Nico is a pretty important part of my life, if you haven’t already guessed. I suppose if I’m willing to drive to Oklahoma to have a cutting edge surgery on him, I can’t completely hate him.

I got Nico when I was in graduate school at the University of Pittsburgh. My roommate and her family were dog lovers and enthusiasts–particularly of malteses. Her father was having his hair cut one day and the barber/stylist told him that her daughter had a dachshund puppy that she was looking to rehome. My roommate’s dad said that their family would take it and find a home for it. So he drove to a neighboring city and picked up the puppy. My roommate and I drove from Pittsburgh to Columbus one Friday night to get him.

He was pretty wiggly when I first met him. He was very excited, and probably scared. He tried jumping all over my roommate’s small maltese. It was late at night, and we all needed sleep, and I remember sharing a bed with my roommate, her little white dog, and Nico. Nico fell asleep right on top of me, but I couldn’t sleep the whole night. I spent it petting him, and thinking how scary and awesome it was all at once to have this little creature as my own.

I was not allowed to have dogs growing up. My papa can sometimes be a rigid thinker. He considered a dog to be too much responsibility. He wanted a nice lawn. He didn’t want the dog to bother neighbors. All valid concerns. So I was allowed to have bunnies. First came Sugar. Then Luna. But it wasn’t like having a dog. Even though I had never had a dog, I knew it wasn’t the same. The bunnies were always wild. They would allow themselves to be held and pet, but when it came down to it–they were wild animals. They would not be ‘walked’ on leashes, did not preform tricks, and certainly would not cuddle or sleep with me for more than 10 minutes. I know some bunnies do all of those things, but even with lots of socialization, mine never learned to tolerate them.

I had expectations for Nico, and he pretty quickly surpassed them. I taught him most everything he knows. He wasn’t trained when he came to me, but I have to attribute his temperament to his dad, Vivian Moo Moo Campbell (called Viv), a longhaired piebald. I know this because Nico came with his CKC registration papers. He got his black and tan from his mama, Nikki.

Anyway, Nico wiggled his way into my heart pretty fast. I always knew I was a dog person, but my parents didn’t know they were, too. Not until they spent a month with Nico after graduation. My dad would come to my room and get Nico in the mornings when he woke up (about 6 hours before I did). My mom liked to snuggle with him in the evenings after work. And before we knew it, we all went to a farm in Paynesville and brought home Pippa.

Nico is a great dog, and I hope to keep him around for another 15 years. He’s at 85-90% mobility right now, and I think there’s even more healing to come. It would be a miracle if I can get to OK State to have the laser disc ablation surgery for him. It won’t fix any damage that happened this time, but it could/should prevent any future herniations (the reoccurrence rate for disc herniations in dogs is 30% without intervention).

In thinking about the risks and benefits of owning a breed with a genetic condition, I know I’d take a dog as sweet as Nico with a back problem over a less friendly dachshund (or other dog) without a back problem. I don’t resent caring for him or listening to him cry at night in the kennel. I guess it’s a little like being a parent. I’m happy to care for him in both sickness and health. Although I wouldn’t marry him. He can’t zip up little black dresses, open tight salsa cans, or hold down steady, gainful employment.

Right now he’s curled up on the chair like a tortellini noodle and I’m feeling thankful. After a rough day today, and another rough one to come, I can only feel thankful right now. That he’s alive, healing, and mine.

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