Good-bye to Nelson

Yesterday, the Hyatt’s had to say “good-bye” to Nelson, our velvety-soft, floppy-lipped, forlorn-looking, co-dependent, devoted companion.

I’m still in shock. My eyes well up with tears at the mention of his name.

Four days ago, he got into some trash and did what English Setters are notorious for doing—he ate it. Quite a bit apparently. It was the second time he’d gotten deathly ill from eating trash.

I took him to the vet’s on Tuesday evening—even missed our weekly campus gathering to do it—and the vet greeted us with, “Nelson, buddy. So you’re back again, are you?” They loved Nelson at the vets. They loved Nelson at Paw Pals, the doggie daycare. They loved Nelson at the bank and at the dry-cleaners. Everybody loved Nelson.

Tuesday evening, the doctor took x-rays, ran a few tests, gave me some meds and told me to go home and watch him through the night, and if he got worse to bring him back Wednesday morning. He did get worse. He was in pain and couldn’t get comfortable. He moaned and whined and sometimes cried out very loudly.

I stayed up with him all night, making up a bed for myself on the couch in the den. At one point during the night, when he was particularly whiney and pitiful, I laid down on the floor next to him, curled up around his back, stroked his head and told him everything was going to be ok. I lay there for at least an hour.

The next morning, Mike woke up bright and early. We had a flight to catch to San Antonio where he would be speaking on Thursday. He walked into the den and saw me dozing on the couch. Then his eyes caught a very uncomfortably positioned Nelson laying on the floor beside me. Mike crouched down on the hard wooden floor and began comforting Nelson—stroking his silky head, talking gently to him, praying for him and just quietly letting him know that his he wasn’t alone.

Once 7:00 a.m. hit, Nelson obediently got up at my command and slowly walked to the car with me. He LOVED to ride in the car. He didn’t have enough power to jump up into the seat, so I carefully picked him up, put him inside, shut the door and off we went.

When I took Nelson up to the desk at the vet’s office, I explained that he was not better at all. I’d like to leave him there and our daughter Marissa would pick him up after class that afternoon. Meanwhile they could do more examinations, more tests and try to figure out what was going on and what they could do for him. Mike and I left for Texas.

When Marissa called later that afternoon, they told her that they wanted to keep him overnight. He was still in a lot of pain and they wanted to observe him longer and perform a few more tests.

On Thursday, Mike and I drove to Oak Hills Church where Mike would be leading an all day seminar on Creating Your Personal Life Plan. The meeting began at 8:30. At 9:00 I got a text from Marissa telling me to call her right away. It was urgent. It was about Nelson.

I slipped out of the room and expected her to tell me that they had to do emergency surgery on him or something along that line. No. She told me that she had just gotten a call from the vet telling her that Nelson didn’t make it through the night.

I was in complete shock. I thought for sure that we had caught this incident in time and that he would be fine. He might have to have his stomach pumped or something, but he would be fine. But no. Now he was gone and I couldn’t even tell Mike, who was in the middle of speaking. I had to wait all day before I could tell him.

The veterinary staff were completely stunned. None of the tests and blood-work had shown anything so life-threatening. Everyone was baffled.

And shocked.

And sad.

The doctor asked if they could do some further tests to see if they could find out what really happened. I said yes. The two likely culprits seemed to be poison or an obstruction. After talking with the office today it seems as if Nelson had apparently eaten something sharp and it had perforated his intestines, causing a severe infection that overtook his already weakened body way too fast. Needless to say, we’re heartbroken.

In lieu of more words, I’ll let the pictures show what a special dog he was. We’ll miss you, Nelson.

A very handsome boy!


Under the umbrella fort with Ellie.

Dress up time.

Every dog needs socks, right?

One must wear a bib when going to the doctor.

Budding buddies—Ben and Nelson.

Your buddy, Uncle Loren will surely miss you!

Silly sleeping poses.

Summertime relaxing on the back porch. It’s what you do in the South. Where’s my Sweet Tea?

Stalking a bird—once a bird dog, always a bird dog.

Frolicking in the snow!

We’ll always love you, Nelson!

And now this, from my friend David Teem’s book And Thereby Hangs A Tale:

… It has been said that dogs have no souls. Maybe it does or doesn’t matter. It’s not an argument I care to make. But my question would be how could any creature love so purely without one? It is difficult to imagine a heaven without their kind.

I have often thought what it might be like when my own time comes, when my footfalls are heard at the gates of heaven. What might my welcome be? Will I be greeted with a blast of trumpets? Or the song of angels? Either one would be nice.

But I had another thought.

No, give me bustle. Give me the comic riot. Greet me with pant and clamor. Greet me with the wild exultant joy of dog love: perfect, complete, and above all true, love that seems at home wherever it is, but especially here. Give me three wet black noses pressing eager and impatiently through the gates. Give me the old music, the whine and the howl, the high lonesome cry of jubilee. Sweetness and homecoming overflowing all our cups, as if I am given complete absolution for my crime against them, a full and undoubted pardon. Truth is, I don’t think they held anything against me at all. They never could. And thereby hangs a tale.

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77 Responses to “Good-bye to Nelson”

  1. Through Pinterest … crazy, huh? Well I’m glad you found your way here. I went to your blog. Your Nelson is gorgeous! What a sweet face. 🙂

    It’s interesting that you left your comment today. We had guests over for dinner tonight and they just had to put their dog down today. He had liver cancer. A beautiful dog – Portuguese Water Dog. In just two days, he went from being just “sick” to being diagnosed and completely unresponsive. We cried together.

    What a gift these animals are to us. God knew what joy they would bring us.

    Thanks again for stopping by. All the best.

  2. I just got here through pinterest somehow and I’ve cried all the way through your tribute to Nelson. We have a sweet Nelson of our own, albeit a good bit smaller than your beautiful boy. I hope your hearts are healing and soon find room for a new furry face.

    I posted a link to my blog, even though it’s been pretty quiet over there for a long time…

  3. Aw. Thank you, Kelly. I’ll check out Dean Koontz’s book. Sounds wonderful.

  4. I came over today to read your peaceful music post, and kept reading, and this post broke my heart. I remember when (via twitter) you got Nelson. There is nothing like the love of a dog. I’ve lost 2 dogs to old age, but have yet to lose a dog “suddenly” like you did Nelson, and I am so sorry.

    Dean Koontz has a book “A Big Little Life” about the love and loss of his dog, and it is great. The sad thing about dogs is that their life is shorter than ours. But they give us so much love in that time. I’m glad that as each day passes you can focus more on the love, and less on the loss.

  5. For some reason, this post got stuck in my “pending approval” filter. So sorry about that. I’m checking out Don’s post now. Thank you so much.

  6. Hi Sarah. Thanks for your kind words. He is still very missed. It doesn’t fail that when I come home from a trip I get excited to see his face and wagging tail welcoming me home. But …

    I’m grateful for the photos!

  7. Thank you, Denny. I haven’t read this post for a couple of months now and it made me sad all over again. But very very grateful for a very special dog.

  8. Thank you , Matt. (Now that I’m back from a trip to Africa and lots of traveling w/ Mike, I’m just now catching up on my comments.)

  9. Awww. Not everyone understands what a loss it is to lose that kind of companion. Thanks for capturing that special brand of love.

  10. Beautiful dog, beautifully eulogized.
    Prayers for you and thank you for reminding us our companions are so loved and loving.

  11. What a beautiful dog! – Deeply sorry for your loss.

  12. I want to thank each of you for your very very kind words. It’s taken me this long to respond. I barely could look at the photos for a long time. But things are better now. Now when I see these pictures of Nelson I get a smile on my face and I’m just thankful that we had him for as long as we did (and I’m so glad I took so many photos!) Wonderful memories.

    It’s also amazing to me how easily I can forget all the toys he chewed up, all the “presents” he left for us in the house, all times he ran loose in the neighborhood, and all the holes he dug in the back yard.

    Oh, yeah, I forgot those didn’t I?

    Thanks, again.

  13. I’m so sorry for you Gail. You’re pain is felt by this reader. 🙁 You’ll be in my prayers today.

  14. Mollianne Massey August 31, 2011 at 1:23 pm

    I am so sorry to hear of your loss. I once laid on the floor all night with our elderly dog, Conan, who was in discomfort and we knew the end was near. I patted his head and ears and sang to him. We got him through the night and in the morning took him to the vet. In the exam room, he laid with his head on my hand, as he was wont to do, and I sang quietly “All things bright and beautiful, all creatures great and small…” to him as Conan took his last breath while gazing into my eyes. He wasn’t my dog. He belonged to the Rocket Man before we married. But Conan adopted me and trusted me, stood guard over me and let me be one of his people. It is never easy to lose such a pet, even when he wasn’t really mine to lose. God comfort you and yours in your grief.

  15. Oh, Gail. I have been there and know it hurts. Donald Miller had the greatest sentiment about dogs in a post that he wrote this week. He said that when dogs pass on, they get swallowed back up into God’s imagination. The beauty of that thought just warms my heart, and I thought I would pass it onto you.

    Here is his post:

    Blessings and prayers…


  16. I’m so sorry to read about your loss! Just yesterday, my beagle, Hunter (appropriately named for sure) got out and took off after a deer. In typical hunting dog fashion, he would not listen to at all and continued through the cornfields behind our house and out of site.

    After a while I could hear his howling bark once again, so I ran to chase him down again. I did finally corner him and that is when I saw it….

    That pure joy, the thrill of the chase, that wild-eyed excitement that seemed to have been pent up in him for so long. When we walked him, we gave him snippets of what he could do on his own will…and he did it.

    I am happy I could get him back, and I didn’t even reprimand him since it was just his nature to take off, but when I read your post I just had to tell you that what I saw in Hunter is what I think good dogs that have gone on before us get to do. Just take off with the wind and be free!

    Blessings to you all and may Nelson be free and flying with the wind!


  17. I am so sorry for your loss, Gail & Mike. I loved reading your tweets about him and following him on Twitter. Nelson was the reason my cat, Amanda J got her own twitter acct. ‘She’ enjoyed chatting with him on Twitter.
    We love our furkids so much and they return that love ten thousand times over. It hurts so much to lose them, but I could never go through life without at least one furball.
    Thank you, Gail, for writing such a loving tribute to a sweet pup.

  18. I am so sorry for your loss Gail. We lost our two dogs (Gilbert & Sullivan), siblings after 14 wonderful years with them – 5 years ago. Gilbert passed away one December morning and Sullivan had to be put to sleep six months later the following May. It’s always hard with the loss of any pet. Hugs to you!

  19. That second picture down, of Nelson sitting against a red wall, is classic and beautiful. You should have it enlarged and framed on your wall. So sorry for you!

  20. I am so sorry for your loss. I think God sends dogs to us as furry angels, to model unconditional love. Wouldn’t that be clever, to disguise His messengers as such humble creatures? We lost a beloved Australian Shepherd last November. I still miss him. Nelson was so beautiful! Again, so sorry for your loss.

  21. Gail,

    I wept like a baby reading this blog. I only met Nelson a couple of times and I fell in love with him. I still remember him resting is head on me so that I would keep petting him. Then leaving when he didn’t receive any food for his effort. Thank you for sharing him with us. Thanks for letting us grieve his loss with you.


  22. Gail and Mike, I’m so very sorry for your loss. Your sharing of this very personal tragedy has touched my heart. May God’s peace and comfort surround your family. Nelson, while gone, will never be forgotten. Blessings….

  23. What a beautiful story, yet sad! We have 2 Bichons and we dare not think of their death!!!!
    My maiden name was Nelson so I felt close to the beautiful dog! Thanks so much for sharing

  24. In the past year and a half I have lost 3 special souls. And Yes I believe dogs have a soul. All were about the same age and I knew one day I would face 3 senior dogs who would probably all go around the same time. But you put that in the back of your mind and try not to think about it. Anyway, I know how you feel and I grieve with you. And when I get to Heaven I will not only hope for barking, but meowing and chirping and a whinny or two.

    God bless you all,
    Lorrie M.

  25. I’m in shock. I’m going to miss by little buddy and walking companion. The house won’t be the same. I’m so sorry you and the girls have to go through all this …espcially the little one. Uncle Loren


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