A new year and a new geocacher name – Bangers&Mash
1996 – 2008
The Life of Nigel
Nigel was born in England, the son of working gun dogs. He lived most of his life in the village of Emsworth, immigrating to America at the age of 8. Nigel had the solid, stocky build of a traditional English Labrador Retriever bloodline. But Nigel’s story is much more than just his heritage – Nigel’s legacy lies within his heart and doggy soul.
Nigel approached everything like a typical lab – with a tail thumping, tongue-out, panting enthusiasm. He barreled through life, knocking over knick knacks and personal barriers, absolutely certain that everyone loved him – or would, if given the opportunity. Few were able to resist his sloppy charms for long.
Pathetic at retrieving and useless as a guard dog, Nigel’s strength lay in his ability to brighten the lives of those around him. One of the greatest bonds he shared was with ‘his boys’, Paul and Mark Duncan. The dog-less boys and the boy-less dog grew together; playing, hiking, walking and hanging out. In his mind, Nigel had two homes – ours and the Duncans.
As a registered therapy dog, Nigel worked with school children and seniors in nursing homes. With children, Nigel was a wonderful doggie role model, visiting classrooms and working with children who were fearful or unused to dogs. He loved visiting Emsworth’s Community Day Center, going from table to table, greeting seniors and enjoying a pat and a biscuit.
As Nigel’s therapy handler, one amazing incident that stands out in my mind. During a nursing home visit, Nigel and I approached a silent couple in a room. When asked, the husband wearily waved us in; the wife, seated in a chair, stared ahead, saying nothing. Nigel looked, quietly went up to the woman, licked her hands and gently placed his huge head in her lap. The woman dragged her gaze downward. “How lovely,” she murmured, slowly petting Nigel. Her husband gasped, leaped up and raced out of the room. Dog and human looked at each other. What had we done? Doctors, nurses and husband raced in, shouting and laughing. The woman – who had been unresponsive, silent and unmoving since her stroke 6 months earlier – was finally alert again … thanks to a gentle brown dog.
As a stud dog, Nigel produced numerous litters of show-quality chocolate Labradors. His bloodline lives on in his children and grandchildren, who reside in both England and America.
What was Nigel like? Nigel loved children, swimming, eating, walking, carrying sticks and logs, playing with ‘his’ boys, eating and his Mr. Blankie. He was afraid of cats, thunder and bath water. In his senior years Nigel found comfort lying in the sun, by a fire or under the computer table – but always within reach of his humans.
Nigel was a constant in our lives, joyfully greeting us each morning and end of day, eager to share his happiness with us. He honored us with a steady, fierce, pure love throughout his life.
We will remember our beloved Nigel and hope we too, can learn to love life as he did.