It started in 2009, when Lance's mom had bought a bulldog puppy sort of long distance. She lived way north of us near the Canadian border. The puppy was south of us, in Pennsylvania. She asked us to drive south to get the puppy for her and she would meet us to pick him up after.
Little did I know she was up to something. She was always up to something wonderful and sweet and very intuitive. The people with the boy puppy also had a little girl puppy. And Lee, Lance's mom, told the people to bring both puppies to meet us for the exchange. And to make sure to hand me the little girl.
So we met this lovely family in a NY/PA border rest-area and they presented us with these two adorable puppies. The owners made sure to put the girl pup right into my arms.
I held her for about 2 seconds, and handed her right back. The woman said, "You don't like her?" I said, "Oh, I like her. I'm going to the car to get my checkbook." And so it was that we came home with two little bitty bulldog puppies. Our Niblet (left) and Buster, her brother (right.)
We already had two dogs at home, a pair of brindle English Mastiffs who were as gentle as teddy bears. Buster went on to his new home on the shores of Black Lake. And we settled in with our "Big Three," Niblet, Dozer, and Daisy, who became the closest pack you ever saw. Those dogs adored each other.
Daisy passed first, only made it to 7 & 1/2. Dozer (8) was inconsolable for a while. Poor old guy. He lived to almost 12.
This past weekend our Niblet, at 14 years and two months of age, had a seizure and never came all the way out of it. She passed a day later. Honestly, I've been grieving too hard to write this post until today. And I'm still tearing up every now and then. She was my constant companion. This is a difficult adjustment.
But when I look at her life as a whole, I see a long, healthy, beautiful, fun, wonderful life that was, in every way, complete. It was time. Her body had finally started to show the wear and tear of age. It was getting harder for her to walk, and this summer Lance had to start carrying her outside, setting her down to pee, setting her down to get a drink from the waterfall. Then she would sometimes walk over to her sandpit and flop onto her side, and just nuzzle into the sand.
Lance built the sandpit because she loves rolling in the snow so much. It's her favorite thing in the whole universe, rolling in the snow. So Lance thought sand would be cool for her in the summer months, and she loved it. She would dig around a little, then flop onto her side, and wiggle. Here's one of her classic snow rolls. She never went all the way over, just onto her back and then wiggling side to side while working her way downhill.
Niblet was, most of my readers know, the real life inspiration for "Myrtle," Rachel's blind bulldog in The Brown & de Luca Novels. Niblet was not blind, thank goodness, but my first bulldog, Wrinkles, was in her later years.
She was an adorable puppy. She got her name from an episode of South Park called Korn's Groovy Ghost Pirate Mystery. Check it out.
In her early adulthood, she got very chubby, but we got on top of it and she maintained her bulldog figure for the rest of her days. However, there are a few photos of her during her beefiest, and we enjoy those almost as much as her puppy shots.
This shot here was at her biggest, about 72 pounds, which the vet said was 10 pounds too many. But we got on top of it and she took the weight right back off and remained lean and trim, unwillingly, for the rest of her life. Her weight was 62 on the nose at every visit. Oh, and have I mentioned, she went through a phase where she just could not pass mud without burying her face in it. We have a whole collection of Niblet's Mud-Facial shots.
More exercise, and carefully measured meals, plus limits on treats and people-food had her down to 59 for a while, but then she settled in at a healthy 62 pounds.
Look at that healthy girl! She really was extremely well throughout all 14 years. She lost her brindle stripes over time, oddly. But she was great right up until this final year, when she started to develop some skin and joint issues. Much like Dozer, she declined noticeably over a relatively short period, and then her body just quit on her one morning. I suppose it's probably the best way for it to happen.
Lately, I'd been chained to her side, because she was anxious if she was left alone. I even got a baby monitor so I could spend time outside while she napped, and be aware the instant she woke up.
She's been the center of our existence, by necessity, for a while now, and it's very odd having this sudden freedom. It's a bit overwhelming. We hardly know what to do with ourselves. Every time I pass her usual napping spots, I catch myself taking a look her way as I have done a hundred times a day, every day. Does she need a drink? Is she still asleep? Is she too warm? But then I remember she's not there.
And yet it feels like she is. It feels like she's here like always, only healthy and in her prime again, jumping and playing and holding her own with the mastiffs. Hell, she was raised with them, probably thought she was a mastiff. We always said she was bigger on the inside than on the outside.
And so here we are in the next phase of our lives, really. We enjoyed three of the best dogs that ever lived, and now the pack is reunited, and I'm convinced, romping around this place invisibly.
We still have an apricot English mastiff, Roxanne, the most challenging pet we've ever owned. For years we've had to keep Niblet away from her, because they stopped getting along as soon as Roxy got bigger. It's made our lives extremely tense, compared to pre-Roxy existence. I think the strain of having to keep them apart hasn't faded yet. I don't feel any relief yet, but I know we will. As the grief subsides, I suspect a lot of things will feel like relief. My poor girl wasn't having a great time during her final couple of months and we spent a lot of time medicating her, giving her medicated baths, and cleaning her ears, all of which she hated passionately.
But she was still having fun, too. I recorded her final visit to her sandpit. This is what she always did there this summer, just flopped sideways and nuzzled the sand.
She was really enjoying that. And that was only four weeks before she passed. So she really was taking pleasure right up to the end.
Bonus, she got to spend time with seven out of 12 of her favorite people, our grandkids within her final week of life, and there's no way she'd have rather spent it.
It was a great life. She was spoiled rotten, loved immensely, full of life and mischief and 100% Grade A bulldog Attitude.
My Niblet, whose birth name was given to her by children in the family where she was born; Pretty Sweetie Waterfall. Because she was pretty and sweet and peed all the time.
Rock in Paradise, Pretty Sweetie Waterfall, my precious little sidekick, my Niblet. I love you always. Thank you for being our girl. You are a good, good dog.
A lot of you saw this news on Facebook and a few on Threads, and your outpouring of love has been meaningful and healing to us. Thank you.