched to agility. He loved training, hated competition. He was too stressed by all the activity; after a few tries, we stuck with training for fun.
Nix was my couch potato dog; as I’ve mentioned in another post, he loved to watch television. He was sensitive to emotions, from both people and dogs. He was registered as a therapy dog with Delta Society for a while, and we went on visits to a rehabilitation hospital.
He’d watch the kids on the street when they crossed the main road, and worry about them until they returned, even though he never really played with them. He liked the pack to stay together. He once followed his breeder when she left our agility class, upset over a personal matter. He always wanted to help, even though he didn’t understand what was wrong.
He was my eternal puppy, mellow for an Aussie, but always happy to play. When the other dogs were chasing cars along the fence line, he would happily run in big, joyful circles in the yard. He collected toys, hoarding them from the other dogs like a dragon with a pile of gold.
Nix eventually slowed down as he aged. My friend George, one of our dog walkers, took the last picture of Nix the morning of October 5, 2014. I love that picture – the light around Nix’s head makes him look as though he was already in another world. He’s happy and smiling, which is all I could ask for.
Phoenix went for his walk that morning, slept a good part of the day, spent the afternoon in the sun in the yard, and came inside in severe respiratory distress. I rushed him to the emergency vet, where I learned he was dying. I decided to let him go rather than take extreme measures.
His birthday was March 17th. He certainly had a touch of leprechaun magic about him; I could feel his presence for weeks after he was gone.
Life with dogs means losing them; they never live long enough. I can’t fill the Phoenix-shaped hole in my life, but his departure eventually heralded Merlin’s arrival… which can only be a good thing.