Nykie Zylstra was born in Happy Valley, China on approximately Christmas Day, 1998. He was one of approximately 6 puppies born in that litter. He was ½ Chinese Chow and ½ Keeshond. Both breeds are strong willed and very independent minded. Nykie seemed to have developed the best (and worst [grin]) of both….
Now for the scary part: Nykie and his litter mates were destined for someone’s dinner plate as part of the annual feast in China where dog meat is consumed. So, he was left in a tiny crate where he couldn’t even stand up or turn around. His diet consisted of weak tea and rice. We can only assume that this diet was designed to keep the meat tender and easy to cook.
Alex, Nykie’s Papa learned of his fate through a friendship he had developed with a famous Hong Kong actress who belonged to an organization called “Pet Save”. Alex has always been a staunch defender of the downtrodden. It took one picture of Nykie and Alex was on a plane to Hong Kong.
Alex and his friend were able to find their way to where Nykie and his siblings were awaiting their fate. Dressed in white lab coats, they made their way onto the property and gained access to where they were being held. Alex’s friend was able to convince the owners of these puppies that they were sick and needed treatment. Any attempt at eating these dogs would result in the people becoming ill. With that, Alex and his friend were able to leave with two of the puppies. Nykie and his brother. They advised the owners that they would return to take the others to the vet for treatment.
With Nykie and his brother secure in a facility, Alex and his friend returned to find all the other puppies gone. Someone had tipped the owners off what was going on and unfortunately, Alex was unable to rescue any other puppies.
Sad, but, not defeated, Alex was undaunted. He was able to secure two of them. He then met with airline officials and government officials to allow him to take the two puppies back to Canada. Alex had to agree to cover the cost of shipping these two little fellows home and arrange for treatment and quarantine.
With that, Alex flew back to Vancouver and began the arduous process of treatment and rehabilitation. Alex was able to find a foster family for Nykie’s brother, who was in better condition, physically than Nykie. The sad part of this part of the story is, two weeks after the rescue, Nykie’s brother got loose and was tragically killed by a car.
Alex’s focus was now on his “Little Man”. After a visit to the West End Animal Hospital in Vancouver, Nykie’s prognosis was grim. Due to his horrific living conditions and diet, he had no fur on the back half of his body, he had an undeveloped digestive system, he had various parasites throughout his body, and multiple scratches and scrapes. The worst part of the diagnosis was to come. Due to the cramped living conditions, Nykie could only walk on his wrists and his joints in has back legs were severely compromised. The only option to treat him effectively was to break his front legs and set them so that he could learn to walk properly. The back legs would require extensive physiotherapy on Alex’s part.
The first few months of Nykie’s life here were indeed painful and traumatic. But, the “Little Man’ soldiered through. Alex made a type of harness that he would wear to go outside for small walks to exercise his atrophied limbs. Alex would hold him up and walk ever so slowly with him; every day a little further. After many months, Nykie was able to take tentative steps on his own. This part of his recovery was still not without its challenges. Periodically, Nykie’s back legs would pop out their hip joints causing excruciating paint. Alex would patiently massage his legs and gently push the leg back into the joint.
Soon, with Alex’s ministrations, Nykie was able to gain strength (and fur). But, no matter how much Alex tried, he was never able to find a diet that would work for Nykie.
Enter Al, Nykie’s “Daddy”. I began my relationship with Alex and eventually, in 2003, we became a family. I had worked with Earth Options in a business relationship for approximately 3 years before I met Alex and Nykie. When I saw the challenges Alex was having with Nykie’s diet, I contact Pam at Earth Options. We discussed Nykie’s health and feeding challenges at great length. Eventually, we came up with a diet plan that was focused on nutrition and digestibility.
We started on a recipe that met all of his nutritional requirements: Canine Performance Chicken. With this recipe, not only did Nykie’s appetite improve, but, his skin and coat became much more manageable. He no longer threw up and, most importantly, he liked his food. Nykie was on this diet for the next 11 ½ years.
With this diet, he became much more active and would love to go for long, long, long walks through Stanley Park. At off-leash parks, he would run for what seemed to be hours. He loved going on trips. He especially loved camping. He would find a secluded spot near the tent and would plop himself down and wait for us to cater to his every whim.
We spent a few vacations camping on Vancouver Island. He especially loved Tofino where he could run on the beach for kilometres, stopping occasionally to dig up clams. He didn’t walk anywhere. He pranced. His gait was almost set to music. His exuberance for life was infectious.
One of Nykie’s all time favourite things was Christmas. Somehow, he always knew when Christmas was approaching. Out came the tree and soon the presents were underneath. Christmas day morning (Nykie’s birthday) was always a treat in the household. He would get his presents out from under the tree and unwrap them himself. Little bits of Christmas Wrap flew everywhere!
We eventually moved to Surrey where he enjoyed his golden years.
Sadly, Nykie began to slow down and on June 26, 2015 at the ripe old age of 17 ½ years, it was time for Nykie to cross the Rainbow Bridge. We do not mourn his passing as much as we celebrate the 17 years he was in Alex’s life and the 14 years I was privileged to be part of this family.