Nasir did everything perfect.
But still, with an old dog, it’s like a car crash. A head on collision in slow motion. You know it’s going to happen. You see it coming. And you have no control. So all you can do is hold your breath and wait for impact. When it hits… the pain is intense. You can’t even figure out where it’s coming from…its all over your whole body. Then comes the calm quiet. This is what I call the calm before the storm. When all the loud noises sound quiet, like a jackhammer or a room full of 100 people talking and the quiet noises sound loud, like dripping water, the hum of the refrigerator and wind. The feelings are comparable with losing a lover who has stopped loving you but you have not stopped loving them. However your old dog never stops loving you and if it were up to him he would stay with you forever. I don’t know if that fact makes it easier or harder. Or you can compare it to losing a child or a friend who’s been dependent on you their whole life and taken before their time. But an old dog is not taken before his time. He is supposed to go. This is supposed to happen. And in a strange way, that does make it easier. But you still have to deal with the aftermath. The fact that he is gone. His dishes, toys, half chewed water bottles he tossed around the living room, his old worn out collar and blanket (that still smell like him) sit unused and even though his paw prints are still in the dirt in the backyard, the seat beside you, which used to be occupied by your friend who has stayed with you through over a decade of memories, losses, successes and who held your secrets and never judged you even when you were at your worst, is empty. But your heart is far from empty. It is full. So full it feels like it could burst.
I met Nasir when he was 6months old. He was not my dog… he was my job. Little did I know this shy red dog would change my life and the view of the world around me in drastic ways. Yes he was red, Nasir was a “ginger”. A badass ginger!
He was one of Patti Labelle’s guard dogs and he was to be her award winning sire. But things did not turn out as planned. Nasir was born in South Africa at a breeding facility owned by Johan Coetzee, who was a respected world renowned BoerBoel breeder. This little BoerBoel pup was given the birth name Piet Zyn Drift Tau. Piet Zyn Drift was his daddy’s name and the African word Tau means "lion”. Ms Labelle (who flew this pup from South Africa to the United States) named this little ginger pup Nasir, which is defined “the great protector”.
Nasir grew from a solid meatball of a pup to be strong and powerful and Ms Labelle and him were unsure on how to handle each other. Her way of showing love to her dogs was by making sure they had people caring for and exercising them and making sure they had the best medical care. She insisted that they have the softest fluffiest beds (which they would destroy within minutes;) and fresh meat from the butchers block to their bowls. I was hired to be one of the people to care for her dogs. Dogs don’t necessarily see the art and beauty in fabulous hair styles, high fashion and 8” stilettos (and sometimes view these things as unusual or threatening). Nor does the canine species participate in the monetary system. Nasir had no idea it was Ms Labelle that decided to go through with the $4000 exploratory surgery on him when he was a year old and thought it was a good idea to eat the tarp over top of his outdoor kennel. Nasir was not sure what to make of Ms Labelle and she wasn’t sure how to handle Nasir and his distrust in her. I was studying dog behavior and I wasn’t even sure how to handle Nasir’s strength and insecurities. I wasn’t afraid of him though. I trusted him with me and he trusted me with him. However because he was not my dog, Nasir was sold and taken away. But he came back, so then he was given away and he came back again. We called him “the boomerang”. No one could handle Nasir and he was pegged as dangerous.
One day, when Nasir was around three years old, he made a mistake. It wasn’t a mistake from a dog’s perspective. It was a mistake from a humans perspective and it almost cost him his life. But instead of destroying Nasir Ms Labelle didn’t give up on him, which would have been the easiest way out. She wanted to help him so she called on a team of professionals and a man who dogs around the world, if they could talk, would call a superhero… Cesar Millan.
Nasir, Bobby (my partner in life) and I took a trip together across this beautiful country to Cesar Millans Dog psychology center for Nasir to get help to become balanced with Cesar’s pack and for Cesar to understand him so that he could guide Bobby, me and the rest of our family on how to handle such a strong badass ginger. It worked. Nasir was much more confident and socialized when he returned to Philly. And Bobby and I started on our education from Cesar on how to deal with Nasir’s outbursts and believe me they were “outbursts!”. Without Cesar’s help we would have been in big trouble. Nasir then became our dog. And we loved him… his beauty, his silly sense of humor and his sensitive golden heart. Bobby called Nasir “Seebs” and I called him “Serious” and “Cereal” (only dog owners understand the many names we give our pups). But Nasir was an almost four year old dog that had never lived in a human household. A dog bred to sit on the plains of South Africa and guard acres of farmland from elephants and lions. And here was this dog living in a tiny row home in North Philadelphia. It was not an easy ride. There were many fights between Bobby and I and fights between Nasir and our other dogs and occasional bite wounds on all the dogs, me and Bobby. Some moments I would sit in the middle of the room and cry just because that was the only thing I felt I had control of, my own tears. But we kept going. We didn’t give up. We almost did a few times but we decided not to. That’s when things changed.
I can write an entire book about what happened over the next ten years but I will just say Nasir taught me the greatest life lessons I know…
Through my experiences with Nasir I learned things don’t happen to you. They happen around you. The knowledge you have and your reaction is what will make that moment a success or a failure. Life is full of billions of little moments. And you are the one that gets to participate in them and mold and shape them and fail and succeed. It’s all beautiful, even the stuff that seems bad. This little red puppy, I met almost 13yrs ago, also taught me that once you commit to something because you want to, not because you have to, that’s when you are going to see things bloom. They can’t help but bloom into indescribable experiences.
That is exactly what happened between me and Nasir. This big red dog started out as my job and then became my dog, he then seemed to be someone that I thought was ruining my life but in turn, this big headed dog ended up being my greatest teacher, my absolute best friend and my home. I will carry him with me, in my heart, everywhere I go. We all carry an immense amount of love inside of us. Every once in a while someone brings it out of you and shows you that you can let it flow no matter what. That love overrides everything else. It’s just there and you’re in control of it. All of this unconditional love is rooted in and stemmed from trust. I intend to take the love that Piet Zyn Drift Tau, Nasir, Seebs, Serious, Cereal this great protector badass ginger boomerang pup with the big old red head pulled out of me and use it everywhere I go for the rest of my life.
I wanted to share this story with all of you. I can’t even count how many emails and Facebook messages I have gotten over the years from people around the world who were touched and inspired by Nasir’s story on “The Dog Whisperer”. In fact more than half of my Facebook friends are friends with me because of Nasir:). It’s been wonderful being able to connect with people from across the globe on such a positive level, all because of a big red dog. Love to you all. Enjoy the time you have in this world with the ones that you love, dogs and people. It all goes by in the blink of an eye.
Nasir took with him his thunderous bark that would rattle the snare drum in the living room, his loving look from across the room, his high pitched whine when I was taking too long in the bathroom and he had to finally walk all the way up the stairs to see what I was doing, the wag of his little red nub of a tail when he was around his pack and his friends and his beautiful strong calm presence. What he left was me in this world with a full heart and a better understanding of love and life.
Nasir was entering into his 13th year of life this year and he did everything perfect… all the way to his last breath.
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