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Kryss and Nikko
Kryss and Nikko
By: Kristen Marie (Kryss) Shane, MSW, LMSW
A few months ago, when I began to think about what I’d like to write in my last piece under “Kryss Meets Career,” I’d planned some light-hearted words or some type of summary, hoping to convey how much I have enjoyed authoring this column. Instead, I’ve decided to leave you with this.
Those who know me best, who have known me longest, would tell you that I’ve never been very good at asking for help or leaning on others. I’ve mostly tried to ignore that about myself, to be honest. Instead, I’ve focused on the things I am good at—baking, activism, being the mother to an adorable pup.
Nikko was a Maltese I rescued from an abusive family who placed an ad to “get rid of him” on the Internet about seven years ago. When we met, he didn’t trust humans, wasn’t housebroken, and had hair that stuck out at every angle. Over the years, we conquered undergrad graduation (me), potty training (him), and bad haircuts (both). We lived in three states, we survived the long hours of graduate school, and we learned to appreciate each other’s quirks. For example, he learned not to get upset when I shouted at the television during Ohio State football games or political debates, and I learned to accept that the last piece of pepperoni on a slice of pizza eaten at home always belongs to him.
This past December, Nikko got sick. The emergency room vets tell me they’d never seen someone act so quickly, but I just sensed that something was wrong. He spent four days in the ICU, in an incubator, IVs in both paws. During those days, I was too busy waiting for vets’ phone calls to take care of myself. It was here when I began to experience the real power of social networking.
For years, I’d been a member of Facebook, of a Web site dedicated to professional women, and to one meant for Maltese owners. I posted in each what was going on with Nikko and of how horrible the waiting was. Some nights, while I was too worried to sleep and the world felt a little too quiet, I would just sit and read the pages of comments and well-wishes on these sites. And it kept me going until I got to take Nikko home.
In the six weeks that followed, I truly appreciated the silver lining of having been laid off, as it meant spending almost every hour with Nikko. He was weaker now, rested more, but I’d take a pillow and lie with him on the floor and he’d put his paw on my hand.
And then he got sick again. Back to the emergency room, the ICU, and the incubator. And I went back to the Internet. Comments and hopeful words from people I’d never laid eyes on kept me somewhat sane while I waited to see whether the medications would be enough.
On Super Bowl Sunday, while the rest of NYC was rooting on the Giants, I found myself sitting in front of his incubator, trying to decide how I could ever make the choice the vet needed me to make. I sat for a long time there, my hand through the slot in the incubation window. After a few hours, he stopped looking me in the eye and, much like feeling a wave when you’re already underwater, I knew. Nikko spent his last moments with a belly full of treats, lying in my lap, with my hand on his back, wrapped in his favorite blanket (one I’d had since my own birth). While NYC celebrated the National Championship win, I was beside myself with grief. On autopilot, I returned to the computer and shared the outcome, gave my personal e-mail address, and signed off.
In the days that followed, I received more than 150 e-mails from people all over the world. Some were real friends who’d learned of the news through Facebook, some were people I’d chatted with on one of the networking sites, and some were complete strangers who read my words and felt compelled to tell me their stories of loss and how they healed. One woman sent me a fruit basket, giving me the store information and asking me to call to give them my personal information. Another sent me e-mailed reminders a few times each day to eat. Different friends took turns staying up on instant messenger to keep me company in the middle of the night when I was far too grief-stricken to sleep. And I, someone who has never been any good at asking for help, in my most devastated moment, was gifted with the love I needed but wouldn’t have been able to ask for.