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In February 2012, an ad for a "hypoallergenic" and "non-shedding" white male Borzoi puppy appeared on Ebay Classifieds in West Palm Beach FL. A friend predicted, "He will end up in the shelter." Sure enough, he was dumped in the overnight box at Palm Beach County Animal Care on March 15. He created a sensation among the staff. They named him Ivan. Carol Backers contacted the manager of the facility, who told her that a staff member wanted to adopt Ivan. This did not sit well with Carol, who waged a fierce campaign to get Ivan released to NBRF. Carol won, of course. I brought Ivan home on April 7 and renamed him Nikolai. Later that year, we adopted Mia from the Chinese meat market. She bonded to Nikolai immediately. Where he went, she followed. Soon she was pulling him around by the scruff of his neck. He put up with everything she did to him.

Nikolai was a delight. We nicknamed him Mr Escargot because he always tried to pick up the snails that traversed our driveway at night. He was very sweet and gentle, and loved to give ear-baths to dogs and humans alike. He sang magnificently. He destroyed my favorite down blanket, coating himself in so much down that only his nose and eyes were visible. He bonded with Vladimir. At Christmastime he barked at the dog-sized wooden reindeer on our lawn. He liked to lie in doorways, requiring delicate footwork from anyone going in or out of the room. On our walks, he charged hissing lawn sprinklers and drank water from them. He de-squeaked countless toys.

In 2018, Vladimir developed liver cancer. Dr Bonnie came to our house and put him to sleep. At the precise moment that Vladimir's heart stopped, Nikolai let out a long, mournful howl. He soon channeled some of Vladimir's habits, especially eating ice cubes and stealing food from the counters. In March 2019 he had arrhythmias, which led to the discovery of a small mass on his spleen. The consensus was to monitor it. For 11 months, it didn't grow. But in May 2020 it had tripled in size. Nik's splenectomy went well initially, but he developed clotting issues and arrhythmias. The surgeon drove Nik back home to us. We said our goodbyes, and Dr Bonnie sent Nik to be with Vladimir.

Mia was bereft without her best buddy. She looked everywhere for him, and wouldn't eat. Four weeks later we adopted a young NBRF girlie, who brought joy back into Mia's life. She would never forget Nikolai. Nor would we. Though Nik died too young, he left us with many wonderful memories.

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