On Thanksgiving, our beloved Nabby became very sick and we had no choice but to let her go. She was exactly 14 years and 5 months old.
Nabby was named after my favorite hockey player, retired San Jose Sharks goalie Evgeni Nabokov. Although I chose her name before I ever met her, it suited her perfectly. She was just… Nabby.
The hole in my chest where my heart would normally be is a cracked and jagged canyon. I know it will heal, but that doesn’t feel possible. Right now, the only thing that can heal it is the one thing I can’t have.
When Steve and Regina invited us to go camping at Jumbo Rocks Campground in Joshua Tree four and a half years ago, we weren’t sure how it would go. I was pretty certain that I was going to hate it, and that the dogs were going to hate it 10 times more than that.
Imagine our total shock when not only did Darren and I love it, but Nabby and Rufus did, too.
That first night, the dogs were restless and confused. Up until then, their evenings were spent mostly indoors in front of the television. Going from that to being outdoors sitting around a fire wasn’t what they were used to. The next morning, though, it was clear: They were totally into it and in their element. By the second evening, they were blissed out and sleeping by the fire.
From then on, whenever possible, Nabby and Rufus went camping with us. It was non-negotiable, for the most part. For us to leave them behind, it had to be that bringing the dogs was impractical or just not allowed – such as Yosemite’s Housekeeping Campground.
After Rufus passed away, it was us and Nabby. We were most surprised by how well Nabby took to camping. We took her for a princess, a delicate thing who didn’t like being dirty or the concept of “roughing it.”
Boy, did we underestimate her. She was right there with us.
Nabby proved to be as adaptable as anyone. She moved from the beaches to the mountains to the desert with ease, eagerness and curiosity, the way she approached her whole life. She thrived in new environments and loved having new things to explore and smell and investigate. Camping gave her that, and maybe it’s part of the reason she lived so long.
She and I spent many mornings snuggling in the tent, waiting until the sun came up and chased us out.
As she did everywhere she went, she trolled hard for food. Known treat-givers were followed with an intensity that eventually wore down all but the strongest and most resilient.
One of her favorite spots was under any picnic table, enjoying the shade.
But she loved a good sunbath, too.
She didn’t mind sitting in a hammock.
She loved, loved, loved her doggy door in our tent. Every single morning, we woke up to find her there, keeping an eye on things for us.
Nabby was a watchdog and a protector, through and through. She had to know what was going on at all times, and she let us know when stuff was going down that she didn’t think was cool. One time, we had a site next to a water spigot and she spent the whole weekend growling at anyone who used it.
She went to The Racetrack in Death Valley.
Darren and I will wager right now that she is the only corgi ever to have gone up to the Manson Family hideout, Barker Ranch. She even pooped there. Take that, Charlie!
She roamed the beaches at Leo Carrillo State Beach and Park.
She had an absolutely miserable time with us when we went to Mt. San Jacinto State Park. She really had a knack for telegraphing when she wasn’t into something.
It was so gross, wet and cold that weekend, she actually went into the tent without us, climbed onto the air mattress and went to sleep, likely thinking, “Forget this. Wake me when we’re leaving.” We left that evening.
She ate our leftover eggs for us, too. Wasting food is a terrible thing, and Nabby made sure we never had to resort to it.
What we always forgot about Nabby when it came to food, though, is that as soon as something happened once, it had to happen every time. After we gave her eggs that first time, it was over. From that point on, as soon as we woke up and drank our coffee, the pacing and staring would slowly intensify.
When she saw us getting out the camping stove and cracking eggs, she began stomping her feet and snorting. If we tried to give her green pepper – something she would greedily eat at home – while she waited for eggs, she’d turn her nose up. Eggs. The dog wanted eggs, only eggs. You have never seen a dog be so happy to finally get those eggs!
I can’t imagine not camping with my girl again. What will we do without our guard? Our comedian? Our egg eater? Our snuggler? Who will keep us warm and cozy on chilly evenings? The thought is breaking my heart over and over.
Darren promised her that whenever we camp, we’ll tell a story about her. That won’t be hard to do. There are hundreds of them. I treasure the memories we made with both her and Rufus. Little by little, they will make me laugh more than they make me cry. That’s what I tell myself, anyway.
Rest in peace, dear Nabby. Now you can see everything.
We love you forever.