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Kat Marriner : March 12th, 2013

Love-in-a-Mist

Nigella Sativa. It’s the botanical name of a beautiful little wildflower growing in our garden, the cultivated seeds of which are tasty, jet-black, slightly onion-flavored addition to flat bread we first encountered in Turkey. It’s also the pair of names given to two very important additions to my life.

Love-in-a-Mist flower

Love-in-a-Mist flower

For years I flirted with the idea of having a dog once again. I grew up loving all my family pets and while I had cats as an adult, I knew my heart could also include a dog. While we traveled in SE Asia last winter, I looked with amazement and a twinge of longing at the smart, savvy street dogs who could be mine with the right welcoming look and slightest offer of a bite to eat. As always, my heart saddened at their life on the streets, but I knew I couldn’t do anything about it.

At home, the final decision was made to give a puppy a good home. After reading 3 puppy books and researching characteristics of breeds to consider in a mixed-breed pup, I finally looked up the Formosan Mountain Dog rescued from Taiwan by the local group, Salty Dog Rescue. I saw photos of the FMD and read their characteristics and for the first time I felt I knew my breed! There was a litter coming to Seattle that was mixed with black Lab, so I sent in my application and readied our home.

On a Wednesday night, a flight touched down at SeaTac airport and multiple dog crates wheeled out to baggage claim. Beautiful, hungry, travel-weary pups filled those crates and quickly where whisked into the waiting arms of eager adopters. A precious bundle was placed in my arms and I felt unimaginable joy as she licked my face and snuggled close to me for comfort. There were several pure black girls in the litter and I was warned that the bundle I carried might not be the dog “Kenya” I had requested. The microchip reader, inadvertently left at home, would let me know later. What did I care? I had selected a dog based on a photograph of a cute girl-puppy, and they were all cute girl-puppies. As it was, I had adopted “Rosalind”.

That night I named her Nigella, my Love-in-a-Mist, and threw my heart into welcoming her to her new home. Willie was out of town, so I flew it solo, slept little, and sent Nigella reassurance that we were resilient, adaptable, loving beings, and she would be too. The bond was immediate. So much so that when Willie returned home three days later, he had to work hard to gain her trust.

Nigella fireside

Nigella and Kat fireside

We took walks, learned fast, played joyfully and took great care to socialize Nigella to her new world. Every person we met, from kids in strollers, to ladies with walkers, homeless guys at the bus stop, to bearded hipsters, smiled and welcomed her. Late one night on a walk the Spanish-speaking guy in white coveralls coming from a dry-walling job understood my request that he offer her a bite of kibble. This was all in the name of making her not afraid of the community she lived. We took her on the bus for a cup of coffee downtown, on an elevator, over metal grates that moved, by construction sites, and along the woods. We covered lots of ground with the joy of discovering something new. Our dog was a traveler in our city!

Playing at home with feet swirling on a thick wool carpet, Nigella was the picture of a happy pup. After a playtime, Willie began teaching her the next important skill: Leave it. She was quite prone to leaving nothing behind and we were constantly plucking stones and wood chips from her mouth on those walks. After a few treats, she stopped eating, gave a whine, went out to pee and couldn’t. Inside she vomited, then again, and again. A quick message to the rescue group confirmed I should contact their vet immediately. I did and soon we were in a neighbor’s car and at the vet’s office.

By the time she was at the vet, Nigella could barely stand. Her head drooped and she longed to hide, often burrowing in my arms. Clearly she was in distress and we soon learned her temperature was critically low. After a quick test, Parvo was ruled out and the vet had us leave her for further blood test and x-rays. We left the office with heavy hearts that something was causing our little pup such hardship, but I had confidence they would find the cause and treat her. Soon she would be romping like the little puppy we adored.

That evening the phone rang and my heart raced when I saw it was the vet’s office. Immediately I thought they must be calling to tell me she was fine and I could come and get her. But sadly no. She had not made it.

Stunned. Disbelief. Grief. Self-doubt. A hole was ripped in my heart. Nigella with the floppy ears, questioning eyes, furrowed brow, wagging tail would no longer follow me to the ends of the earth.

Nigella explores her city

That night I cried myself to sleep and bolted awake with fears that I had killed her. My watchful eye and had not seen this coming, and I didn’t protect her as promised.

Some 18 hours later, a call from the vet let me know that she had not swallowed something lethal. She had a twisted bowel. A rare thing in a pup, but possibly a little playtime tumble was all it took. And yes, she had tumbled after a ball as puppies do. But she had jumped right back up seemingly unscathed. Such a simple, unavoidable act … or it just happened because it was going to happen.

Many kind and compassionate words from family and friends tried to easy my mind. Many also encouraged me to open my heart and home to love another puppy. I had it all in place and yes, there are always more pups that need a loving home.

A few days later I connected with Amy at the Salty Dog Rescue group again. I wanted to get Nigella’s ashes and I wanted to consider adopting the original “Kenya” if she was still available. She was. She was fostered with a family, the second since arriving in the United States some two weeks ago.

Tiva

Tiva with her friend Chaka

While I waited to make contact with the foster-family, I set about to examine my heart to see if I could do this again. There are many times in life that things happen that make no sense. There is no fault or blame. At times like these, I indulge in magical-thinking. I make my own sense of the world so I can move forward, find the magic, and embrace what happened and what is to come. I came to think that “Kenya” was waiting for me. She waited while her sister-pup had nine glorious, love-filled, magical days with me. She waited for me through an adoption-event and two foster homes.

Together Willie and I brought “Kenya” home with us one week after Nigella’s death. We call her Tiva, short for Sativa. Nigella Sativa is the botanical name for Love-in-a-Mist, and our two beautiful dogs.

Tiva and Kat fireside

 

13 comments to Love-in-a-Mist

  • Martha Kight

    Oh, my goodness. Weeping. What a story – what a heart’s journey you have taken.
    And look at this sweet-faced little girl. Tiva is lucky to have her new family, and for the love and adventures to come.
    Thank you for sharing with us.
    <3
    -Martha

  • Becky Jacobson

    Kat, thanks for sharing Nigella’s story. She had 9 awesome days with you. Take that love and pour it into Tiva. What a beautiful pup.

  • Laurie

    Two lucky dogs to be so well loved. Thanks for sharing your story – heartache and all.
    Warmly,
    Laurie

  • Sharva Maynard

    Oh Kat…your story reminded me suddenly of the little Pit Bull mix that David rescued from an abusive owner almost 30 years ago now. Smart as a whip, and wise beyond his years. It was as though he knew he didn’t have long here and wanted to get it all in while he could. Congenital liver defect took him from us at 9 weeks. But what a romp! He looked at you with such knowing eyes and listened as if everything depended on your answer. We know Tiva will fill the hole Nigella left so suddenly,and warm puppy breath is always the breath of life. Happy tummy rubs my dears! xxoxoox

  • Susan Motte

    This gave me shivers and I love how you, my dear friend, conquered fear to pursue love. What a beautiful account of an intense time.

  • Bruce Lellman

    What lucky dogs to have you two huge-hearted people caring for and loving them. Nigella knew and appreciated that, I’m sure.

    And, I feel like one lucky dog knowing you two.

    I can’t wait to meet Tiva

    Lovebruce

  • Noni/Mom

    Kat- Thank you for sharing your story so openly. I know how difficult this whole experience has been….and I also know how rewarded you will be for moving on and deciding to honor Nigella by taking Tiva into your home and into your heart.
    PS: She’s adorable.

  • Noni/Mom

    Kat- Thank you for sharing your story so openly. I know how difficult this whole experience has been….and I also know how rewarded you will be for moving on and deciding to honor Nigella by taking Tiva into your home and into your heart.
    PS: She’s adorable.

  • Thank you for sharing this, Kat. It’s a very beautiful story, and I love the names you gave to each pooch!

    *really I just have something in my eye…that’s all… ;-)

  • Doris Schroeder

    Kat,your heartwarming story made me cry! It so well expressed your emotions and your heart.I am so glad Tiva is yours to love. She will thrive under all that loving care.
    Our love to all three of you, Doris and Helmut.

  • Doris Schroeder

    Kat,your heartwarming story made me cry! It so well expressed your emotions and your heart.I am so glad Tiva is yours to love. She will thrive under all that loving care.
    Our love to all three of you, Doris and Helmut.

  • [...] Love-in-a-Mist » Willie Weir : June 20th, 2013 The Reluctant [...]

  • [...] two dogs from the same litter be so different. Well, we recently found out some interesting news. Tiva and Nigella came to Seattle on the same flight from Taiwan, but they weren’t sisters. Via a Facebook [...]

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