October 2004. Seventeen years ago, a new seat was placed at the conference table, a new voice was established in the office, and a new heart was brought into my home. Abby Rhode (a black Pomeranian named after the 35th anniversary of the Beatles’ Abbey Road album), was transported from a rescue in rural West Virginia to her forever home in New Jersey. You can read her rescue story here.
She quickly took charge of the office, the team, the neighboring businesses and residents, my home, and my heart. I know every rescue animal is different, but even so, I’d never met anyone like Abby. Coming to work with me every day, she quickly became the most social of “employees.” I could always see her little mind working, the gears grinding, too smart for her own good. She was the ruler of her domain. We all followed the instructions on the poster that ended up on my office wall shortly after her arrival: “Obey the Pomeranian.”
I’d watch her expressions and often imagined what a day looked like from her point of view:
Time to wake up! (Big yawn and downward dog stretch.) Let me go annoy my sister cat, “Murphy Brown.” She hates when I do that, but it’s so much fun. What is that I hear?! Momma’s calling: “Breakfast!”
Ahh … full belly. Time to watch momma get ready for work. Why does she have to turn on that DARN hairdryer all the time? I hate that thing.
Okay, Momma’s ready! Bye Murphy, see ya later! Gotta go HOP into my car seat! Momma always likes to sing in the car. It’s pretty fun. She turns to me in the back seat and points and sings and smiles. And when the weather’s nice, she rolls down the window so I can put my head out. I LOVE THAT! But she always makes sure I’m secured, with a seat belt, in my car seat. Safety first.
We’re here, we’re here! Have to go see the neighbors across the hall in our office building before I go to work! They’re so nice — they always leave their office doors open for me each morning before they start work. Hi everyone! HI! HI! HI! (All these head tickles and belly rubs, what more could I ask for?!)
Okay Momma, take my harness off. I’m ready to work! (She always gives me a kiss every time she takes my harness off. I love that.) Now I can start my first rounds at work. “Hi everybody! What do you have today? Bagel and cream cheese? YES! I’ll have some! Breakfast sandwich? That looks great! Just coffee today?! WHAT WERE YOU THINKING??”
Mmm, that was a good second breakfast. Now I can take a nap until the UPS man arrives. I like him; he always tickles my head.
DING! The microwave. It must be lunch! Time for my next round! Hey everybody, what’s on the menu? Yum, that was good. Who’s walking me today? I need to go out — pronto. I love how everyone takes turns taking me out for my daytime strolls. I love you guys … Can we get a gelato or something while we’re out? PLEEEEASE …
I love walking through town. Everyone seems to know my name. I like that. They all give me treats and rubs and tickles, too.
That was a nice walk. Now, it’s daily conference call time! YAY! I love this. Let me hop into my chair. I sit and listen quietly, waiting my turn, while everyone speaks. Then I hear it: “Abby, do you have anything you’d like to contribute?” YES I do! Woof, woof — Woof, woof, WOOF! “Thank you Abby, we appreciate your input.” I smile and nod; they are most welcome. Meeting adjourned!
Time to play. I love having my bed and toys under Momma’s desk. It’s SO convenient. I’ll grab my squeaky fish toy today. Let me run around the office and see who will throw it. YEAH! Throw it again, throw it again! A few zoomies around the office and, whew — I really worked off that gelato. I need a nap.
Is it 5:00 already? Let’s go, Momma! Time to head home. I need to see my sister Murphy. I know I drive her crazy but I love hanging out with her. Plus, I need dinner!
Momma, roll the window down. I want to smell everything and feel the wind in my face. Thank you!
We’re home! Hi Murphy, what’s up?! Where’s dinner? I love sitting down to dinner with Momma, Daddy, and Gran-mama. I love my family. As much as I enjoy work, this is my favorite part of the day.
That was good. Walk time! Momma get the leash, Momma get the leash! YES! It’s so much fun walking around the neighborhood and seeing my neighbors and their four-legged children. Hi everyone!
Back home. Time to get some water and then curl up with Daddy for TV time. Daddy, is that a chip? Uh, yeah, I want one. Mmm … crunch, crunch … uno mās? Thanks, that’s better.
Momma’s calling me — time to go out and then to bed. I love curling up in my bed next to Momma. She kisses and hugs me, and I kiss her back. That’s our thing. I cuddle up in my bed with my best bud Bobo. (He’s my favorite toy, and he’s as big as I am!)
Today was a good day. Let’s do it again tomorrow. As I drift off to sleep I think of all the things Momma and I have done together …
I remember when she bought the shore house and I was there. I knew it was the right house because I walked in and rolled all over the floor. “This is the one, Momma!” And I was right! We’ve been going there ever since. I love the summer. We go to the shore house every weekend and travel with Murphy in the car. I love that place! I remember the first time Momma took me there and I saw the water and the beach for the first time. WOW! How I loved to run free on that beach and chase the seagulls … But I always made sure to stop and look back to make sure Momma was still there. She always was.
I also remember the first time Momma took me in a private plane. I could see geese flying outside our window! I didn’t quite understand that. Very confusing.
Dinner out was always so much fun. Momma took me to restaurants where I got to sit in my own seat at the table! I always made sure I kept my manners in check, even though it was REALLY hard with all those people, all those tables with food … But I always did, and Momma was so proud. She told me so.
Doggie cotillions. I remember the first time we got all dressed up and went to help Patrick. Gotta do my part and raise money for the other animals who were like me. They deserve a family like I have. I remember being so scared in the shelter … I didn’t know what would happen to me. But I was a lucky one. My foster parent got me out and brought me to my momma.
Every time I think of Momma I always feel so safe and loved. As I drift off to sleep all I can think about is being held, always in her arms …
This was Abby’s daily routine, Monday through Friday. We spent weekends at “the shore house,” where she’d run on the beach. I always recall the first time I brought her there. Everything was so new to her. The joy she felt running free on that beach was apparent from the look on her face. She was literally smiling. It brought tears to my eyes then, and it still does when I think of that moment.
During the course of almost two decades, whenever anyone was looking for me at work, at home, or elsewhere, they’d find Abby. Rarely on a leash, always the tiny person by my side. People referred to her as my “little shadow.”
When someone would ask, “Where’s Nichole?,” the response was always, “Find Abby, and you’ll find Nichole.”
There couldn’t have been a more perfect blend of sassy and smart, fun and cute, loyal and loving. She charmed people with her signature dance. She helped to raise awareness for other shelter dogs. She enjoyed life to the fullest. My husband aptly put it when he said, “It was her world. We just resided in it.”
As the years went by, there was little that slowed her down. It was only in the last 12 months or so of her life — and especially in the very last month — that she showed her age. I can only imagine how she must have felt:
It’s a little scary now, getting older. Things feel stiff, eyes are blurry, hearing not so great. I can still smell everything, though, and it still smells so good. I’m just not as hungry as I used to be. Momma coddles me more now, too. She helps me get around, carries me more often. She’s always trying to keep me so comfortable and happy. I love her.
As I drift off to sleep in my bed I think of all kinds of things. All these years with my Momma, all the things we’ve done together, how my family loves me, and so much more.
I also wonder, after all those years of working, where my 401K is …
Abby Rhode passed away peacefully in May 2021. After almost two decades of bringing immense joy into my life, she crossed over the Rainbow Bridge. I still feel her with me. Every day. Everywhere I go and in everything I do.
What was incredible to me upon her passing was the tremendous outpouring of support and remembrance she received. For over a month I received condolence cards, donations in her honor to animal shelters, food baskets at home, emails, texts, and so much more. She was my world, and I was hers. I never realized the presence she had established with so many others, too. It continues to astound me that one tiny creature had such an enormous impact on so many.
I will be forever grateful for the time we had together. Her pictures adorn my house as her spirit adorns my heart.
There will come a time when I will rescue again, save another life, and begin a new journey. For they are ALL so deserving. All so special. All so in need of love. And what we give to them, they return to us tenfold. An animal’s capacity for compassion, unconditional love, laughter, and joy knows no bounds.
No matter what journey lies ahead, one thing will always remain the same. My little shadow will always be with me.
Nichole Chobin is the Director of Internal Operations at MUTTS.