I can't remember when I began to call her my 'dog daughter'. But sometime in the years she and I shared, that is what she became. Her nickname was Nyka Ann! She was my companion in the house where she followed me from room to room all day; when I worked in the garden she would lay down near me and just keep me company; we walked the roads around our neighborhood every day. Each night she'd lie down on her bed and follow me with her eyes til I gave her her bedtime 'cookie'.
Each morning I'd come into the kitchen to get my first cup of coffee and she'd get up from her bed and come stand in front of me. That was my signal to bend down, put my head on her shoulder and rub her back, her belly, her legs. When she'd had enough petting, we'd go outside together for a few minutes to welcome the new day and give her a chance to pee. Then we'd go back into the house, and she'd follow me into the bedroom and settle in for a nap while we watched the news.
Nyka had a strong sense of responsibility when it came to her home and her people. She always let us know when someone was coming to the door or walking along the road past our property. She was friendly to all people, but she was *my* dog. Even tho she did not want to go for walks with my husband (she'd go into her crate and flatten her head against the bottom so he could not get the collar over her head!), she would go into the room he used as an office and check on him during the day, and even bring her kong , hoping she could get him to play tug with her. Usually she succeeded, because she would stand and bark at him til he paid attention to her!
Then she'd come back into my office room, walk around the desk and nudge me with her nose....pet me lady! Of course!
She loved kids...and my granddaughters were her favorites. When Katy and Sara were 4 and 5 years old, they would take their shoes and sox off, sit on the floor and put their little feet right in front of Nyka's face as she lay on her bed. When Nyka licked their feet, and they felt her rough tongue on their soles, they would giggle and squirm and want her to do it again! Of course, Katy and Sara got too old for that game, but last year new grandbaby Emily discovered how much fun it was to have Nyka lick her sturdy little leg. She would giggle and say "lick, lick"!
I expect German Shepherds to be smart, but Nyka had a special intelligence and sensitivity that made for a marvelous level of communication between us.
In the evening, when I would lie down on the floor to do my stretches, Nyka would come and stand over me, looking down with this smile on her face and a wagging tail...as if to say "Lady you look pretty funny down there....what game is this?" And I would laugh back at her, rub her chest and tell her she looked pretty funny from this angle too!
She loved doing obedience with me and her sensitivity and intelligence made her a very easy dog to train....doing obedience routines with Nyka was like dancing with an expert partner. We just moved together with a joyful sense of teamwork. We got her BH and her CD but she didn't much like protection work, so we didn't do that for long. The helper, John, used to say that she looked at him as if she wanted to herd him, not bite him!! And that was probably true.
She didn't like having the tangles brushed out of her long coat, especially what I called her 'tutu'....but her fur matted up pretty quickly and it had to be done. I'd work on it a little and then give her a bit of cheese, and that way she endured it....because she loved to eat! She also hated having her nails cut...again that sensitivity coming out. One day, after she turned 12, I got the nail clippers out and when I knelt down beside her, she put her mouth on my hand and gave me a stern look that said very clearly " I don't want you to do that "....and looking at her and understanding her and realizing how many times she had put up with it in the past,...I told her I wouldn't ever do it again. And I didn't. She trusted me and I trusted her...
I could hardly believe it when she was diagnosed with hemangiosarcoma. She had been so very healthy for 12 years and I fully expected her to live to 14, as her mother had. She recovered from the splenectomy as rapidly as a much younger dog would have and I let myself hope that we would beat the odds ....but that was not to be. One morning, just 9 weeks after the surgery, she began to have pain and by 9 o'clock that night she would not let me touch any part of her body but her head. There was nothing to do but let her go. She trusted me to take care of her and I did.
She was indeed my dog daughter. My friend. My companion. My protector. My partner. My girl.
There will never be another Nyka and I know how blessed I am to have had her in my life.
I am sure she has joined all the other GSDs I have loved and lost over the years...: Fury, Leica, Terra, Zeke, Trev, Zack, and little Mop (the honorary GSD!) ...the whole pack of them are waiting for me and what a reunion it will be!