Love is a game of tag



Yesterday, unexpectedly, I had to put Nelson down. He’d been sick for a while with an uncommon autoimmune disease. Sunday, he was chasing me around the house trying to eat the tortilla chips off my plate, in his normal, annoying way. Monday as I left for work, I gave him a treat and kissed him goodbye—all the while thinking we had years before us. When I returned late afternoon, he couldn’t stand.

That quickly, life had changed forever.

I spent Monday night with him on his bed, spoon-feeding him water. He could no longer lift his head and was having a hard time breathing. This dog, who the week before was still going on walks, and the day before was begging me for baby carrots in front of the fridge.

You get to a place like this and language fails you. Bereft? Distraught? Completely lost? What I felt was failure, and like my heart was going to stop beating. I knew he was in serious trouble and pain.

Oh, sweet Jesus, the pain. I could see it on his face and it made every bit of me hurt. I scooped him into my arms and took him to the vet as soon as they opened Tuesday morning. Our long-time vet, and a childhood friend of mine, took one look at Nelson and knew. He didn’t want to tell me that it was Nelson’s time. He had tears in his eyes as I openly sobbed in the exam room. The options were few and only one would bring Nelson less pain.

How could this be happening?

Too soon, I was sitting on the floor, cradling him. He looked into my eyes and I told him how much I loved him, how much he would be missed. Stroking his face, I tried to stay as calm as I could.

And then, he was gone.

I held him to my chest and wailed.

I don’t have well crafted word to express how terrible I feel, or to describe the loss. Nelson was in so many ways my child. The moment I met him, I knew we were family. He gave me more than 7 years of love and companionship. This morning, I came downstairs for the first time to see his bed empty. Right now, the house feels haunted. I keep expecting to hear the tick of his nails on the floor, to hear the soft grunt that meant “please lift me on the couch,” or the “meep!” noise he made when he was happy to see me. I am profoundly sad.

His passing has made me see that love is a game of tag. I loved him because I have been well loved. He loved me in return, and this made me more loving. I hope I’ve passed that on to others, and I know his presence—his long eyelashes, and curious personality—gave others joy.


Halloweenies 2012

Nelson: year 1

December 1, 2011

Halloween 2011

Thank you Willie Nelson Mandela for being the best friend I could have ever asked for. I will love you always.

Adopted: 7/22/2011

Passed: 10/9/2018



19 Replies to “Love is a game of tag”

  1. Oh Kelli! He knew he was loved and he so loved you! Thank you so for sharing him with us. You will forever have him as an angel pup now. ❤️🐶🙏🌈

  2. Hugs to you!

    I can say I have enjoyed all the crazy costumes that dog put up with over the years but they always made me laugh. I remember when he barked at your wedding and we all laughed because we know he loved you so much (and maybe didn’t want to share you).

    Letting go and grieving is hard and there will ALWAYS be a special place for Nelson full of memories that make you smile!

  3. I hope it helps to share the pain of it all. You write so beautifully and more so when describing things you love. Hugs and love to you Kelli. So sorry.

  4. Oh Kelli – I am shedding tears of grief with you. I know that pain oh so well and…I don’t even know what to say. I am so extremely sorry for your loss. I know how much you loved him and he loved you. You were both lucky to have found each other. I will say a prayer for both of you tonight. All my love, Carrie

  5. I love you so much and am sharing in your grief. You both loved so hard…what a beautiful gift that was for each other. ❤️

  6. Dearest Kelli: Those of us who have been well-loved by a furry and faithful friend and then have eventually had to say such a heartbreaking goodbye to that beautiful friend, we know how terribly difficult these days-after are. Just know that God entrusted YOU, dear Kelli, to care for and love with all of your heart, your special little Willie Nelson Mandela. I have to believe that God would not have created these beautiful companions to live with us, even for just a short time, if He were not going to reunite us once again for all of eternity. You are so much in my thoughts and prayers right now.

  7. Truly weeping as I read this. Thank you for sharing your Nelson joy with us all these years. I remember when you adopted him and how excited you were – you two were the perfect fit. He was by your side through what I know to be some hard years. Lots of love to you, sweet friend.

  8. He was such a joy and a true companion.
    Sending love and prayers as you mourn your loss and celebrate his life.
    Thank you very much for sharing!

  9. Kelli, I am so sorry for your loss. It was sudden like that with my beloved border collie, Maddie. It’s never easy to lose our sweet pups, but to lose them without warning is so difficult. My thoughts are with you. xxx

  10. Again I am so sorry Kelli. I can only say I know what you are going through losing a beloved furry family member suddenly. This post brought tears and wonderful memories of my beloved pets.

  11. Oh Kelli, hugs, hugs and lots of hugs. I’ve been there. I know exactly what you’re going through. I’m so sorry and will be keeping you in my prayers. Lots of love to you.

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