From the day I was matched with Nico I knew this was going to be the start of a wonderful partnership, and a lifelong friendship.
Nico, my faithful Guide Dog for the past seven years, has had to finally retire.
Nico was more than just a dog; he was both a Guide Dog and a family pet all in one. Nico from the start was a lovable creature with a willingness to please and I am glad to say that this is a feature of his personality that has never changed over the years, he remains the same to this day. From the day I was matched with Nico I knew this was going to be the start of a wonderful partnership, and a lifelong friendship.
Nico has been through the toughest and best times while acting as my Guide Dog. When I first qualified with him, we were only home a short while when he had to return to Irish Guide Dogs Headquarters in Cork for two major surgeries on both his cruciate ligaments which meant that both he and I were separated for just over seven months to let him have a full recovery. During that time, I didn’t know if I was going to ever see him again as there was a chance he might not be able to return to work as a Guide Dog. But Nico being the trooper and stoic dog that he is made a full recovery and was back with me in August 2015. From then on, we took many adventures and trips together from getting caught in a huge flood in the Riverside Hotel in Enniscorthy, to the birth of my daughter and lots more in between.
If you were to ask me to pick a moment of having Nico as a working dog that stands out for me it would be the time I took him to one of many concerts in the National Concert Hall. We went to see the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber choir and Nico impeded the way of the composer of one of the pieces they were singing so that he was very delayed going on stage. But in true Nico fashion all was forgiven as the composer fell instantly in love with him, as most people do.
Nico loved working and was always at his happiest when we were walking through busy streets or hopping on and off public transport where he could have a sneaky snooze and pretend to be just taking it all in. As well as flying around Dublin and Cork and all the other places we visited, Nico was also a bit of a musical mascot. As most of you who know me know, I am a member of a good few choirs both locally and in the greater Dublin area, one of them being Dolce Mixed Voice Choir where Nico was probably the most loved member of all. We performed on stage with Dolce as part of the Farmleigh Christmas and he was guest of honour at several Dolce concerts where he sat, or in some cases slept, at the front row where he liked the choir to admire him and praise him for being so good. Nico also attended a fundraising concert for Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind in August 2019 where he was the centre of attention and acted the part of the best-behaved dog you could imagine laying on the floor at my feet and sleeping through my entire performance, he knew how to tell me I was boring everyone.
As I mentioned already, my daughter was born in September 2019 and Nico became like a guard dog letting no one near her, unless he was happy to do so. They were the best of friends and still to this day he lets her sit between his front paws and have his ears rubbed.
Having Nico gave me the freedom and independence to get out and about and do things that I never thought would be possible and, needless to say, I will miss him terribly, but he deserves the break and time to just relax and be a pet with his new family who love him just as much as we do. He is rehomed with a friend close by which means we can visit him. He gets plenty of comfort just like he deserves and is used to, as he loved to sneak up on the couch and stay very quiet so that he couldn’t be caught but he always gave himself away somehow.
I could go on all day about how great he is but, as most of you know, we did everything together and were very rarely apart which was the way we liked it. Nico wasn’t just a Guide Dog he was the lovable furry four-legged friend to all. But in life one door closes and another opens so I am looking forward to seeing what new adventures a new dog will take me on, whenever that may be.
As I sit here and reflect on the past seven years with Nico, I think it’s true to say that dog really is man’s best friend. They certainly don’t talk back or give out like the humans do, that’s for sure!