NITSCHKE

If love could have saved you, you would have lived forever.

On Monday, June 7, 2010, our precious Boston Terrier Cagney died of Cushing’s Disease. We were devastated when we lost him, although we still had two other Bostons, Packer and Lambeau, and a Chinese Crested, Yogi. We, along with our vet, had done everything possible for Cagney; however, the disease just took him from us – way too soon.

We didn’t actively look for another dog for a few months, until the middle of September when one of our friends told us that the local humane society had an eight-year-old Boston Terrier, who had been given up to the shelter because her family had moved overseas. We contacted the shelter but were too late because the dog had been adopted. We were, of course, happy that she found a new home.

Anyway, we decided to look on Petfinder and just see what Bostons might be available. We saw Snickers and immediately called and e-mailed the rescue organization. The woman in charge graciously called us right back, and we had a long conversation and told her about our love for dogs and that we were ready to add another Boston to our family. We gave her all our history with Bostons, having had them since 1984, and having lost five over the years.

She told us all about Snickers, who had been owned all his life by a single man who had recently died of cancer. When his owner went into hospice care, Snickers was put in a kennel and stayed there for several months. When his owner died, the man’s sister gave his dog to the rescue organization. Snickers had only been listed for a few minutes when we discovered him online. After making arrangements to meet and, we hoped, adopt Snickers, we made the 275 mile trip to our Lisle, Illinois, residence. We were there a couple days, then drove to Antioch, another Chicago suburb, for Snickers. We renamed him Nitschke to go along with our Green Bay Packer theme. We figured Nitschke sounded close enough to Snickers that he wouldn’t be too confused. He learned his new name right away and settled in with our family.

We were concerned because he had been an only dog and had been owned and loved by one person for nearly seven years. However, our boys were overjoyed to get another brother, and Nitschke just bonded with all of them and with us instantly. He loved to be close and always sat right next to one of us. He followed us around everywhere and liked nothing better than to go for car rides! Nitschke loved to visit the library (the librarian always gave him doggie treats), and he was a great rider, even liking trips to the vet.

Nitschke loved to eat; we never had to coax him to finish! He liked rawhide bones, but he especially enjoyed chewing on hard bones. Jeff often takes beef bones (those from the supermarket that are for making soup stock) and boils/bakes them for the boys. Nitschke loved to climb on the couch with his hard bones and chew them. What made it better was that either Jeff or I would sit on the couch and, as he chewed, let him snuggle between our legs, his favorite spot.

Nitschke loved to sleep with us; well, he really loved to sleep, too! Again, Nitschke’s favorite place was between our legs – either one of us. So, what could we do but sleep uncomfortably on our backs with our legs apart so that he always had a good spot?

Nitschke must have been let outside in a fenced yard and left alone when he was with his previous owner. The reason I say that is because he was very shy at first about doing “his business” in front of us. We always walk our dogs outside on a leash, so Jeff would take Nitschke out and turn his back so he could go in private. Nitschke got over that during the first snow when he figured that the sooner he finished the sooner he could get back into the warm house.

Nitschke had to have knee surgery, and he was recuperating just as the Packers were playing their way to Super Bowl XLV. Nitschke had his “15 minutes of fame” when he was pictured in the Green Bay Press Gazette newspaper with the cast on his leg. The caption was “Nitschke is sending a shout-out to all the Packers players on injured reserve because he’s just coming off knee surgery himself.” Of course, we’re sure that Nitschke being a Packer fan had a lot to do with them winning the Super Bowl!

Nitschke loved to lie outside in the sun. During the summer, I would sit with the four boys on our deck, which overlooks the waters of Green Bay. Nitschke’s favorite place was between my legs when I was lying in the hammock. I would put his visor on him so the sun wouldn’t get in his eyes while he slept. We would spend hours on the deck just relaxing and listening to the boombox. On cloudy or rainy days, we’d go out on the screened porch, where I would lie on the chaise with Nitschke between my legs and the other three boys gathered around. I would give anything to have Nitschke lying between my legs, snoozing, again.

In November of 2011, Jeff and I noticed that our boy was having trouble eating, and he was also drooling a lot. At first, we thought it was a bad tooth or something like that. We took Nitschke to the vet and found out that he had Bell’s Palsy, which is a paralysis of some of the facial muscles. It’s fairly common in people, but not in dogs. Our vet said he hadn’t seen a case in 15 or 20 years. Nitschke’s tongue wasn’t working properly, and he couldn’t blink his eyes. Anyway, we figured this was something we could cope with. We bought some softer foods, and I started feeding him with a spoon. About half of his food got down; the other half landing on the floor. We joked about buying stock in a paper towel company because we were going through so many, cleaning up the floor and wiping up drool. I took a turkey baster, and that’s how I gave him water. I would make him rice or potatoes to add to his dinner, and Jeff started fixing Nitschke oatmeal for breakfast, which I would also feed him with a spoon.

Everything seemed to be working OK for awhile. Then Nitschke looked like he was losing weight. He also couldn’t bark properly; it sounded almost as if he was strangling when he tried to bark. When we saw that he was having trouble breathing – his chest and stomach would heave and he would be out of breath after walking just a few steps – we took him back to our vet. That’s when we got the bad news that something was really wrong. The vet gave Nitschke medication for pneumonia; although, he didn’t really think that was the problem. He thought that the paralysis was moving down into Nitschke’s diaphragm. At that point, we were hoping for pneumonia because that could be treated.

After a few days, the medication seemed to be doing no good; so we asked our vet about taking Nitschke to a specialist, specifically the University of Wisconsin Veterinary Hospital in Madison. The vet thought that was a good idea. I called the hospital and made arrangements for Nitschke’s stay. Because of our other three boys, we couldn’t both leave; so Jeff took Nitschke to Madison alone. The plan was to take him to the hospital, where they would put him on oxygen therapy overnight and run tests in the morning.

I told Nitschke that Daddy was taking him to the hospital to make him well. I kissed him goodbye and told him how much I loved him and that I would see him soon. I never, ever thought that would be the last time I would hold my precious boy in my arms. When Jeff got to the hospital with Nitschke, his health had deteriorated so much that he was immediately put into an induced coma and placed in an oxygen tent. He wasn’t breathing on his own, so a nurse was actually breathing for him by squeezing a bulb that inflated his lungs. She did that for two hours while the doctors tried to save Nitschke. Jeff and I were in touch by phone the whole time and, when it was decided that Nitschke couldn’t be saved, we had to let him go.

Jeff brought Nitschke home late that night; he was cradled in a box and wrapped in a blanket. The next morning we took him to Pets at Rest in Denmark, Wisconsin, to be cremated. His urn is now in the breakfront with our other Bostons that we’ve lost over the years – Penguin, Pepsi, Pogo, Pluto, and Cagney. It doesn’t seem fair that now we have six dogs in urns and only three living.

Nitschke’s 7th birthday was the week after we got him. We never dreamed that we would only have him for one more birthday. Nitschke, we only had you for fourteen short months – just a blink of an eye. You were such a good boy, and we loved you so much. Our hearts are broken.

JoAnne Rosenfeld



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